Village Voices: An Old Mill Village Returns to Life

Henry River Mill Village
Our State Magazine - August 2021

Decades of decay and mischief turned this abandoned mill house into a stop for ghost hunters. Paint has given way to rotting wood. Four-by-fours prop up the porch awning; shards of glass lie beneath empty window frames.

But if you sit with Anita Brittain by her childhood home at Henry River Mill Village, you don’t see the decay. You envision what it once was: a bright white home with vibrant trim — sometimes green, sometimes blue or brown — where she lived from her birth in 1944 until her wedding in 1970.

With a little imagination, you can see her mom’s pink peonies and red roses out front. You see the backyard garden bursting with her dad’s tomatoes. You see kids piled on the porch, helping each other with homework. You peek through the front window into her mom’s visiting room, meant for conversation but never, ever for a television.

This is the home that Henry River Mill Village wants you to see. The plan is to restore this village, cottage by cottage, and make sure that its people and stories are not forgotten …

Old houses can do that. Those of us who loved them will always see them as they once were, will always feel the presence of the people who once were, too. That’s why Henry River Mill Village resonates. So many of us know such a house. A house — humble and small and the absolute center of life itself — near a mill that kept the family fed and clothed. This village restoration is an opportunity to say that, for a while, these people were here. And they weren’t fancy and they weren’t rich, but they worked hard and loved hard and belong in history on equal footing with the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers.

Read entire story in Our State Magazine.