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The building at 511 Marigny St. is residential, but I have been told it was once a sock factory built at the turn of the century. Any truth to this? 

Blake Pontchartrain: N.O. Know It All

click to enlarge The building at 511 Marigny St. originally housed Alden Mills.

Photo by Jeanie Riess

The building at 511 Marigny St. originally housed Alden Mills.

Hey Blake,

The building at 511 Marigny St. is residential, but I have been told it was once a sock factory built at the turn of the century. Any truth to this?

Dear Reader,

  The three-story brick building on a corner lot bounded by Chartres, Marigny, Mandeville and Decatur streets once housed Alden Mills, one of the largest knitting companies in the South. It also had factories in Independence and Meridian, Mississippi. In 1891, the McLellan family founded Alden Mills and operated the plant until it closed in the late 1950s. The main mill building was constructed in 1895 and the addition along Marigny Street was built around 1916. Alden Mills was first located on Julia Street near Camp Street.

  The Louisiana Bureau of Statistics of Labor for 1916-1918 reported the company's workforce included approximately 300 women, 70 men and 60 children. It also described the company as having a welfare department with a registered nurse and first-aid room, where medicine was provided free of charge for sick employees; an on-site restaurant that served discounted lunches; and a phonograph and piano that were used every Friday night when workers held dances.

  After Alden Mills went out of business, the building was used for a variety of purposes, including business offices and as a distribution center. Recently, the building provided artists' studios and housed two nonprofits, the Iron Rail Book Collective and Plan B, the New Orleans Community Bike Project.

  In 1992, Julian Doerr Mutter, president of Doerr Furniture, bought the property with plans to restore and renovate it. Zoning issues along with Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures set back the schedule, but the property is now 511 Marigny Apartments, which includes 47 modern loft apartments, a pool and a rooftop terrace. There's also 3,000 square feet of commercial space. The renovation won 511 Marigny Apartments and Gibbs Construction an Excellence in Historic Preservation Award from the Louisiana Landmarks Society and an Excellence in Construction Award from the Associated Builders & Contractors Inc. New Orleans/Bayou Chapter.

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