Center for Craft, Creativity and Design hosts multimedia event on Beacon Manufacturing Company

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Williams.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Williams.

Press release:

CCCD Hosts an Evening of Film, Music, and Stories From Local Factory Town
Historians and former employees to reflect on Swannanoa’s Beacon Manufacturing Company, once renowned as the largest producers of blankets in the world

ASHEVILLE, NC, October 27, 2015 – The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design’s (CCCD) Benchspace Gallery & Workshop invites you to attend Beacon Blankets: Portrait of a Swannanoa Textile Mill, an evening of film, music, and stories about the rise and fall of the Beacon Manufacturing Company on Friday, November 20 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.

East of Asheville, North Carolina, Swannanoa is a small community and the former home of Beacon Blankets, at one time the largest manufacturer of blankets in the world. In it’s hey-day during the 1940’s, Beacon was the largest employer in the Swannanoa Valley with more than 2,200 workers. Beacon closed its Swannanoa plant in 2002. The factory was burned to the ground in 2003.

Beacon Blankets was at the heart of cultural life for the Swannanoa community. It historically sponsored recreation and activities for its workers. The company’s most prominent owner, Charles D. Owen, was recognized for his community service through the naming of the Charles D. Owen High School in 1955. But like many mill towns, Beacon Blankets also struggled with issues of unsafe working conditions, segregation, and opposition to organized labor. When the textile industry continued to decline in the 70’s and 80’s and NAFTA was introduced in the 90’s, small mill towns, like Swannanoa, began to disappear.

“With the original Beacon site up for sale and growing interest in revitalizing the area, rebuilding the community today should take careful consideration of the history of Swannanoa and the Beacon story,” said Marilyn Zapf, Assistant Director of CCCD.

Beacon Blankets: Portrait of a Swannanoa Textile Mill will begin with a reception featuring mill-inspired music by Robert (Bert) Brown, a native of Swannanoa whose grandparents worked at Beacon. From 6 – 6:30 pm, filmmaker Rebecca Williams will be showing clips from her ongoing documentary project Blanket Town: The Rise and Fall of an American Mill Town, which examines the migration of the textile industry from England, to New England to the American South, and, with the advent of globalization, overseas. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with previous Beacon Blanket mill employees led by acclaimed Appalachian historian Dr. David Whisnant from 6:30 – 7:30 pm.

The event is presented in collaboration with CCCD’s current exhibition, Made in WNC, which examines the legacy of craft-based industry (textiles, pottery, and furniture) in Western North Carolina and its influence on artists and designer-makers working in the region today.


Location: Benchspace Gallery & Workshop at The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, 67 Broadway Street, Asheville, NC 28801
Admission: Free and open to the public.
Date: Friday, November 20, 2015
Time: 5:30 – 7:30 pm

For more information about Made in WNC and other CCCD programs, call 828-785-1357 or visit

About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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