Grey Mill Apartments breathe new life into Grey Hosiery Mill –

9August 2020

Each time I drive by the historic Grey Hosiery Mill, I smile out loud.

In the mid-2000s I pleaded a case for the conservation of the abandoned structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Further its historical status, the retired mill accepted significant cultural and nostalgic aspects, having actually supplied wages for numerous locals. The structure showed stalwart, worthy of redemption and repurposing.

At the time, regional buzz consisted of speculations of an opera house and cultural center in our midst. A local coterie wanted such a venue, meaning to transform the deserted mill for their proposed center.

Some strategies included razing the structure. Organizers ultimately selected a Boston architectural firm’s boxy style entirely unrelated to the total architectural characteristics of our downtown.

Why not, a minimum of, a local designer? Why not a connection in architectural styling?

Considering comparable jobs in other cities, with an eye to the cost to homeowners, I shared data of earnings from ticket sales covering only a fraction of operational expenses and maintenance. Concessions settle another little percentage of costs.

Benefactors supply financial help in the start. However, as I discovered, benefaction wanes substantially shortly after such a job gets off the ground.

Not only would the proposed center add another problem to the backs of taxpayers, however the job would also suggest the destruction of a historical site in our “Historic Downtown Hendersonville.”

Reality be known, my history coach made the “spit heaps” and had me fire them. She lagged my pleas and prompted my presence of conferences pertaining to the proposed center. In so doing, she kept her elegant credibility and I became the “bad man.” However I enjoyed to go to battle.

The Times-News published an op-ed about the proposed center; in it, describing my project as “screeds.” I could not assist however consider that if individuals who chose to move here wanted such a center, possibly they should have rather settled in Greenville or Asheville or another city that would accommodate their amusements. Or they might be part-timers, taking pleasure in the facilities of 2 worlds.

Regional preservationist-architect John Horton considered any desire to raze the buildings as “odd.” Having analyzed the structures for stability, Horton found them to be sound.

Regional historians George A. Jones and Louise H. Bailey vehemently opposed the mill’s destruction. Bailey said, “Mr. C.L. Grey was an outstanding person of Henderson County and a pillar of the Presbyterian Church. Having known him, I think he would not have actually liked an elegant structure on the website.”

Jo Ann Fain shared, “We had many member of the family working there. It paid among the highest incomes during WWII.”


A century ago the economy fluctuated from boom to bust and back again. Following the recession of 1913-14, the annual joblessness rate stood at 9.7 percent in 1915.

Woodrow Wilson was president. Babe Ruth hit his first crowning achievement. Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra were born. The RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat.

When residents of Hendersonville pressed for market in their city, Capt. James Parks Grey (1860-1942) and his son James P. Grey Jr. (1892-1969) established the Grey Hosiery Mill in February 1915. The regional population contributed $600 towards the effort.

Grey, a North Carolina native (Union County), made a fortune in the wood business in Kentucky. He retired young, however not for long.

Feeling bored, Grey discovered the textile organisation in Johnson City, Tenn. He next moved to Hendersonville to establish a mill here. Soon thereafter he got rid of to Tennessee to develop another mill. His kid and brother remained in Hendersonville to supervise the business.

The initial plant included 32 knitting makers, producing knee-length ribbed stockings for kids. The firm used 25 people. The business expanded to consist of smooth tube for females in the 1940s.

At its peak Grey Hosiery produced 66,000 sets of hosiery weekly and utilized 250 employees.

An essential employer in Hendersonville and the county, the mill offered insurance for its staff members, an on-duty nurse and child care. The business likewise sponsored sports groups.

Hendersonville acquired difference through circulation of Grey Hosiery products, for which Grey Jr. held unique patents. The business dispersed through sales agents and into department stores under their popular brand including “Betty Grey,” “Dolly Grey,” “Grey Moor,” “Flamingo” and “Sarita.”

Capt. Grey’s sibling, Charles Lester Grey (1868– 1951), known fondly as “Uncle Charlie,” had joined the firm by 1918. Additions were made in 1919, 1925 and 1947, bringing the square footage of the plant to 38,000. The structures inhabited most of the city block in between Fourth and Fifth Avenues and Grove and Pine Streets.

Holt Hosiery Mills Inc. of Burlington purchased the business and home on May 31, 1965. The plant continued as Grey Hosiery, a division of Holt. The Grey corporation was liquified in July 1967 with liquidation completed April 30, 1968.

Sundry usages and ditched strategies

Homer Daniels and Woodrow Waters of Florida, under the name The Mill Company, bought the home in 1977 and redesigned the interiors into a market for arts and crafts.

In 1990 the city acquired the home and buildings. The mill supplied short-lived library area in 1991. A Dollar Range fabrication organisation occupied the structures for a brief time. Civic groups held fund drives and flea markets in the mill and the website provided a facility for the training of K-9 systems.

Hendersonville housed its City Operations in the building until 2003 when it moved into brand-new quarters. The city later carried out an expediency study to determine if Hendersonville was an attractive location for conventions.

The Mill Center for the Arts Inc. organized in 2004 for the function of fundraising for and promoting an arts center on the Grey Mill website. In 2005 the abandoned buildings became arranged for demolition.

That exact same year, MCA picked a design proposed by Boston architect Brian Healey. The estimated cost for the 95,000-square-foot auditorium, theater and community center: $22 million. The concept fizzled.

The city got the adjoining lot in 2007. In 2013, Wingate University considered tenancy, however plans foundered. In 2014, the city licensed Conservation North Carolina to market the property with factors to consider for tax breaks to balance out revitalization costs.

In 2015 the city and Tourist Development Authority hired consultants to determine the requirement for a hotel on the property. By 2017, the city chosen Belmont-Sayre as a developer of a hotel with an event center on the mill website. Prior to completion of the year, Belmont-Sayre acquired the property from the city for $1 million and installed temporary roofing to prevent further damage.

Unable to procure financing for a store hotel, Ken Reiter, president of Belmont-Sayre, proposed 35 affordable houses in the mill. The concept came to fulfillment.

Happy ending

Systems at Grey Mill Apartments range from approximately 390 to 1,200 square feet, including studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom leasings. Nearly all of the 35 units have actually been rented.

Site manager Terry Osborne shared, “I feel blessed to have this task because I have not satisfied one unhappy occupant. They like the commercial appearance and the history.”

Thoughtful preparation maintained much of the material and lines of the original architecture: Flowed stone structures, exposed heavy woods, steel beams, weathered brick, wood floors, beaded-board ceilings and clerestory windows.

After lots of incorrect starts, the old mill has, at last, been repurposed.

Which’s why I smile out loud when I pass by.

Terry Ruscin has actually authored several books on local and local history. Reach Ruscin at

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