Preservation Breathes New Life into Old Mill
The Cowan, as we know it today, has quite a story to tell. She sits regally along the railroad tracks in the heart of downtown Acworth, and has done so since the early 1870s. Easily the city’s most visible reminder of its past, she once was a three-story charred brick shell of fired brick and mortar, 16 inches thick. Complete with a smokestack, this simple brick complex was all that remained of Acworth’s oldest commercial structure, a flour mill built in 1873.
John Cowan is credited with building the mill with his friends, Tarlton Moore and Smith Lemon. Local legend relates that Cowan, an Acworthian prospector, went west in the 1850s to seek his fortune in the Black Hills of Montana. His band of prospectors, called the Four Georgians, are credited with founding Helena, Montana, the site of their mine, Last Chance Gulch, where in June 1864 an abundance of gold was found.
A decade later, Cowan returned to Acworth with a substantial fortune. The mill reportedly produced a fine flour, called White Spray Flour, a lynette flour at a rate of 100 barrels a day in the 1880s. Cowan, a bachelor, and his two nephews, still in their teens, traveled with him in their westward quest for gold. Family records reveal Cowan to be “a bachelor in his early 30s, a tall, handsome man of athletic build, with a pleasing personality and an adventurous spirit.”
For nearly the next 100 years, the mill changed names many times and was used for producing fine textiles under several owners and names, including Elizabeth Bartlett Mills (1921), Cherokee Mills (1927) and finally the Acworth (Rothschild) Mill (1941), which continued operations until 1972. The next owners used the structure for storage until a fire destroyed the interior wood floors, beams and roof in 1993.
The mill’s next role was that of “the ruins,” decaying and unused for more than a decade until she found a new life and purpose. A trio of determined preservation-minded families decided to preserve the landmark and rehabilitate the structure for a modern-day use. The team of Tommy and Carol Allegood, John and Gena McMinamon, and Chris and Gina Sullivan got to work. Along with making repairs to the building’s shell, necessitated by severe deterioration, the owners added 3,000 square feet to the mill’s original footprint, always careful to maintain and enhance the building’s historic elements. Soon they opened the The Old Mill Restaurant, and it quickly became one of Acworth’s and Cobb County’s notable dining locations.
However, the Old Mill was not well suited for the rigors of restaurant life, and she found herself again uninhabited, until she was spotted by the Marcy family. This Acworth family, with Kevin and Gina Marcy at the helm, had a longstanding and strong attraction to the building. Pooling family resources and talents, their love of the building soon developed into the perfect vision for the Old Mill. Under the direction of the Marcys’ talent and vision, she has become The Cowan Historic Mill, an elegant venue for a wide array of special occasions, weddings, holiday parties, corporate events, or whatever needs celebrating. The experienced Marcy team curates special memories in a one-of-a-kind place with a one-of-a-kind history.
Another perfect preservation project for Acworth, and, yet, another life for those 16-inch thick fired brick and mortar walls.
– Abbie Parks, an Acworth resident, co-authored pictorial essays on regional history and collaborated on a book celebrating Acworth’s 150th birthday that featured anecdotal history and family photographs.