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.


Lois said...

Very interesting history lesson! Thanks!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Very cool, seeing the before and after! Neato!

Tanya said...

Really neat to have the 2 shots and super cool that you took them both! Now in the bottom photo, it appears the front of the building is flat but the top photo seems like it is a bit octogonal (or whatever the correct term would be) and it looks like those two nice big trees are gone?

Interesting about the windows. I've always wondered why on some old buildings that they were bricked over or covered.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Interesting old building. From cotton to cigars to... closed. The times sure keep changing, don't they?

Atlântico Azul said...

The tree shrank!