Glendale Mill – Glendale, South Carolina
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The story of Glendale is similar to those of many other South Carolina mill towns. The textile industry thrived in the Upstate until after World War II, when the use of cheap foreign labor all but destroyed this Southern industry.
Glendale and its mill were not always known as Glendale. The story begins with Dr. James Bivings, who arrived in the Spartanburg area in the 1830s, bringing with him an entire crew of laborers. He started a cotton manufacturing company and built the Bivingsville Mill and surrounding town of Bivingsville.
The mill was profitable under Bivings’ leadership until the late 1840s, when it struggled due to an economic downfall. Bivings and his business partners had a dispute around this time, and he decided to give up his stake in the mill and leave the area in 1854.
After Dr. Bivings left, the mill fell into bankruptcy and was auctioned off in 1856 to a group of businessmen, one being Dexter Converse. Converse later founded D.E. Converse Company, bought out his business partners, and took over mill operations. Under Converse’s control the mill was successful again, and he renamed the town and mill Glendale in 1878 at his wife’s suggestion.
Converse not only expanded the operations at Glendale Mill, he also founded additional mills and was a stockholder of many others in South Carolina. However, his greatest contribution to our state may be the establishment of Converse College in Spartanburg. He founded the school in 1890 so that his daughter could continue her education. Dexter Converse died in 1899, but Converse College continues to be a prestigious private women’s college.
Like many manufacturing businesses in the United States, Glendale Mill struggled financially during the turn of the century and again during the Great Depression. World Wars I and II provided temporary production booms, but afterwards the textile industry in South Carolina diminished drastically.
The most notable exception, of course, is Milliken & Company, also headquartered near Spartanburg. Milliken & Company remains a leader in fabrics and is considered to be among the most ethical companies in America.
Glendale Mill changed ownership several more times but ultimately closed its doors in 1961. The mill burned on March 21, 2004, and all that remains are the ruins pictured above.Today the site serves as the Goodall Environmental Studies Center at nearby Wofford College. The center includes a garden and vineyard, a laboratory, a room that serves as a classroom and conference room, and an amphitheater (seen below).
Though the mill is gone, Glendale remains a thriving community. To get a detailed history of the town, complete with plenty of great photos, please visit GlendaleSC.com. It is an excellent resource!
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