Rocky Mount Mills was established in 1818, is widely believed to be the second oldest cotton mill in North Carolina, and was the longest in operation until closing at the end of the twentieth century.
In the early nineteenth century, a dam was constructed across the Tar River at a rocky outcropping forming natural falls and a grist, saw, and cotton mill established at the site. The town of Rocky Mount, named after this location, would later be formed one mile to the south.
The Mill complex was built over time on approximately 20 acres south of the Tar River. The cotton mill proved to be the most lucrative of the endeavors and remained in operation until 1996. The early history of the complex is marked by several fires that necessitated large-scale rebuilding projects, including the burning of the mill by Union troops during the Civil War. The complex was also completely rebuilt in 1870 after a fire destroyed the complex in 1869. In response to the fires, subsequent buildings were built of masonry exterior walls, and fire protection systems using water pumped from the river were constructed around the site. As the cotton mill grew and operations became more specific, many large additions were added to the complex.
The current development is comprised of buildings from antebellum, postwar, and twentieth century eras, and is bounded by the Tar River to the North, Falls Road to the West, and Elm Street to the South.
Burned Down & Rebuilt