If Walls Could Talk

For more than a century, the textile industry helped drive the economy here in Southside Virginia. Dan River Mills, first established as the Riverside Cotton Mills in 1882, was the largest textile mill in the South. By World War II, Dan River Mills employed 14,000 people, more than a quarter of Danville’s residents.

Today, our economy has been transformed, and the textile industry no longer exists in Danville. Instead, many forward-thinking leaders in our community have helped steer the Southside region toward state-of-the-art research and development, including development of a bio-based industry. Facilities like the new Sustainable Energy Technology Center (SENTEC), under construction on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, support this transformation. When it opens later this year, the center will house R&D for the development of renewable energy and bioproducts.

SENTEC is designed as a sustainable showcase, reflecting the latest advances in solar collection, water conservation, and energy efficiency. But it also has something unique that won’t be found in any other laboratory environment. One of the center’s interior walls is constructed of old bricks salvaged from Dan River Mills’ Schoolfield plant, which opened in 1904.

Repurposing these old bricks is sustainable in more ways than one. The wall will help sustain our memories of a vibrant industry that employed generations of families here in Danville. If this wall could talk, I’m sure it would offer many stories of the hard work and enduring enterprise that helped build our community. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration in our new economy for many years to come.

  • Larry Hasson
    Larry Hasson
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