Mill property might get new life

Md. company buys Martinsburg's Interwoven Mills property

Md. company buys Martinsburg's Interwoven Mills property

November 22, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A Frederick, Md., company has purchased a complex of vacant buildings in Martinsburg that once was said to be the largest plant in the world exclusively devoted to the making of high grade hosiery for men, officials said Tuesday.

Mike Muren, the Martinsburg project manager for Ridgecrest Investments Inc., declined to elaborate on statements posted on the company's Web site concerning the purchase of the largely blighted Interwoven Mills property along Porter Avenue and West John Street.

"We're not 100 percent sure what our entire plans are," said Muren, adding that he expected to have a more clear direction for the property's future use in about a month or two.

According to the equity investment firm's Web site, "Ridgecrest purchases vacant or underutilized buildings of 50,000 square feet or larger, renovates the buildings and creates diverse office suites for small and growing businesses."


More than 450,000 square feet of space is available in the Interwoven Mills complex, which occupies about 10 acres, according to Ridgecrest's Web site.

A record of Ridgecrest's purchase from Biltrite Homes Corporation of Hagerstown was not immediately available at the Berkeley County Courthouse in Clerk John W. Small Jr.'s office.

But a deed recorded on Nov. 10, 2006, indicates six tracts of the Interwoven Mills property was conveyed from Biltrite Homes to King Street Redevelopment LLC of 101 S. Queen St., in Martinsburg. The limited liability company was established on Nov. 9, 2006, according to West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office. King Street Redevelopment's listed mailing address is the same as attorney Michael E. Caryl's office and the law firm of Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love PLLC, records show. Caryl did not return a message left at his office Tuesday.

According to Ireland's office, the only member of King Street Redevelopment LLC is Vincent Groh's Biltrite Homes Corp.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said Tuesday that the Interwoven Mills properties has great potential for mixed-uses and hopes the transaction will lead to redevelopment and "future discussions" with the new owner.

Baldwin also thanked Groh for being "responsive" to the city's concerns with building maintenance at the aging facility.

"We appreciate obviously, his cooperation in maintaining those buildings over the years," Baldwin said.

Two business owners who have leased part of the Interwoven Mills complex off West King Street from Groh were a little concerned about their future Tuesday.

"I'd love to see somebody do something with it," said Phyllis Miller, who operates Panhandle Gift and Floral Design and Classic Chocolates at 615 W. King St., with her sister, Cathy Allen.

"It's a beautiful building."

Ginger Chambers of The Craft Gallery at 617 W. King St., said relocating her artisan consignment business would be less than ideal after nine years in operation there.

"It would hurt us to have to move," said Chambers, who said Groh had been a "very fair and helpful" landlord.

Formed in 1905 by a New York attorney, the company thrived and expanded in Martinsburg by adding 12 new buildings over the next 30 years, according to an adaptive re-use proposal completed for the complex by Grove & Dall'Olio Architects in Martinsburg.

Interwoven eventually became the largest selling brand of men's socks in the world and once employed more than 1,400 people, according to historical accounts. A company advertisement in 1922 seeking girls to work in the mill boasted that "the Interwoven Mills operate the largest plant in the world devoted exclusively to the manufacture of high grade hosiery for men ... many hundreds of girls are now working here regularly and there is room for many more."

On March 20, 1970, Martinsburg Mills, which bought Interwoven in 1962, announced the closing of all hosiery manufacturing operations in the city and the layoff of 375 of 475 employees, according to Grove & Dall'Olio's research. The remaining employees were laid off in 1971.

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