By Natalie Simms
This Friday marks the 122nd anniversary since Massachusetts Mills opened shop in Lindale in 1896. The bustling textile mill, later called Pepperell Manufacturing Co., became the heart of a growing community with homes, stores, businesses, churches and schools built around it. But that heart stopped beating in September 2001 as the mill closed, leaving a hole that Joe and Dani Silva hope to fill.
The Silvas, along with son-in-law Patrick Marcello, purchased the mill in November 2011 under the name Arimathea Holdings LLC.
“I owned a mortgage company and the Lindale Mill was one of the projects I was working on. I had investors who were looking to purchase the mill and demolish it, reclaiming all the materials. But they backed out of the deal so we thought it was a great opportunity,” says Joe.
“We planned to demo everything and repurpose all we could from heart pine lumber, bricks and windows. We had planned to take our money and head back to Seattle. That only lasted about six months.”
The Silvas started meeting folks in the community and began gaining an understanding of the history and the love people had for the mill.
“We put a halt to demolition because we felt we were taking down history. We did a lot of praying and decided to stay in Rome and see what we could do with the property,” says Dani.
To them, the property looked like a perfect movie set, so they started advertising the property on Craigslist for movies.
“At that time Atlanta was doing a lot of movies and we got a lot of calls,” says Joe. “One big Hollywood movie, Allegiant, part of the Divergent series, was filmed on site, as well as several smaller independent films over the years. It has also been used in various music videos and on a number of photography shoots for photographers from all over the country.”
Since the Atlanta filming perimeter has recently expanded to include areas within a one-hour drive, a lot more movie locators have been calling.
“Over the last two months, we’ve seen a lot of movie locators come to scout the mill. We are in line right now for about three to five films,” says Joe. “But we just can’t wait on the big Hollywood movies. So we’ve been transforming other space for events, wedding, outdoor concerts.”
They have a to-do list a mile-long but just completed the first phase of renovations to an outdoor area they now call “The Ruins.”
“It doesn’t look that pretty around the gate from Park Avenue but once you come through the gate, you will see all the work we’ve been doing on the inside,” says Dani.
“We just completed the first phase which included the clean-up around the smokestacks and the pad, called ‘The Ruins’ because it is in a portion of an old building that was torn down. We have string lighting, added electricity, installed bathrooms, a bar area and a vendor room. We just held our first event last week,” he says.
The pad at The Ruins can hold about 1,000 people. There is a grass area adjacent to the pad that can be used as an outdoor concert venue holding about 8,000 people. The Silvas received a special use permit from the Floyd County Commission earlier this year to give them flexibility in hosting a variety of events on the property.
“You can make any event intimate and small, or large, depending on your needs,” she says. “Multiple folks have asked us about weddings, so we are moving in that direction. We have had lots of inquiries and even have some booked. There is no place for an industrial-type setting for a wedding in Rome. Or for just general events, we have a reunion event booked as well.”
They hope to start soon on the second phase of renovations that will include work on the first floor of the main building to create an indoor venue for events. They also plan to renovate space off The Ruins to create a bridal suite and groom’s suite. They also have two 3,000-square-foot rooms in the main building they call The Studios that are used for filming and photo shoots, which they hope to expand.
“We just want to help rebuild and restore and help Lindale grow again. The land has rested and now it is time to rebuild and restore,” says Dani.
“We do have a vision for the future. We’d love to transform the three-story building into something like Chelsea Market in New York with stores, shops, bakery and offices.
“We’d love to have a music festival. We are working with the (Rome-Floyd) Chamber now to start a brewery and tap house. I’d also love to do tours of the facility because of the history…it could be a destination location.”
With so many possibilities, the Silvas are tackling one project at a time. Their goal now is to generate some income to reinvest into the property.
“We are really excited about the future of the mill and what we can do for Lindale,” she says. “We just have a new vision for the mill and want to rebuild, create jobs and develop community in Lindale. The mill has become a labor of love and we are just working to breathe life back into this landmark.”
And the Lindale community couldn’t be more excited about the work the Silvas are doing. The community has shared in events at the mill including Pepperell High School’s Homecoming bonfire and the annual Christmas Star Lighting ceremony at the smokestacks, which returns Dec. 1.
Tim Reynolds, with Restoration Lindale, is looking forward to the possibilities ahead for the community through the transformation of the mill.
“Restoration Lindale Inc. is excited about the opportunity of a breath of hope for the new plans the Silva family has for the mill. It is a great way to honor the mill’s heritage and place in the Lindale community.
“We support them in all they do to help bring life back into the mill. For 122 years, the Lindale Mill has been an important fixture in our community…I’m glad this family saw the mill’s potential to continue to stand tall for future generations.”
For more information on events at the Lindale Mill, visit www.lindalemill.com or call 404-919-6119.