“Old Cliffside’s” New Owners
By Reno Bailey
October 24, 2004
Since Cone Mills Corporation declared bankruptcy and was sold to W. L. Ross & Co., rumors have been swirling as to the future of the old mill and the company-owned land in and around Cliffside’s old downtown area.
Rumors will continue to swirl for awhile, but a few facts have become known. The Ross company has disposed of its downtown Cliffside assets in two transactions.
The old mill, the dam, all the land and structures within the “corporate fence,” and riverfront land formerly owned by Cone extending upriver north of the fence has been purchased by an investment firm called “Cliffside Mills.” Its principals are Michael Harmon and Will Dellinger who live in the Charlotte area. Their firm, which has been involved in the liquidation of former Pillowtex properties in Kannapolis, also purchased the old Caroleen Mill. Although plans for Cliffside’s old mill and property have not been announced, Harmon and Dellinger are said to have an interest in preserving at least part of the mill for generating power using environmentally-friendly methods, and for other purposes, and are said to be investigating viable ways to use the river as sources of recreation and development.
All the remaining Cone-owned town property, from the fence northward to the intersection of 221-A and Old Main Street, has been purchased by a new corporation called “Cliffside Rural Development LLC,” formed by Mark and Janice Bridges Swing. The land is bounded on the east by 221-A and on the west by a line running north-south somewhere to the west of the old railroad bed (but not extending to the river). (None of the privately-owned properties within this area, such as the churches, Masonic Lodge, Post Office and the R. R. Haynes Memorial Clock Tower, are involved in the purchase. Negotiations for Rutherford County to assume ownership of the tower are still underway.)
Although providing no details about their plans for the property, Mark and Janice have issued a brief statement of their broader vision.
“Our goal is to preserve the integrity of the ‘downtown’ area of Cliffside. Along with the adjacent property and business owners, we, over time, hope to revitalize what once was a thriving rural community. To accomplish this objective, we will need the support, cooperation, and input from the community at large. With the passing of the textile industry as an omnipotent economic support, we need to look at other avenues to accomplish this revitalization. Cliffside residents have always taken pride in their town, and this is the first opportunity in 102 years to reshape it for the 21st century.”
We hope to keep you informed of the progress made in these two endeavors.
Update, August 29, 2005
The old church
Another commercial transaction that could have a significant impact on the downtown area’s revival, that has gone unreported on these pages, occurred in 2003.
The “old” Baptist church, vacated by the congregation that moved to a new structure further up Main Street, was purchased by husband and wife Joe Strahl and Ellen Varner. They’re using the building to house their trademark research business and their books for troops charity. They have begun restoring the old building (built in 1924) to its former glory.
Ed. note: Since this was written, the old mill was indeed sold, to an entrepreneur named Mike Harmon. And he did tear the old structure down (except for tall smoke stack and the power plant, where he still generates hydro power). He salvaged everything he could—bricks, timber, metal, and hauled off everything he couldn’t. Then he smoothed out and seeded the area. The shipping department building still stands, but most of the landscape appears to be returning to nature. —12/15/2015
Photos by Reno Bailey