It’s hidden by trees and an earthen dam, so most people have no idea about the massive brick buildings that once housed a hard working textile plant.
Known as Newry Mill, the official name was the Courtenay Manufacturing Company. Captain William Ashmead Courtenay established the mill in 1893 along the Little River in Seneca to manufacture, spin, dye, print and sell cotton and wool textiles. The plant and office buildings were called Courtenay Mill and the town was named Newry after Captain Courtenay’s family home in Ireland.
Newry was the first textile village in Oconee County. Village construction was ongoing for 13 years with the building of 51 cottages, a school, a church, a company store, a community hall (above the company store), a post office and a barber shop. Courtenay was remembered for his concern for his employees as he provided them with electricity, running water and other conveniences that were not commonly available at the time.
When Courtenay died in 1908, his son Campbell Courtenay took over mill operations. Many setbacks occurred during his son’s tenure including droughts, a massive flood, a smallpox outbreak, and the great flu epidemic of 1918, which affected 700 out of 900 people in the village. The mill was sold to the Issaqueena Mill Company of Chester in 1920. In 1934, Cannon Mill Interest of North Carolina purchased the factory and the surrounding properties. The Great Depression hit the mill hard and the plant was liquidated in 1939.
Abney Mills out of Greenwood, SC bought the factory and village from Cannon. They upgraded the mill’s equipment and the mill was able to ramp up operations during World War II when there was a surge in demand for textiles. Production continued in the mill but in the early 1950s foreign imported textiles started streaming in.
Times changed for the worse when cotton production shifted overseas. By the time the Little River was dammed in preparation for filling Lake Keowee (in the 1960s-70s), the mill’s production had decreased drastically. Newry Mill closed its doors in 1975, and eight other Abney plants soon followed suit. The houses in Newry were sold, mostly to people living in them, and mill workers sought employment outside of the village.
The mill site was abandoned for decades and the buildings deteriorated. Most of the mill property was purchased in 2009 for the Keowee River Development Project, which never materialized.
The winds of change finally came in May 2020 when M. Peters Group announced their plans to redevelop the Newry Mill and General Store. This project was a massive undertaking that required public and private partnerships. At the time, it was estimated to be a $60,000,000 investment. It took three years to redevelop the Newry Mill site.
In 2023 Newry Mill opened to the public with improvements including: construction of 197 apartments, revitalization of the general store and post office, historic dam restoration, nature trails, a walking bridge over the Little River, a public green space, kayak launch, and wildlife habit restoration.
Located next to the Newry Mill, the original company store provided general merchandise to residents of the mill village. The store is connected to the Newry Post Office. (The post office was the only place that remained operational during the years the mill was abandoned.)
The new Newry Store is owned by John Eargle, who used to work in the Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville. He opened for business in May 2023. The store sells groceries that are responsibly sourced and a variety of prepared foods. You’ll find fresh vegetables, baked goods, dairy items, beer, wine, household goods and more. The cafe offers coffee drinks, breakfast pastries, sandwiches, salads, and special dishes.
The Newry Store building also houses an event space on the second floor. Historically the large room was used for church services, meeting space, weddings and a make-shift movie theater. The large room is available to the public for rental and on-site catering services.
M. Peters Group worked for several years to redevelop the mill property into an apartment community. There are now 197 apartments, 79 apartments on the site of the original mill and 118 additional apartments where the mill warehouse once stood.
The apartment community offers amenities including: a resort-style pool, spa-like fitness center, indoor and outdoor resident lounges, rooftop deck overlooking the river, on-site cafe and general store. Newry Mill apartments are pet-friendly and have one and two bedroom floor plans. Find out more about living at Newry Mill on their website.
The historic Newry mill village is located along the Little River at the base of Duke Power Company’s dike that impounds Lake Keowee. It is 7 miles from Clemson University and 5 miles from downtown Seneca.
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