Located about a mile north of downtown, the Lincoln neighborhood traces its beginnings to December 1900. That’s when Madison Spinning Co. laid the foundations for a short-lived textile factory that was later renamed Abingdon Mill. In 1918, Massachusetts textile baron William Lincoln Barrell bought the factory out of bankruptcy and turned it into a fabric-making force and was known from that time until 1955 as Lincoln Mills of Alabama.
Lincoln Mills became the largest of the city’s four textile plants, with about 800,000 square feet of production space. Each mill had its own housing community that included everything the mill workers needed (schools, churches, grocery stores, theatres, and hardware stores, all within walking distance of the mill). Most workers lived in tidy, shotgun-style rental houses a short walk from the factory. After a series of strikes, the property ceased operation as cotton textile mills in 1955, closing its 54-year history in that capacity.
a true huntsville heritage
In February 1957, Huntsville Industrial Associates, an alliance of 35 local business and government leaders led by Carl T. Jones, purchased the property, renamed it the “Huntsville Industrial Center.” Lincoln Mill bridged the eras of production to technology. Brown Engineering (now Teledyne Brown Engineering) performed some of the early contract missile work from Lincoln until moving to newly created Cummings Research Park in the early 1960s. Much of the work that occurred in this building was instrumental in helping put men on the Moon. Over time, however, these companies, including NASA, relocated either to Redstone Arsenal or the new Research Park that was developed on Huntsville’s western edge in the cotton fields that formerly supplied cotton to Lincoln Mills. As these companies left, their space was either abandoned, or rented as storage, small office and light industrial.
In February 1980, the largest fire in Huntsville’s history destroyed the two oldest mills, which sat near the corner of Meridian Street and Oakwood Avenue. However, Mill #3 and the Dye House, the last of the complex to be built and conceived and built as “fire proof”, fulfilled their design intent and survived the fire.
The remaining buildings were sold in 2007 to a new family partnership, led by Jim Byrne. The vision is to restore not only the building but the sense of the community back to this area. The restoration of Lincoln Mill will include loft homes, offices, galleries, organic farming and food processing, local flavor restaurants, independent movie theater, etc.
“He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” – Psalm 107:20