Augusta Canal and Confederate Powder Works, ca. 1870; Augusta Museum of History
Until recently, residents of Augusta knew Sibley Mill as a massive, crumbling relic of the Southeast’s legendary textile-based economy. The only sign that Sibley Mill would again contribute to prosperity in America was the steady hum of its electrical turbines, powered by the Augusta Canal and maintained by Georgia Power.
A Mill Revival
Aerial of King and Sibley Mills, housing for mill workers, ca. 1930; Augusta Museum of History
The Mill Area in Augusta Georgia was an economic growth hotspot from the mid-1800’s to the cusp of the second millennium. Mills began cropping up around 1847, after the completion of the Augusta Canal. Funded and built by the state of Georgia, the Augusta Canal was “one of the few successful industrial canals in the American South.”
"View on the Canal," 1894, Art Work of Augusta; Augusta Museum of History
The canal not only served as a source of water, power, and transportation for the city of Augusta but also promoted industrial development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Augusta Canal still powers half a dozen generators, including that of Sibley Mill, which Georgia Power sold when the Sibley Mill Property was purchased in a joint venture between EDTS Cyber and Cape Augusta Digital Properties. The purchase followed a boom in Augusta’s presence in the information technology and cyber security market, with over 20 companies and the proposed relocation of the Cyber Branch of the U.S. Army.
Lake Olmstead, Canal, Savannah River, Sibley Mill (top right). 1959; Fitz-Symms Collection, Augusta Museum of History
Sibley Mill is now poised to encore its performance in the Southeast’s economy by housing a host of Information Technology and Cyber Security entities, including vendors, government offices, and even a school.
Sibley Mill: The Past
Old Confederate Powder Mills' Chimney and the Sibley Mill, 1894; Art Work of Augusta, Augusta Museum of History
Before Sibley Mill was initially built, there was Augusta Powderworks. Construction began on the Augusta Powderworks mill complex in 1861 using “materials gathered from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.”
As was customary for gunpowder mills, the buildings were separated and designed to survive explosions, with raw materials starting at one end, refined and ground with 5-ton wheels, and the finished powder loaded a mile and a half down the line.” At the time, this mill was the second largest of its kind in the world, producing 3.5 tons of gunpowder a day until it closed in April of 1865.
King Mill, Postcard, ca. 20th Century, Augusta, GA; Augusta Museum of History
The Federal Government confiscated the land Mill and sold it between 1868 and 1871. By 1872, a project to widen the canal called for the demolition of the Augusta Powderworks complex.
Canal at the Augusta Mills, 1894; Art Work of Augusta, Augusta Museum of History
The only original structure is the Powderworks smokestack located at 1717 Goodrich Street.
Sibley Mill, Postcard, ca. mid 20th Century; Joseph M. Lee III Collection, Augusta Museum of History
In 1880, the Sibley Manufacturing Company acquired the land and started construction on the Sibley Mill using original brick from the demolished Powderworks mill. “With the appearance of a medieval castle or fortress, the mill resembles the powder works it replaced.”
New Reference Map of Augusta 1929, Augusta Museum of History
“Soon after the mill began operation, it became one of the largest and most successful cotton mills in the region” and continued to compete in the “ever-increasing world market” until it was shut down in 2006 and purchased by Georgia Power shortly thereafter.
Sibley Mill: Plans for Renovation
Before: empty and dusty, former storage warehouse
While renovating mills may seem to be a hot trend, the purchase makes sense for cyber complexes on a strategic level as well. Powderworks, first constructed in 1847, was built as a collection of separate buildings.
Today, these buildings allow for multi-purpose use and additional security measures. Thick brick and plaster walls allow for the privacy and sound suppression required of co-working spaces and beneficial in protecting and cooling sensitive electrical equipment.
After: Open Office Space
Already relatively secluded, the area was primed for physical enclosure. The complex is now fenced, gated, and manned by security staff.
The waters of the Augusta Canal, in addition to providing power for vital backup generators, may be used to cool the electrical equipment that runs 24-7 in the mill.
EDTS headquarters: reconstructed porch and entryway
The appearance of the complex cannot be ignored, either. A fortress-styled multi-level complex, the spires and smokestack are a throwback to the past and a fitting architecture for the mission of remotely securing and guarding our nation’s businesses, homes, and government organization from cyber threats.
The Old Storage Warehouse
Before: Upper floor, cotton storage with 4-inch thick wood floors
Currently, just two buildings have been fully renovated. Home to EDTS and EDTS Cyber, these former cotton processing and storage facilities have experienced a dramatic facelift, including the addition of new features with careful attention to preserving original details.
After: Customer Support Center and (not pictured) Security Operations Center
Double glass-paned doors, frosted with the company logos, welcome you into the building, opening up to a lobby with refinished original wood floors. Exposed infrastructure winds its way across the wall and ceiling, and a large monitor is hung on an original brick wall.
EDTS & EDTS Cyber: the Lobby
A brand new chrome elevator sits in the epicenter of the building, a bright contrast against the original brick and wood. The hallway running along the length of the building is skirted by conference rooms, high-ceilinged office space, and communal spaces like mini-kitchens, laundry rooms, and a gym.
Technology meets history in this office space
The upper level is wholly dedicated to serving EDTS and EDTS Cyber clients across the country, with a Secure Operations Center (SOC) at one end of the building and a Customer Service Center at the other end.
Breakroom captured during joint Open House with Cape Augusta
Many staff work in an open-office environment in the attached Warehouse. Also located in this space is a large break room fitted with a modern kitchen and custom-painted in the Southern train car graffiti tradition.
An Up & Coming Cyber Village
Today, Sibley Mill is an example, not only of a historic renovation project, but of a new, cooperative effort between business, education, and government in the fight against cybercrime.
Entering a meeting space at EDTS
Augusta and Sibley Mill look to the past to plan for the future. Once again, the region looks to build the local economy while serving a vital role for national security and commerce.
Sources & Thanks:
Special thanks to http://www.augustamuseum.org/