By Christopher B. Daly
The huge brick textile factory complex in Gastonia, North Carolina, once considered the largest in the world, is about to find a new life as an apartment complex, complete with amenities like restaurants and shops. From the description in today’s New York Times, it looks like the old factory has come a long way from the original life of the Loray Mill, built in stages starting in 1902.
That earlier story is the one told in the book that I co-authored with five fellow historians, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. Published in 1987 and reissued in 2000, Like a Family puts the Loray Mill (see chap. 4), located near Charlotte, into the broader context of Southern industrialization, told largely from the workers’ point of view, based on their own testimony in hundreds of oral history interviews. That work was made possible through the Southern Oral History Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, which continues to do fine work in oral history. The SOHP interviews are mostly on deposit at UNC’s Wilson Library, where they are open to scholars. You can even search for a term like “Gastonia” in the search tool.
That should keep you busy for a while!