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Contributed photo from ChattanoogaHistory.com / This mid-century photo shows a worker in the spinning department at the Standard-Coosa-Thatcher textile mill in Chattanooga.

This mid-20th century photo of a worker at the former Standard-Coosa-Thatcher textile mill recalls a time when the plant at the foot of Missionary Ridge was one of Chattanooga's major employers.

Although the identity of this worker is not known to us, she is one of the thousands who called the Standard-Coosa-Thatcher mill their work home.

This photo is one of a number of images salvaged from a dumpster at the plant. The negatives, found bound in notebooks, date from 1947-1949.

Jonathan Coulter Trundle, an associate professor of photography at Middle Tennessee State University, digitized this image along with others. Today, this photo is part of a collection of images of the Standard-Coosa-Thatcher textile mill at the ChattanoogaHistory.com website curated by Chattanooga history buff Sam Hall.

"Trundle digitized many via a dedicated Nikon film scanner," Hall said, "allowing us to see remarkable details of this workplace and community that supported many families for decades."

Many workers spent their whole careers at the plant. A 1960 article in the Chattanooga News-Free Press noted that of the 2,200 people employed at Standard-Coosa-Thatcher at the time, at least 500 had been working there 20 years or more. Paid vacations and retirement benefits were cited among the reasons for employee loyalty.

ChattanoogaHistory.com

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.

If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

 

The plant, which closed completely in the early 2000s, traces to 1916, with major expansions in the 1920s. In 2015, the abandoned plant was added to the National Register of Historic Places and it was announced that plans were underway to convert a portion of the property into affordable housing, which has not happened.

Last year, however, a development group announced a new plan to build 350 single-family homes and apartment units near the plant property, with at least 20% earmarked for people making 50 to 80% of the city's median income. The area is to be called Mill Town. Meanwhile, the plant itself is to be repurposed for retail, office and residential use, according to news reports.

The sprawling property is located between East Main and East 23rd streets and was originally formed by the merger of three separate plants.

According to several published histories of the company, the textile industry, once clustered in the Northeastern United States, expanded to the South during the first decades of the 20th century due to the electrification of the region. Originally, the Coosa and Thatcher plants here were involved in spinning raw cotton into thread, and the Standard plant refined and dyed the thread. The three facilities were consolidated into one company.

The plant's population of workers declined through the 1980s and 1990s, and all textile production was ceased in 2003, according to ChattanoogaHistory.com.

Follow the "ChattanoogaHistory.com" public group on Facebook.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timefreepress.com.

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