The Georgia Trust

2006 PLACES IN PERIL: CITY MILLS

The Story: Originally established by wealthy planter Seaborn Jones in 1828, City Mills spent 150 years grinding corn and wheat, corn meal and flour, while at the same time generating the hydropower that made Columbus, Ga., one of the earliest large-scale textile centers in the South. The Mill is part of the Columbus Historic Riverfront Industrial National Landmark District and comprises an 1890 wooden grain elevator and two-story warehouse, a 1914 concrete silo and a “flour mill” grinding facility.

Threat: Since the mill stopped production in the early 1980s, it has sat empty and been slowly deteriorating ever since. Over the past 20 years, the owners have been unable to find a new use for the buildings and the turbines, electrical equipment and milling machinery in them. Just last year, a permit to demolish several non-historic structures was obtained. But without permission, one of the only surviving mill structures built by Horace King, a freed slave known for his post-Civil War covered bridges and wooden buildings throughout Georgia and Alabama, was illegally razed. The 1869 three-story wooden structure, known as the “corn mill,” was one of the last known wooden structures designed by King.

Solution: The future of the mill and the National Historic Landmark District is uncertain. Georgia has dozens of such mills across the state sitting vacant. Such large buildings are challenging to find new uses for, but there are already several success stories in cities across the state, including Newnan, Athens, Augusta, Atlanta and City Mill’s neighbor, the Eagle and Phoenix Mill, which with its loft apartments, condominiums, office space, retail shops and restaurants under construction will continue the revitalization of the Columbus’s downtown district.

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