Steven Henry

Steven Henry

The one-million-square-foot mill that once employed more than 3,000 and was the heart of Rossville before a devastating fire on June 10, 1967, has been purchased by Steven Henry at auction.

Henry's winning bid of $125,000 was for Peerless Woolen Mills and its nearly 27-acre site was accepted Thursday afternoon, June 15, nearly an half-century since the mill's closing.

A builder and developer, Henry also serves as chairman of the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners and was unable to attend the "walk through" of the mill due to being out of town for commissioners training.

"I got there five minutes before the auction," he said, adding that he was as surprised as anyone that his was the winning bid.

All qualified bidders were told the facility would either require renovation to meet current codes or be demolished and its rubble be properly disposed of.

Henry said he has no definite plans for the property, but is aware that there are issues concerning storm sewers, water lines and the possible need for the abatement of asbestos and other environmental hazards.

"One of my dreams is to turn it into condos," he said.

Whether that dream comes true — and nothing can move forward until after the sale closes within the next three weeks — Henry views this as an opportunity to bring a piece of history back to life.

"It will be a long-term project," he said. "And I want it be part of the ongoing efforts to revitalize Rossville."

Mike O'Neal is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga. He can be reached at the Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at moneal@npco.com.