Rushton Mill Museum
An entertaining new life for an old cotton mill
ORIGINAL STORY BY EMILY L. FOLEY BUT RECENTLY UPDATED & EDITED BY THE STAFF OF RUSHTON MILL FOR THE BRANDON CLASSICS WEB SITE
When deciding on an activity for the entire family, “something for everyone” doesn’t always apply. But a new entertainment complex in the heart of Georgia is working hard to provide just that. Located between Atlanta and Macon in the town of Griffin, Rushton Mill is a new concept in family fun.
At the turn of the century, Rushton Mill operated as an entirely self-sufficient textile mill. Generators produced electricity and water, and, in essence, the mill operated as a small town. Old documents reveal that mill employees first made the bricks, then used them to construct the mill and finally built their own homes nearby.
The employees took great pride in the source of their livelihood, growing corn in the mill yard, and even setting up a baseball field on the front lawn.
In 1908, a devastating tornado came through Griffin and nearly destroyed the mill, causing what some estimated at up to $30,000 in damages. Even without insurance coverage, the workers rebuilt the mill, and it became fully operational once again.
Today, this historic 278,000-square-foot mill sits on 18-plus acres and houses a comprehensive classic car museum and sundry of other amusements. Owner Woody Heath, a Georgia native, has an avid interest in antiques and collectibles, a work history in movie props and an impressive personal collection of antique automobiles. Heath translated his avocations into a remarkable, family-friendly getaway. Heath explains that he wanted to create “a complex that is centrally located … to have parties, buy antiques, see collectible cars and have an afternoon excursion for the whole family—ages 6 to 90,” he says. This exciting destination is currently open by appointment only and admission is free.
Upon entering, it is immediately apparent that Rushton Mill is both educational and entertaining. Looking at relics from the 1800s to the 1950s is like thumbing through the pages of a history book. The “main street” of Rushton Mill is a replica 1950s-era town and serves as the backdrop for the mill’s automobile collection. Car enthusiasts and novices alike enjoy the nostalgic setting as they peruse the vintage collection.
A 200,000 square foot building housing a distinctive car collection, Heath hopes to reach his goal of offering “the ultimate in classic auto and antique dealerships.”
Outside the mill, visitors find themselves transported to the Wild West. An old Western town features the Black Stallion Saloon. Swinging doors lead into a saloon replete with authentic Old West features, as well as pool tables, stage shows, a large stone fireplace and libations of all kinds. The saloon hosts poker tournaments, corporate parties and concerts, and provides a general rip-roarin’ good time.
With great attention to authenticity and detail, Heath has created an attraction that is part local history, part family entertainment and all enjoyment.
Emily L. Foley is an Atlanta-based freelance writer whose work can be found in publications nationwide. Rushton Mill is located at 1240 Lyndon Ave. in Griffin. For an appointment to visit the museum, call (678) 688-1166