From textile mill to train station to brewery, Atherton has seen it all.
Atherton was once one of Charlotte's first textile mills. Today, it is a premier retail and restaurant destination perfect for the shoppers and the foodies alike. Stroll through the historic brick building to discover fresh coffee, hand-cut flowers, cocktail classes, and more, or hangout on the patio and watch the light rail pass as the sun sets over the skyline.
Learn more about the iconic community and retail center:
1892 - Inventing the Industrial Park
Daniel Augustus (D.A.) Tompkins builds Atherton Cotton Mill (now Atherton Lofts) following the Carolina Gold Rush in 1825 and the arrival of the first train in 1852. With the groundbreaking ceremony on November 8, it became the first industrial structure in the area. By 1895, The Charlotte Daily Observer called this area, the corridor between South Boulevard and the railroad tracks, “the Manchester of Charlotte. “ By the turn of century, this corridor was home to Atherton Mill, Mecklenburg Flour Mill (producing three brands of flour), Charlotte Shuttle Block Factory, a sash cord factory, a spoke and handle factory, Charlotte Trouser Co., Southern Card Clothing Co., and Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. It was, in essence, the city’s first industrial park.
These factories were locally-owned and operated and did not use northern capital to start up. Their owners, with their fresh ideas and creative ways of making money, transformed Charlotte’s economy from an agrarian one to an industrial one. A South Carolina native who came to Charlotte in 1883, Tompkins led the “Cotton Mill Campaign” to bring new ideas, new methods and new devices to transform the once-rural Piedmont into the country’s textile manufacturing region by the 1920's.
1906 - The Man Behind "Air Conditioning"
Stuart Cramer coins the term “air conditioning” in a patent filed in April. A protégé of D.A. Tompkins, he was a prolific designer of textile mills and mill villages, as well as an innovator in the field of humidification and air conditioning for the textile industry, with numerous patents to his credit. His firm merged with the G. M. Parks Company of Fitchburg, MA in 1918 to become Parks-Cramer and moved to South Boulevard in 1919. Today the site and historic buildings are known as Atherton Mill, and are filled with retail, restaurants, and new apartments.
1993 - From Factory to Design Showroom
In a $2-million rehab project, the old ParksCramer Building is converted into a 48,961-square-foot retail complex called Atherton Mills, a bold project that was the first major new retail in the area in decades. The first tenant is Interiors Marketplace, the creation of urban pioneers John & Kelley Vieregg. It is a showplace for antiques, arts, home furnishings and interior designers, an example of Charlotte’s increasing sophistication tastes in home décor and design. Today, Atherton Mill is owned by national retail investors EDENS, who are investing $100 million in a massive renovation to restore the historic buildings and add new retail and residential space to the complex.
2001-02 - Growing Residential Scene
“Traffic and commuting is becoming an issue to the renter and the renter hasn’t had a choice - until now,” Fred Bolt with Pappas Properties tells the Observer discussing the 1,500 condo and apartment units under construction or planned in the South End area. Walkability to offices in Uptown and the planned light rail line become selling points for residential growth in the area. Condo conversions are nothing new in South End. In the late 1990s, lofts in Atherton Mill and Factory South at the site of the former Lance factory had become the forerunners of the residential resurgence.
2022 - Booming Restaurant and Retail Center
Today, Atherton is home to local and national retailers, restaurants, public art, and community space. Original brick and wooden floors dazzle as visitors discover the magic of the re-purposed textile mill. Set along the Rail Trail, Atherton is a place where you can live, work, and play (and the great views of the Charlotte skyline are awesome, too). The Mill comes alive every Saturday morning at the South End Farmers Market, and will be home to Front Porch Sundays starting in 2022!