Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The Praray Patent
Selma's former cigar factory/cotton mill is only one of five mills built in the late 19th Century South using the "Praray Improved System of Construction."
Charles Praray of Providence, R.I., received the patent in 1894 for his mill design that featured support columns and triangular outer walls built on two separate foundations. The design made the walls non-load bearing, and the triangular bays featured rows of windows to bring more light into the plant. The building's exterior appeared much more modern when compared to other architecture of the Victorian age.
In the late 20th Century, when improved lighting and air conditioning made the need for triangular windows obsolete, the mills began to brick them in or cover them with other materials. However, because the outer walls were separate from the interior frame, the structures remained mostly intact.
This building opened in 1897 as the Selma Cotton Mill and was converted to a cigar factory in the mid-20th Century. Above is a photo that I took as a reporter for The Selma Times-Journal in 1979 when the mill's windows were still uncovered. Below is the structure as it looks today. The cigar factory closed in late 2008.
To read more about the Praray mills and to view the patent drawing, check out Losing the Historic Praray Mill and Through the Mill.