ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — At the turn of the century, the J.P. Stevens textile chain put Roanoke Rapids on the map as a thriving mill town.
Now that the textile jobs are gone, one of the mills that was an icon in its heyday is being torn down. The Patterson Mill is coming down brick by brick, beams and all. The mill, rich in textile history was built by hand in the 1900s.
"There's enough steel in that place in nails to probably pave the road in front of you," salvager Allan Stallings said.
Mayor D.N. Beale says just because the plant will one day be gone, it will not be forgotten.
"You know you can almost, on a quiet day, you can hear the looms running and the horns blowing. But those days are gone," Beale said.
The mill stood for more than 100 years and survived the textile union movement featured in the movie "Norma Rae."
Stallings is tearing down the mill at no charge to the city. He believes the timbers thought to be hundreds of years old are worth their weight in gold.
Now he is getting nailed by neighbors who say he is working too slow to remove what some call an eyesore.
Stallings says he has had a couple of curveballs during the cleanup, including a wet winter and the discovery of tunnels underneath the flooring.
Despite neighbors' complaints, city hall is happy with Stallings' effort so far.
The original Mill Whistle used at the Patterson Mill will be publicly auctioned off Saturday at the Roanoke Valley Auction in Weldon.