There are many reasons to visit the old silk mill in Lonaconing, Maryland. If you like abandoned, sort of creepy places; if old machinery and pulleys and belts and gears wind your bobbin; if you revel in peeling paint and dirt and grunge, then you’ll love this place. But most of all, if you are a photographer, this place offers an overload of images to stir your imagination and keep you busy focusing for hours.
In 1907, the Klotz Throwing Company built a mill in Lonaconing, due to its proximity to the railroad for shipping. Silk, primarily from Italy, was spun and wound onto bobbins, then shipped around the world to textile mills for weaving into cloth. Here is an extensive history of the silk mill. For 50 years the silk mill operated in this small, western Maryland town, and when it was shut down in 1957, the doors were closed, and everything inside has remained pretty much the way it was on the day the employees left. Except that time, of course, has taken its toll.
Many windows are broken out, the roof leaks badly, the paint has peeled and flaked, the machinery has rusted, and a coat of grime has built up on surfaces over the years. But all of these elements combine to give visitors a unique experience when stepping into the interior of the mill for the first time. You feel like you have been transported into another time and place, and all you can say is “Wow.”
The current owner, Herb Crawford, bought the mill with the intention of restoring it, but that dream has not become a reality. To help stabilize the mill and offset some of his costs, Herb allows groups of photographers to come into the mill for a few hours at a time. For the cost of $75 for three hours, yesterday I went with some other photo friends to the mill. This was my second visit, so this time, I wanted to focus more on detail shots, as well as practice some of the light painting techniques I learned recently with Harold Ross.
The dark and creepy basement was the perfect place to set up my camera and tripod. I found an old weighing scale, which was totally backlit, so I had to use my flashlight to light paint the front. In the middle of the basement was a wood cabinet with items on the shelves, completely in darkness. Again, my flashlight was used to light the shelves and doors.
If you’re interested in making a trip to the silk mill, I can give you Herb’s contact information. Get a group together, to make it worth his while, pack up your flashlight (you’ll need it in the dark, even if you are not light painting) and tripod and camera gear, and make the drive out past Cumberland.
To see more of my photos from the mill, including the ones I took on my first trip, click on my slideshow. Photos 1-18 are from October 2012. Photos 19 – 33 are from yesterday’s trip.
“Life Through My Lens” is a travel/photography blog written by Cam Miller, copyright 2013
Email: cam.miller@comcast. net