Lando mill museum short on funds to fix leaky roof

A look at some of the water damage caused by a leaky roof at the Lando Manetta Mills History Center.
A look at some of the water damage caused by a leaky roof at the Lando Manetta Mills History Center.

LANDO -- The Lando Manetta Mills History Center needs a new roof.

But so far, no one can pay for it.

December rains fell through two leaks museum operators didn't know about. Three rooms flooded. With the exception of a few photographs, no artifacts were damaged.

The roof, however, is the main concern.

"There's probably nothing been done to the roof in the last 30 years," said Joe Polk, the president of the nonprofit organization that runs the center and the guy who stored many of the museum's items behind his Fort Lawn home before they came here. He also patched the roof.

"It's in pretty bad shape," he said.

The patching is only a temporary fix for the 88-year-old building that once served as the mill's office and general store and now stands as a tribute to the people who lived and toiled in the Lando community.

"I'm gonna keep patching," Polk said. "I've got the water stopped right now, but it's just a patch. ... Every time it rains, we have a new leak up here. I just go up there and put this old patch on, and we get by till the next rain."

The cost of a new roof is estimated at $30,000. The museum has looked at three bids for the project, and all are close to that figure.

"We don't have that kind of money," said Susan Murphy, the treasurer of the organization that takes care of the museum. "It's awfully tough to do it (pay for a roof) trying to sell T-shirts and books and hats."

The folks who run the center have applied for several grants, but nothing has worked out. Their funding options are limited, Polk said, partly because the organization doesn't own the roughly 5,200-square-foot building.

Some local companies have made small donations, but more is needed to pay for the roof.

"Unfortunately, at this time, the economy's so bad ... there's no money out there for people to give you," Polk said.

The museum opened two years ago, displaying a hodgepodge of donated relics, things such as special mill currency, 1941 payroll records and a 1927 warrant for an alcohol violation.

Founded in 1896, Manetta Mills was a family-owned business that made cotton blankets that were sold nationwide by retailers including Sears, Roebuck & Co., J.C. Penney, Target, Bloomingdales and Saks. In 1921, the company purchased another plant in Monroe, N.C., and the mill's finishing operations were moved there in 1991.

Another issue facing the museum is the matter of ownership. Right now, the building that houses the center is owned by Charlotte-based Merrifield Partners, the group working on a 670-acre housing project in Lando.

That company pays the taxes on the building along with the power and water bills. The organization covers the gas bill and a liability insurance policy.

The nonprofit leases the building at $1 a year from Merrifield, and the agreement stipulates that the facility will be donated to the organization if the museum survives five years.

Surviving also means maintaining the place, which is where the roof comes in.

"We've got to stay above water here for five years," Polk said. "And then, the building will be ours."