LITHIA SPRINGS, Ga. — It is probably the most popular attraction at Sweetwater Creek State Park — the ruins of the New Manchester textile mill.
The mill was burned down during the Civil War and over the years, its remains have been used in movies and attracts hikers and visitors alike to the park in droves.
If you visit the park and hike on your own, the ruins are fenced off, but you can still enjoy the beauty of what is left of the large building.
But did you know that you can tour the mill ruins? Park rangers will guide you through the history of the area and talk about the importance of the mill before it was burnt down.
Here’s a little history about the mill:
“The structure was constructed in 1849 as a five-story water-powered mill for production of clothing and other materials. During the Civil War, the mill produced uniforms for the Confederate army until General Sherman’s troops burned the building in 1864,” The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation said.
Initially known as the Sweetwater Village mill, in 1857 it was renamed New Manchester Manufacturing Co., after the city of Manchester, England. About 100 workers lived on-site in a small town centered around the textile operations and shopped at the company store, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.
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The mill was enormously profitable during the 1850s, and initially became even more so due to the war. According to Cooper’s research, mill owners pumped $15,000 into the textile business for new machinery and buildings in 1860, and reaped rewards in the form of a $24,902 order from the Confederate States Army.
“Once the war ended the factory was all but forgotten, the crumbling brick walls left to fall apart and be overtaken by the dense Georgia foliage. When the area around Sweetwater Creek was turned into a state park, trails were forged that led hikers to the increasingly beautiful ruins. The site is recognizable from the popular ‘Hunger Games’ films,” Atlas Obscura said.
“Beginning in 2016, steps were taken to preserve the ruins and prolong the life of the structure, including repointing mortar joints, adding caps on horizontal surfaces to alleviate standing water, bracing brick headers and free-standing piers, and installing new steel lintels and architectural steel plates for support where needed. The ruins reopened to visitors in fall 2017,” The Georgia Trust said.
Tours start at the park’s visitor center and take you along the main trail along Sweetwater Creek to the mill. Park Rangers will tell you about the mill village that once lined the shores of the creek and talk about the workers and people who lived there.
Once at the mill, the park ranger will unlock the fence and take you down into the ruins of the mill.
If you want to tour the mill, it is fairly inexpensive at just $5 a person, although there is also a $5 parking fee for the park. You can check tour dates here on the State Parks website.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.
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