Have you ever been curious about the hidden, abandoned structures scattered across America? One such structure is the Lonaconing Silk Mill in western Maryland, which is a testament to the lost manufacturing heritage in America. I visited the abandoned Lonaconing Silk Mill in 2015 to experience the ruin of a once bustling enterprise and explore the marvelous machines that built America.
What is the Lonaconing Silk Mill
The Lonaconing Silk Mill, located in Allegany County, in western Maryland, was founded in 1907 by the Klotz Throwing Company. During the early 20th century, silk production was a booming industry in America, and the Lonaconing Silk Mill was among the largest silk manufacturers in the United States.
Though the mill was always productive, textile manufacturing was always on the edge of viability in the US. The mill had to cease operations in 1929 during the Depression and then again during World War II due to the lack of raw silk from Asia. But before closing in 1945, the mill produced many of the parachutes used by the US armed forces during that war.
In the end, the mill was forced to shut down on July 7, 1957, following a strike by the labor union. The company couldn’t meet the workers’ demands, which resulted in the mill’s closure. As a result, the workers left, and the mill’s doors were permanently closed that day. Inside the walls, time essentially stopped and preserved a time capsule of early 20th-century manufacturing.
The silk mill that once symbolized America’s manufacturing heritage is now a haunting reminder of the past. The massive building spans over 48,000 square feet and is still filled with machinery and tools, waiting for the workers who will never return. Unfortunately, the structure is now in disrepair, with peeling paint and dusty hallways.
Why Visit the Lonaconing Silk Mill
Despite its haunting appearance, it is a photographer’s paradise. The machinery is still intact, offering endless opportunities to capture the industrial beauty of a bygone era.
Visiting the abandoned Lonaconing Silk Mill will leave you in awe of the immense machinery that was once used for silk production. Although the machines are now deteriorating, they stand as a testament to the hard work and dedication of the mill workers.
Walking through the mill provides a glimpse of what life was like for workers in the early 20th century. The sizes of the machinery and the scale of work that was involved would have been mind-blowing. It is a story of hard work, dedication, and tools that once created the manufacturing boom in America’s industrial era.
Herb Crawford, the then-caretaker, led us through the abandoned building during my visit. His passion for the place had kept it from falling into complete disrepair. Crawford provided a comprehensive explanation of the mill’s operation, the significance of the remaining equipment, and the daily routine of the mill workers.
The mill’s interior is amazing due to Herb’s tremendous labor of love. Despite some dust and crumbling paint, the facility has remained unchanged since the day the doors closed.
Herb has overseen the dozens of spinning machines turned off when the mill closed, and thousands of wooden spools remained stacked and ready for use. To preserve the mill, Herb has regularly guided paid tours through the facility, ensuring that the calendars hanging on the walls still show the date as July 1957.
The Mill’s Future
Herb passed away at the age of 84 in 2019. Sadly, his dream of restoring the Lonaconing Silk Mill was left unfinished. And, as of now, the building has been vacant longer than it was operational.
Nevertheless, in 2020, Lonaconing resident Brandon Sloan purchased the structures and land from Herb’s heirs. Brandon’s top priority is to preserve the mill. He aims to make it a place of historical pride for the local Lonaconing community, carrying on Herb’s legacy.
More on the Lonaconing Silk Mill
If you want to see more information about the Silk Mill, please check out these other stories.
- The Baltimore Sun – Spinning it forward: Renovation plans set for a former silk mill in Western Maryland
- The Explorographer – The Beginning of The End @ The Lonaconing Silk Mill
- Allegany Magazine – Save Our Silk
- The Klotz Company Store: Official website for Lonaconing Silk Mill events and items.
- The Silk Mill: Lonaconing Silk Mill’s Facebook page
The Lonaconing Silk Mill stands today as a tribute to the rise and fall of America’s manufacturing heritage. The beauty of the mill is seen not only in the hauntingly beautiful industrial architecture and machinery but also in its ability to stir the imagination and inspire photographers to capture the essence of America’s industrial past. The mill also serves as a unique and important window into the economic and social history of the nation. A visit to this abandoned mill will inspire and remind us of the hard work and the determination of the generations before us who built America.
Where is the Lonaconing Silk Mill
The mill is located southwest of Cumberland, MD, in Lonaconing. The property is not publicly available and is monitored by cameras 24/7. If you want to visit this historic location, please get in touch with the folks at the Klotz Company Store through their Facebook or website’s Contact page for more information.