The Klotz Throwing Company, nestled in the mountains of western Maryland, was a silk mill that once employed about 300 workers full-time before shuttering in 1957. Miraculously, the factory remains eerily untouched: Worker cubbies still hold shoes, combs, tins of Noxema, and empty jars of apple butter from lunch breaks gone by.
Like much of the Appalachian region’s heavy industry, the silk mill business in Maryland has seen better days. The Klotz Throwing Company was once a major employer for the tiny town of Lonaconing, but one day in 1957 it closed its doors, since production had become cheaper overseas.
Under the ownership of Herb Crawford, who has tended to the building for 40 years, the mill has cheated death. Crawford was swindled into buying it, but holds no grudges. He hopes to keep it open for photographers and visitors, but as the building crumbles, this becomes increasingly difficult. A recent GoFundMe campaign aims to raise enough money for Crawford to make the necessary repairs.
In the meantime, anyone who wishes to visit and photograph the mill’s interior, where time seems to stand still, must coordinate with Crawford directly. Embarking on a self-guided tour will take awhile, and he allows visitors to wander through three floors and then some. For many, it is absolutely worth the trouble. Transistor radios sit at attention on top of rows and rows and rows of spindles that used to take the silk that came in from Japan and turn it into thread for apparel production. Everywhere you look, there is a tiny piece of history. Very few places on Earth remain so utterly frozen for 60 years.
Update May 2019: Herb died away in February 2019. It’s uncertain if his children will keep letting photographers in to photograph it.