Buffalo Mill was one of many textile mills built in South Carolina during the early to mid-1900s. Construction on the mill began in 1900, and the two seven-story towers (pictured here) were built in 1901. The mill complex is part of the Buffalo Mill Historic District in the city of Buffalo, located in Union County.
Other buildings in the historic mill district include a power house, an ice factory, a company store, and a bank and drug store.
The engineering firm belonging to W.B. Smith Whaley designed the buildings and many other textile plants across the state. While the mill is slowly being demolished, the office, built in 1902 and pictured below, has been restored.
The historic mill district in Buffalo is probably the best remaining example of a South Carolina mill town. Bricks from the mill were sold to help with reconstruction efforts in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005.
Buffalo Mill is listed in the National Register as part of the Buffalo Mill Historic District, which says the following:
The Buffalo Mill Historic District is significant as an excellent collection of historic resources associated with the textile industry in South Carolina from the early-to-mid-twentieth century. The mill complex, including such resources as the main mill, mill office, power house, ice factory, mill warehouse, company store, and company bank/drug store, is a particularly intact collection of early-twentieth century mill and mill-associated buildings. It is also significant for its association with W. B. Smith Whaley, a prominent engineer whose firm designed numerous textile mills in the state, including mills in Camden, Columbia, Lancaster, Orangeburg, and Union. The mill village, including supervisors’ and operatives’ housing as well as auxiliary resources such as a school and a baseball field/park, is a particularly intact collection of other mill-associated resources.
The mill complex and village, together with their setting, represent perhaps the best extant example of a South Carolina mill town. The district includes 192 contributing properties and 98 noncontributing properties. The mill building and most other Whaley-designed buildings at Buffalo are typical industrial designs with applied stylized Romanesque Revival detailing. This is achieved primarily through round-headed arches, polychromed brick, and decorative brick work including belt courses and corbelling. A major exception is the mill company office which has a less traditional exterior with its pyramidal roofing, battered pier belvedere, wide bracketed overhang and lavish American Renaissance interior. The mill housing varies from large, free-classic, Queen Anne supervisor’s houses, to shingle-style bungalows, to simple, one-story, lateral-gable, workers residences.
Reflections on Buffalo Mill
Contributor F. Everett Leigh shares, “All that remains of the old ‘Buffalo Mill’ in Union County still hasn’t been cleaned up yet, but this view of the remaining Twin Towers from the mill is from the site of the old Buffalo Elementary School, which looks back towards the City of Union ‘skyline’.”