Sibley Mill's history was lure for redeveloper to make a new future

Clay Boardman appreciates Sibley Mill for its connection to Augusta's past -- and its promising role in the city's future.

"People worked there from generation to generation, from cradle to grave," he said. "This was our region's first real McCoy industry."

Although the mill closed in 2006, Mr. Boardman, a redeveloper with an interest in historic buildings, plans to transform the 518,000-square-foot landmark into new uses, such as housing and office space.

"Our industrial canal here was the first in the South," he said. "That's the main reason the mill culture was established here."

Mr. Boardman, who enjoys showing the mill to visitors, also enjoys the Sibley's history -- and the property's role in the Civil War as the site of the Confederate Powderworks.

A few feet from the ornate mill's front door is the brick obelisk that once served as the chimney for the Powderworks, which included a two-mile-long cluster of buildings along the canal.

Faded marble tablets tell the story of the industrial complex closed in April 1865 after producing 2.75 million pounds of gunpowder that fueled most major battles of the Civil War.

The compound was razed a few years after the war's end, and the Sibley rose in its place, utilizing a half-million bricks salvaged from the Powderworks ruins.

"Over the next 20 years a lot of new history will be made in this area," Mr. Boardman said, noting that the adjoining Harrisburg area is ripe for redevelopment and reuse.

"Harrisburg is still very much untapped," he said. "But a lot of attention is being paid to it now, which is good."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.


SIBLEY MILL FACTS

- Its namesake, Josiah Sibley, was a respected Augusta cotton broker whose son, William Sibley, was a partner in the venture.

- The Sibleys bought 550,000 bricks that remained after the demolition of the Confederate Powderworks, which was erected there during the Civil War.

- Construction cost was $788,452.

- Sibley Mill opened in 1882 with 536 looms, and expanded to 880 looms by 1885.


YOUR AUGUSTA

Readers share their favorite places to take guests:

"Few people visiting Augusta realize its great history and especially that it dates back to pre-Revolutionary times.

"Start at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, site of the Battle of Augusta, to begin our great country's history. Proceed to Meadow Garden, home of George Walton, one of Georgia's three signers of the Declaration of Independence, then to the Signers' Monument where Walton, Button Gwinnett and Lyman Hall are honored.

"A drive around the area will showcase many beautiful homes, and a trip to Redcliffe Plantation and the Aiken area will further add to a visitor's enjoyment."-- Frankie Rush Nevins

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE LOCAL PLACE? Why not share it: bill. kirby@augustachronicle.com