James L. Coleman, an Augusta farmer, had plans to build a flour mill on his plantation as early as 1845. With the initiation of the Augusta Canal project in 1845, he asked that its route be slightly changed in order to supply his land with water power.
It was, and Coleman finished construction of a four-story granite mill in 1848 known as “Coleman’s Flour Mill” or “Coleman’s Granite Mill.” In 1873, the Granite Mill had an addition built on its west end. Upon completion of the canal enlargement in 1875, Augusta businessmen formed the Enterprise Manufacturing Company.
The company hired Jones S. Davis to design a new mill. In 1877, paying nearly $200,000, Davis built a 3-story brick textile mill with a central stair tower situated at a right angle with the granite mill. In anticipation of future expansions, he provided for twice the necessary water power.
Huge new factories, chief of which were the Enterprise (1877), Sibley (1880), and John P. King Mill (1882), rose along the canal banks. “Mill villages” clustered around the mills as families flocked from the depressed countryside to take jobs in the factories. Efforts to unionize the workers resulted in strikes in 1886 and 1898, but the mill managers broke both strikes by evicting strikers from company housing.New Georgia Encyclopedia
Three years after its completion, Enterprise’s shareholders voted to double the size of the mill. Thompson and Nagle of Rhode Island designed an addition to mimic the 1877 portion with the exception of ornamental details. To the rear of the combined buildings, they also added a tower to hold a 10,000 gallon water tank designed to feed a sprinkler system. The tower also housed the company bell.
The mill shut down in 1884. The directors rallied, and local lawyer and cotton broker James P. Verdery assumed the presidency. The mill withstood turbulent times in the early 1880s, and by the late 1880s, prosperity returned. The company constructed several more buildings including a weaving room (c. 1888), starch warehouse (c. 1890), the cloth warehouse (c. 1900) and a workers smoking building (c. 1920).
The Graniteville Company acquired Sibley Mill and in 1923 purchased a controlling interest in Enterprise Mill. In 1936, Enterprise and Sibley operations combined, and both mills became divisions of the Graniteville Company. Enterprise Mill stayed in operation as a textile mill until it officially closed its doors in 1983.
The mill sat vacant until 1997, when Clay Boardman, III, a local businessman, purchased it and began extensive renovations. These included removing over 5,000 tons of non-historic debris, taking brick from the openings of and replacing 500 windows, restoring two stair towers, putting on new roofing materials, and extensive repointing of masonry.
The building now has about 119,000 square feet of office space and 60 loft-style apartments. Boardman sold it to the Melavar family of Savannah, Georgia, in 2006 for $13.1 million.
The Melavar family sold the mixed-use property to Enterprise Mill LLC in Coral Gables, a joint venture of the families of Carlos Imery and Starr Porter, daughter of Edward and Anna Porter, who founded Miami International University of Art and Design in Miami.
The Mill is now a mixed-use complex of offices and apartments.
Special thanks to the National Parks Service for reproduction of this article.
Photos: Joe White