Augusta Canal National Heritage Area
Incorporated in 1881, the John P. King Manufacturing Company was named in honor of a prominent Augustan, who was a moving force behind construction of the Augusta Canal, a United States Senator, and President of Georgia Railroad Bank. Charles Estes, company president until 1901, hired civil engineer John D. Hill to design and supervise construction of the new mill along the Augusta Canal in 1882. A year later, the mill was in operation with nearly 30,000 spindles producing cotton sheeting, shirting, and drills. Under the direction of Estes, the company prospered and by 1900, had 60,288 spindles and 1,812 looms.
The mill had a massive central stair and water tank tower reminiscent of the villa towers of northern Italy. Ornamental brickwork covered the tower and a variety of windows and doors ranging from arched to circular dotted the façade. The office and supply building continued the ornamental brickwork, as did later additions. The most historic buildings on the site include the much-altered office building with sections dating to 1882, the original mill and adjacent picker building, an 1892 mill, an 1896 powerhouse, and four brick-storage buildings.
Among many influential Augustans involved with the operations of King Mill, Emily Thomas Tubman, a well-known philanthropist, held a controlling interest in the company. Her nephew and grandnephew sat on the board until the 1960s. Elected president when Estes retired, Landon A. Thomas, Jr., was a natural choice, having served as vice-president beginning in 1898. His son, Landon A. Thomas, III, became president in 1926 when his father retired. In the early 1960s, Harris and Cassius Clay, brothers and members of the Thomas family, sat as directors and turned the focus of the mill’s production to institutional healthcare products. Spartan Mills purchased King Mill in 1968 but closed its doors in 2001.
Formed in the 1980s, the Augusta Canal Authority is concerned with the preservation and stewardship of the Historic Augusta Canal and Industrial District National Historic Landmark. Adhering to its mission, the Augusta Canal Authority recognized an immediate need when King Mill’s future was uncertain in 2001 and acted quickly to purchase the property and ensure that King Mill was under the direction of preservation-minded individuals. The authority leased the mill to Standard Textile, which put people back to work.