One needn’t look far to find the source of Knitting Mill Creek. The short creek begins at 42nd Street and runs along the western edge of the Colonial Place neighborhood into the Lafayette River. A brief stroll to the west, standing along the west side of Colley Avenue between 44th and 45th streets, is the century-old building whose operations gave the creek its name.
The brick and masonry structure dates from 1895, when it was built for $100,000 as Lambert’s Point Knitting Mill.
At the time, the mill employed about 200 people and was one of about two dozen such mills in an area home to extensive manufacturing and industrial facilities.
A fire insurance map from the period mentions the building’s two-story main structure, which housed machines for carding, knitting, spinning, and steaming. Other structures housed the mill’s washroom, dry room, machine shop, box factory, and storehouse.
The mill featured the latest technology of the time, including electric lighting, steam heat, and an automatic sprinkler system, which was fed by a 5,500-gallon water tank mounted atop a four-story tower on the building’s south side.
A now-defunct Norfolk and Western Railway spur entered the mill from the north side and was used for delivering materials and taking away finished goods.
In the 1910s, the building was used as a woodworking and a cotton processing facility. By 1920, it was a storage warehouse.
In the 1950s, the building, now owned by Old Dominion Paper Co., was expanded and updated extensively. Crews added a one-story addition on the mill’s south, north, and west sides. The window openings were resized and replaced with textured glass block, and the entire building was clad in concrete stucco, a nod to Modernist architecture.
Today, the mill has a new life as Knitting Mill Commons, with loft-style apartments home to many Old Dominion University students, among others.