Saving Silurias storied past: Future uses to preserve historic mill

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The late Fred Phillips of Alabaster was passionate that the old Buck Creek Cotton Mill in Siluria be saved.

Phillips, former owner of the mill, died last week before seeing the substantial changes he envisioned for the site.

The main section of the Siluria Cotton Mill Company, now located near downtown Alabaster, was built in 1903-04 with the office built in 1906, according to Shelby County historian Bobby Joe Seales.

The name changed to Buck Creek Cotton Mills in 1911.

Alabaster City Councilmember Tommy Ryals sees the mill site as a possible location for the Salvation Army, a senior citizens center with a museum and as a place for theater groups to practice and perform.

Ryals said the city of Alabaster purchased the old mill and its surrounding 22 acres connecting Buck Creek Park and Warrior Park by paying off some $230,000 in liens.

He said the city also employed people to remove the items left behind and clear asbestos.

Ryals is overseeing the cleanup.

He said the city would like to save the mill office, the front building to the right of it and the water tower behind it as a landmark.

Ryals laments that had the city acquired the mill property 20 years ago, more of the old structure could possibly have been saved. Instead, the city plans to tear down the remainder of the buildings.

Ryals noted that the mill was a self-contained city with its own jail and company store, and the workers lived in front. At the time it was in operation, he said, the mill also had its own water and sewer treatment plant.

As for plans for the site, Ryals said the city would like to improve the creek area behind the mill.

He said in the old days the little island behind the mill held a gazebo where a band played.

He also said a museum in the old office would be a great place for schoolchildren to visit. And he noted that there is a piece of machinery in the mill that he has only seen at the Smithsonian