Celanese mill and village being pitched for National Register of Historic Places
Efforts are underway to have the entire Celanese community listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Brittany Griffin, in the local planning office said that the plan isn’t to create a local historic district that would fall under the auspices of the Historic Preservation Commission, but to merely have the area designated as historically significant to take advantage of tax incentives and opportunities to enhance the area.
Griffin is working with Lydia Simpson, whose grandparents worked at the mill. Simpson is now at Middle Tennessee State University Center of Historic Preservation and is working on a book about the community.
Work on the mill started in 1928. Simpson said one of the more interesting an historical, aspects of the Celanese community is that it was never originally envisioned as a complete village. American Chatillon, an Italian company, originally thought they would be able to recruit workers from the existing workforce, then realized that wasn’t happening. At that point the village was started, in 1929, to help provide housing for newcomers to Rome who would join the workforce at the plant. Secondly, the village itself was unique for the virtually all brick construction of the shoe box type of homes as compared to the traditional wood frame housing that popped up around the mills in Shannon and Lindale.
“For many of those people it was their first time with electricity and indoor plumbing,” Simpson said. “A lot of them came in from rural areas to take a job at the plant.”
The plant merged with a Belgian company in 1930 to become Tubize Chatillon, and then became the Celanese Corp. of America when it was bought out by a British rayon manufacturer.
Celanese allowed many of the millworkers to actually purchase their homes in the early 1950s.
The mill itself shut down in 1976.
Before any listing could take place, a majority of the property owners in the district would have to agree to the designation. Simpson stressed again that listing on the National Register would not require homeowners to get permission from the Rome Historic Preservation Commission for any changes to their property.
“It opens them up to historic tax credits and they don’t have to report to the HPC,” Griffin said. The tax credits, 25 percent at the federal level and 20 percent at the state level, can be combined with an eight and a half-year property tax freeze.
“If somebody were ever to do anything with the mill, that’s 45 percent of their rehabilitation costs they get back over four years, that’s a lot of money,” Griffin said. “This is one of the few intact, in good shape mill villages in Northwest Georgia. There’s just been a couple of demolitions over there since they shut the mill down.”
Being listed on the National Register would also open property owners up for a variety of grant funds for improvement of the properties.
Griffin said the Celanese community was not being targeted for designation as a local historic district because Rome’s primary period for historic significance ranges from the early 1800s to around 1930.
“We have the five districts because that’s when Rome was growing,” Griffin said. “This one is still historic and worth saving, but I don’t think creating a local district is the way to go.”