Grey's Hosiery Mill
The Old Mill Building And Pipe Dreams
A WHKP WEB SITE Editorial
October 14, 2013
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a “pipe dream” as "...a hope, wish, or dream that is impossible to achieve or not practical." We intend to print this out and send that definition to Hendersonville’s mayor and city council members…because NOTHING better describes all the schemes, plans, dreams, and fantasies that have been considered over the last decade or so for the old abandoned, dilapidated Grey’s Hosiery building on Grove Street. Instead of more unrealistic pipe dreams, we hope to see city council either sell the Old Mill…or level it and turn it into a parking lot…without delay.
When Wingate University walked away from a proposal to build a new campus in that old building the other week, the only surprise to us was that Wingate had allowed themselves to get suckered into it to begin with.
As that deal fell through, we pulled out some old notes…and a full ten years ago next month, in early November of 2003, we were reporting on our news on this radio station…and folks were reading in the local paper…all the grandiose plans to spend $17 million converting that old building into a 1200-seat performance hall and artistic center. Directors were appointed, meetings and fund raisers were held, high-priced consultants and architects were brought in, staff was hired, and all sorts of big plans were made. That scheme, like all the others for that old building including the Wingate proposal, collapsed under its own weight. The Old Mill’s supporters never even got close to the $17 million…but many thousands of dollars in both public and private money WAS raised and soon disappeared. To our knowledge, there’s never been an accounting by Old Mill supporters of WHAT happened to the money. There was even talk at the time of raising both city and county property taxes to finance that scheme…thankfully that never happened. Others proposed a “convention center” for that property. How about that…a convention center with nowhere to park and nowhere for the conventioners to stay! Supporters claimed such a center would be a definite lure for tourists and industry into the community. Well, the cultural or the convention center never happened…and industry and tourists came anyway, making their own way, in their own “free market” time. Sierra Nevada, for example, is investing more than $100 million here…WITHOUT a performing arts or convention center in the old mill building.
Now, enough is enough with that old building.
Spanish philosopher George Santayana warned a couple of hundred years ago…if we don’t learn from the lessons of the past, we are destined to repeat them. We hope that won’t be the case with that old mill building. To be clear, we’re as nostalgic over our old buildings as anyone. It broke our heart to see some REAL treasures like the Judson College and Fassifern School buildings torn down. But folks…there comes a time just to LET IT GO! Sure, the old mill is supposedly protected by being in the National Register of Historic Places…but maybe it shouldn’t be. Sometimes old building are no longer useful, they get old, ugly, they rot , they’re just in the way, and they need to be torn down…it’s just that simple.
Now that Wingate University is out of the deal, we urge city council to sell the old mill property if they can. But be sure to get an iron-clad guarantee from the buyer that SOMETHING will be done with the old building and it won’t be allowed to sit there rotting down for ANOTHER decade or two. We’ve got a few around like that already and our city doesn’t need another one. And if the city doesn’t act quickly, and either sell it or tear it down, we expect all the pipe dreamers to start up again with fantasies for that old building that each one claims is an offer too good to refuse.
But as far as we’re concerned at this point, anything other than quickly, cleanly, tearing that old building down…and leveling it into a full block of badly needed parking for downtown and for already over-crowded courthouse and criminal justice complex in the block next to it, would be a WASTE of that city-owned resource and of the city taxpayer’s time and money.
There does indeed come a time…just to let it go…and for the old mill building, that time is way over-due.
As always, we invite your comments…on our comments. EXPRESS YOUR OPINION ON THE OLD MILL BUILDING ON WHKP'S SURVEY QUESTION
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman