November 21, 2008

The Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill

I recently stumbled upon the site of the former Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill in Columbia (PA), built in 1889, and it took my breath away. I am enthralled with architectural ruins where you can see blue sky through the windows. That's what originally piqued my interest in the Watt & Shand renovations (if you are new here, you can follow that saga by clicking on Watt & Shand under Labels, on the left, or go here for the first post and a great blue sky picture.)

Silk mills were once a huge industry in this area, and a place where many women first found employment away from the farm. This one later became the Schwarzenbach-Huber mill, then the Tidy Products sewing factory, before it fell into disuse and disrepair.

I got as close as I could to the equally decaying barbed wire fencing and took a lot of pictures. There are areas where even the window framing is gone and it has a very open feel.

Parts of the roof structure have collapsed as well.

This building has been in the news lately as the proposed site for an interactive tourist attraction for Turkey Hill Dairy, to be called The Turkey Hill Experience. It would feature the usual gift shop and restaurant, but also have facilities to learn about dairy farming and make your own ice cream. You can read the details here. It would be a huge change in the neighborhood--I wonder, would the neighbors prefer to look at a magnificent ruin, or a tourist attraction?

It's well sited for tourism, right off an exit of Rt. 30, near the Visitor's Center, and smack dab next to a Burger King. The actual dairy is not amenable to tourist traffic; it's spread out on the farm where it originated, deep in the hills of southern Lancaster County. There's a nice hiking trail close to it, with a view of the Susquehanna River, and the basis for my work "View from Turkey Hill":

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