Whisnant Hosiery Mills/Moretz Mills
With construction completed in 1929, the Whisnant Hosiery Mills, started by E. E. Whisnant and his brother, C. L. Whisnant, would play a pivotal part in the growth of the hosiery industry at large and in maintaining North Carolina's role as the nation's leader in the hosiery industry during its peak. Major additions to the building were constructed in 1937, which tripled the manufacturing power of the mill, and 1966, which doubled the size of the mill. In 1971, the Whisnant family sold the mills to the Adams-Millis Corporation, which in 1993 conveyed the property to Moretz Mills, Inc. The mills were closed in 2011 and later added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 for the significant role the mills played in the development of the hosiery industry. Today, the building has been repurposed for office space and as an event venue.
Backstory and Context
The hosiery industry began to develop in Hickory, NC, in the year of 1906 with the development of the Hickory Hosiery Mill. The growth and the development of the industry progressed slowly at first, with only four mills in operation by 1925. However, by 1953, there were fifty-five mills that employed 4,000 workers, who could produce an estimated 150,000,000 pairs of socks a year; in 1962, during the peak of the hosiery industry, there were eight-nine mills in operation. The rapid growth and development of the hosiery industry in Hickory throughout the second and third quarter of the 20th century contributed to North Carolina’s role as the nation’s leader in hosiery manufacturing.
The development of the Whisnant Hosiery Mills’ mirrors the development of the hosiery industry in Hickory as a whole. In 1929, a small mill was erected and managed by Ernest Elmore Whisnant, who had previously worked for the Elliott Hosiery Mill and the Hollar Hosiery Mills, and his brother, Clarence L. Whisnant, who became the mills’ secretary. Only twelve employees worked at the mill during this time, which also included additional members of the Whisnant family.
To meet growing demands throughout the 30s, in 1937, a major addition was constructed that tripled the manufacturing capacity of the mill, thus leading to the Whistnant Hosiery Mills becoming the second most efficient mill in Hickory, losing only to the Elliott Hosiery Mills. This addition was originally separated from the main building, but later renovations throughout the 40s and 50s added connecting passages.
By 1953, the mill had capital stock totaling $600,000, which included 612 knitting machines utilized in the production process. Hanes Hosiery, Inc., was the main selling agency utilized by Whisnant, and the mills’ products were then sold to stores and employers. The final addition, constructed in 1966, doubled the size of the mill at the peak of the hosiery industry in Hickory, and it included a new dye house, a loading dock, and more office space.
After forty-two years, the Whisnant family sold the mills to the Adams-Millis Corporation, which conveyed the property to Moretz Mills, Inc. in 1993. The mills were closed in 2011, and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 for holding a pivotal role in Hickory’s success in the hosiery industry throughout the 20th century. Today, after undergoing renovation, the building has been repurposed as a mixed-use facility, with office space available to rent and as an event venue.
Genderen, Gerrit Van. Former hosiery mill named local historic landmark, Hickory Daily Record. August 5th 2015. Accessed September 22nd 2019. https://www.hickoryrecord.com/news/former-hosiery-mill-named-local-historic-landmark/article_59063f64-3b8f-11e5-94f9-43e95ec6ace6.html.
History of the Historic Moretz Mills Building, Moretz Mills. Accessed September 22nd 2019. https://moretzmills.com/about-us/history/.
Whisnant Hosiery Mills, National Register of Historic Places. August 27th 2013. Accessed September 22nd 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000637.pdf.