Along The Trolley Line
Across Camden Road from the Tremont Avenue Trolley Stop is the southernmost of three buildings which make up the Design Center of the Carolinas. The Design Center includes a mix of showrooms, studios and offices catering to the design industry, and houses many of the over 100 design-related businesses in South End.
At the other end of the complex, facing Worthington Avenue, stands the Nebel Knitting Mill building, which manufactured ladies hosiery, and is the most intact hosiery mill in Charlotte. Constructed in 1927 and expanded in 1929, the mill operated continuously until 1968, and during the peak manufacturing years after the First World War, was the largest of five knitting mills in the Dilworth industrial corridor. Its design includes an open square with an approximately 9,000 square-foot courtyard in the center. Since the knitting of fine silk and synthetic hosiery required superior eyesight and good light, it is likely the mill was designed with this configuration to allow for maximum natural light during the day shifts, giving each knitter a large window to light his machine. The stone pediments above the main entrances in both sections engraved with "NEBEL KNITTING CO." and the decorative copper canopies sheltering the two doorways in the 1929 portion are original.
The Nebel Knitting Company was established in Charlotte in 1923 by William Nebel, a native of Germany and third-generation hosiery knitter. Nebel was an innovator in hosiery styles, colors, and patterns, and held at least sixteen patents. The largest and most productive hosiery concern in Mecklenburg County, the Nebel Knitting Mill, by World War II, employed approximately 350 workers at thirty-eight machines producing nylon stockings. By 1968, the Nebel company employed almost 600 operatives and produced approximately two million dozen pairs of hosiery annually. The mill remained in operation until 1968, when it was acquired by Chadbourn, Inc., a Charlotte-based hosiery and apparel manufacturer. The building was last used by the Mecklenburg Manufacturing Company, producers of children's knitwear. That firm closed its doors in 1989, and in 1990 the building was purchased and turned into a restaurant by the Old Spaghetti Warehouse, a national chain. After the Old Spaghetti Warehouse closed, the Nebel building was incorporated into the Design Center.
Hosiery manufacturing rose to prominence in Charlotte during the post-World War I period, and there were five hosiery mills here by the early 1930s, concentrated along the Southern Railroad corridor in Dilworth's industrial section. The Nebel mill was the largest of this group.
The vast majority of hosiery workers were highly skilled, and the labor was physically easier and cleaner than most work in the cotton mills. Hosiery mills produced none of the cotton dust that caused brown lung nor the cotton lint that led to the derogatory nickname "linthead." As employees with comparatively high wages and prestige, hosiery operatives rarely lived in mill villages; and typical of the hosiery companies in Charlotte and the region, the Nebel mill did not include an affiliated village.
Many thanks to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission for the historical information included above.