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’.”
Barbara Hughes says
What were the towers used for?
Who owned these mills?
According to the National Register nomination form, located here http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/union/S10817744024/S10817744024.pdf, this mill was originally owned by Thomas C. Duncan.
But are they going to restore them? There is a sign down by them that says “Gallery Coming Soon” but that sign has been there for quite some time and I haven’t seen any work. Is there a historical society or a fundraiser in progress for this project? I would love to help or contribute.
That certainly sounds like a worthy project to get behind! We have searched and have not found any recent updates to the status of the mills but there is a historical museum in the area that may be able to help. Their website is located here: http://www.unioncountymuseum.com/.
Lady Rust says
Are they going to do any restoration to the towers? They are beautiful to look at and I would love to see them kept intact as two gorgeous historical markers.
Melinda Wages says
Everette Leigh, Do you have pictures shown on here for sale, they are great, we are having an old school reunion for Buffalo on October 24, 2015 and I would love to have some of them to display. Melinda Wages
Linda Kemp says
I always enjoy the sites on the less-traveled highways.
Either my grandma or great-grandma worked there. I was wondering if you have any other information or pictures or maybe a list of workers?
Hi Gary! Thanks for sharing the information about your grandfather. The following link has some excellent information photos:
Make sure you read the nomination form (PDF) as they usually contain a lot of information not shown on the page. As far as stories, hopefully some of our readers can help out!
Hope this helps!
Gary Collins says
My grandfather, Arthur Russell Collins, worked as a bookkeeper/accountant at the Union-Buffalo Mills in the 1930’s – 1950’s. Do you have any additional information or stories with regards to the mill?
Hi Mike! What you have is referred to as company scrip and is probably from the early to mid 1900s.
Mike Marino says
I have a small token that says Union Buffalo Mills “Good for Merchandise Only” with a U punched through it. How old would it be? Thanks!