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Take a walk through Cliffside to see the remains of Rutherford County's rich textile history.
Welcome to the once thriving textile village of Cliffside. Economics and progress helped lead to the town's demise beginning in the 1960's. All of the homes and most of the businesses were owned by Cone Mills Corporation. A corporate decision was made to systematically raze houses and downtown stores. Also a by-pass around the town on 221-A created a dead end street for the business district. The final blow was the closing of the textile mill. Cliffside lives on through print material memories and pictures. This tour will present some of Cliffside's proud history.
After successfully investing as a partner in textile factories built in Henrietta Caroleen and Forest City Raleigh Rutherford Haynes turned his attention in 1899 to building an ideal town on the Second Broad River. This would be his town and would be named Cliffside. Once a thriving textile town Cliffside offered its residents not only a place to work but also provided amenities far greater than larger nearby towns. Excellent educational opportunities were provided for the children of residents from the early years of construction. Medical doctors and a dentist provided health services. Churches of the Baptist Methodist and Presbyterian faiths provided for the spiritual welfare of residents. Quality businesses opened in the downtown area. A library movie theater skating rink and bowling alley were some of the recreational activities provided. A workforce was attracted possessing the strong qualities of character exemplified by the founder.
A good place to start your tour is this Clock Tower site. This was the location of the home of R. R.Haynes built in 1902. Today the Memorial Clock Tower has been reconstructed to scale from its original downtown location atop the R. R. Haynes Memorial Building. The tower clock is 19th-century technology with a working Howard Clock featuring a 4 bell scale that rings the full Westminster Chime sequence. You may hear it chime several times as you visit today.
There are two other memorials at this location. Facing the front of the Clock Tower to the right is the World War II Veterans Memorial honoring the members of the Cliffside Mills organization who served. There are over 353 names list with seven having been killed in action.
To your left is the "Git Up Bell" which originally hung in the bell tower of the textile mill at the end of Main Street. The bell was rung to signal mill starting times for workers."
Also to your left is a map display showing the town in 1944. Pictures of downtown structures are located at the map borders.
Standing at the map display while looking southeast you will see a very tall smoke stack in the distance. This is Duke Energy's Cliffside Steam Station facility. This station and its village added to the population of Cliffside's schools and churches. Many from the Duke village contributed to local organizations and community life. At the confluence of the Second Broad and the main Broad River, plans were finalized in 1938 by the Duke Power Company to build its first new power coal steam plant since the Depression. When completed, this plant would encompass the latest technology in steam-driven electrical production. The plant site is located on the boundaries of both Rutherford and Cleveland counties. Land clearing construction began in late 1938, and the company simultaneously began construction of a seven-mile railroad from the plant site to link with the CC&O Railroad near Harris, North Carolina. Plans also included a residential village of 40-50 houses for the future operators and their families. All construction, including the village, was completed in 1940, and when brought on line the capacity of the plant was 80,000 kilowatts. After World War II, the other plants, numbers 3, 4, and 5, were completed in 1948, and the combined capacity of the total facility was 130,000 kilowatts. During the 1960s the residential village was discontinued, and in 1968 another production facility was added, increasing its capacity to 560,000 kilowatts. In 2012, the latest addition was built and the original first four units were closed. The current electrical production capacity of the Cliffside Steam Station is 1,385 megawatts.
A short distance West behind the Clock Tower is the rail bed and maintenance shop site of the Cliffside Railroad. Chartered in 1906 this short-line railroad transported freight and passengers from the Cliffside Mill 3.59 miles north to Cliffside Junction where a mainline connection was made with the Seaboard Railroad. Several steam locomotives were used over the years before the line converted to diesel engines in 1962. The last two steam engines the #40 and the #I10 were purchased by organizations for preservation. Currently, the #40 is in use on the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad in Pennsylvania. The #I 10 was acquired in 2013 by the North Carolina Railway Museum to be used on their scenic railroad. All that remains of the Cliffside Rail Road are the rail beds and a few culverts.
This site also gives a commanding panoramic view of the former village and downtown area. Directly in front is Main St. The houses you see are newly constructed dwellings in an architectural style reflecting original structures.
Across Main St. to your right, you will see a log cabin the birthplace of R.R. Haynes in 1851. The cabin was moved to this site from its original location in the Ferry Community approximately 4 miles to the west of Cliffside. Restoration was completed in 1997 by owner Janice Swing great-granddaughter of R.R. Haynes.
From here traveling north on Main Street were we will see the Rescue Crew/Scout Cabin Cliffside Cemetery Cliffside School and Haynes Grove Church. You may walk or drive to the next stop.
Traveling north on Main St brings you to the Rescue Squad cabin on the east corner of N. Main St. (221A) and Beason Rd. The cabin was originally built in 1938 by Cliffside Mills for the Boy Scout Troop. It is now the Rescue Squad building. The upper part of this large corner lot was the site of the wooden Cliffside School building built in 1909.
One block east of the Rescue Squad cabin is the Cliffside Cemetery final resting place of many Cliffside residents. R.R. Haynes and family members graves are in the lower front corner family section as you turn left on Stimson St.
"Continuing north on Main St (US 221-A) you will Cliffside School on the west side of the road. Cliffside Public School was the crowning achievement in the educational progress of the town. The need for educational opportunities was realized from the beginning of the building of the mill and village of Cliffside. In 1903 a room for a school was provided in a warehouse of the mill. This space was quickly outgrown. A large wooden store building was built with the upstairs floor converted into school rooms.In 1909 a wooden school building was constructed on N. Main Street. Plans were made under the leadership of Superintendent Clyde A. Erwin to build a modern brick school building. Construction began in 1920 on a three story structure. The Cliffside School building an excellent example of Classic Revival architecture was designed by Charlotte architect Louis H. Asbury. It was fashioned of two million red brick and trimmed with Indiana limestone. The main visual element of the building is its monumental portico that displays four hand-chiseled ionic Capitols atop 26 ft.columns.The school would house grammar and high school grades. Academic and Vocational courses would be offered to high school students-the curriculum of today's comprehensive high school. At the dedication in 1922 this building was recognized as one of the most modern and finest educational facilities in the western part of North Carolina. Dedication comments by Charles H. Haynes included this statement: "The building as it stands represents an expenditure of a quarter of a million dollars and every dollar of the cost of the building was borne outright by the company ... It is distinctly a gift and as a gift is representative of the fine spirit of consideration which Cliffside Mills has for its employees." The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. In 1960 the high school was consolidated with other community schools to form Chase High School. Today the school has approximately 450 students in grades K-5."
Continuing North on 221-A below Cliffside School on your right is the lovely white framed Haynes Grave Baptist Church constructed by Raleigh Haynes in 1903 as a Methodist church for African-Americans. In 1907 the church became the Haynes Grove Baptist Church with worship services conducted twice per-month. Sunday School was held weekly. Very little is known about the early years. The first recorded baptisms took place in 1917 in the creek below the church. In the 1940's an outdoor baptismal pool was built at the back of the church and used until an indoor baptismal pool was installed in the 1980s. Several pastors served the congregation until 1939 when Rev. E. W. Bonner of Gaffney S.C. was called.Rev. Bonner served until 1982- 43 years. Haynes Grove Church has continued to have a vibrant congregation throughout its history. Robert Lipscomb is the current pastor. The church building was also used as Haynes Grove School for African-American children until a small brick school was constructed in 1936 across 221-A a top of a hill.
Return to Main Street and continue south now past the clock tower until you see the post office on your right and opposite the Post Office is a large brick building formerly the Cliffside Baptist Church. The Baptist Church has a long history in the development of Cliffside. Organized in 1903 members met for a short time in homes of the community and later moved into the old town hall. Realizing the need for a large building for public worship the first building was erected on North Main Street in 1909.The church developed and expanded so rapidly that a second building was planned in 1922. A large brick structure in the Classic Revival style was completed in 1924 on Main Street near the downtown area. This imposing building is still standing today. No longer used as a church it is being repurposed for use as a woman's shelter by Harvest House Ministries.The congregation again desired a new modern structure and moved a short distance North on Main people remain in the community served by the church for over 100 years.
"The gate blocking Main St was erected in the 1970s. Look straight ahead down the street to what was the town square area. Long before shopping mall and big box stores, the center of commerce for a town was the downtown and Cliffside was no exception. After the mill started production in the early 1900s a two-story wood building was erected just outside the mill main gate that contained the company store post office and later a large schoolroom upstairs.In the early years, horse-drawn wagons would come to the store in the Spring for seed fertilizer and household staples. They would return in the Fall with loads of cotton to be ginned sold and used in the mill. As the mill grew the need for local commerce increased. A brick store building was built across the downtown square to replace the wooden store. A large brick community building was being planned by R. R. Haynes before his death in 1917. This "skyscraper" was constructed and dedicated in 1922 as the R.R. Haynes Memorial Building. This building included a library theater banquet hall classrooms hotel cafe beauty and barber shops sauna and atop the magnificent structure was the town clock. The buildings' features were exceptional for any town but were extraordinary for the village of Cliffside. Several other businesses were built that offered residents a garage hardware cannery feed store ice plant cafe and bank. Downtown Cliffside provided the people their basic needs rarely requiring them to shop elsewhere. Imagine a small textile town that for over seventy years provided within walking distance from home a post office, bank, department store, grocery store, doctor, dentist, cafe, barber and beauty shops, cannery skating rink, bowling alley, library, banquet hall, movie theater, and even a place to take a hot bath before running water was installed in the houses. Downtown Cliffside did that ... and more!!!"
Turn left at the date blocking main Street. Travel on the road beside the old Baptist Church around the curve the Methodist Church parking lot on your left. Cliffside United Methodist Church On June 10 1901 the first Methodist sermon was preached in a dwelling house on North Main Street. By 1905 both Methodist and Baptist churches were meeting at the newly erected school building on North Main Street. Construction of the sanctuary of Cliffside Methodist Church as seen today began in 1911 and on June 8 1912 the doors were opened for regular worship services. In 1927 and addition of classrooms was built. The separate fellowship hall building was added in 1956. Much of the interior of the sanctuary including the beautiful stained glass windows are original to the 1911 construction. The church is still in use today serving a small congregation.
Looking down from the Methodist Church parking is the dam on the Second Broad River. The site of the Cliffside Mill is to your right.In 1899 Raleigh Rutherford Haynes purchased several hundred acres on Second Broad River. Here adam was built to generate power for the soon to be constructed Cliffside Mills. In October of that year, the foundation of the mill was started and by 1902 the first yards of gingham were being manufactured. Prior to WWII the production of gingham was stopped and transitioned to terry cloth and towels. In 1927 Cone Mills Corporation purchased controlling interest in Cliffside Mills and in 1951 Cliffside Mills was totally merged with Cone Mills Corporation. Production of denim began in the 1970s. This fabric was used exclusively by Levi Strauss Company in the manufacture of their 501 shrink to fit jeans. At the height of production one million yards of fabric per week were being produced. Competing with global textile manufacturing and labor saw the rapid decline of this once formidable US industry. Cone Mills Corporation filed for bankruptcy closing the Cliffside Plant for good in 2005 ending over a century of employment for thousands of people. Machinery was sold to foreign companies. The massive building structures have been demolished. Valuable heart pine timber beams and maple flooring was salvaged and resold. Bricks were recycled and metal sold for scrap. The two-story brick building at the right of the dam is the power house and generator still in operation. The electricity being produced is sold to Duke Energy.