Andrew Dys

Plaza at former Celanese site to honor lives, legacy of Rock Hill workers

The plant was called Celanese, or to regular people: “The Celanese.”

It was a giant textile plant in Rock Hill that at times had 2,000 people working three shifts every day of the year for most of six decades. Kids were sent to college from the wages of blue-collar mill jobs, homes were bought, lives built on hard work in that plant.

Celanese was the American dream in real life.

Now, after years of planning, a legacy plaza honoring former Celanese workers and the importance of the plant to the York County economy is set to be built.

Construction next to the Giordana Velodrome begins this summer. The groundbreaking was Wednesday on the site where the plant used to stand, along U.S. 21 near the Catawba River, now the site of the Riverwalk commercial and residential development.

The Celriver plant that made cellulose acetate operated from the late 1940s until it closed in 2005. At least 5,000 people worked there.

“Celanese and the people who worked here made Rock Hill and this community a better place,” said former employee Norman Culbertson, one of many retired workers who have worked for years to make the plaza dream come true.

Mack Bailey, secretary of the Celriver Legacy Project, which was created to preserve the heritage of the plant and its workers, put it like this: “Everybody knew somebody who worked at The Celanese.”

The project organizers have spent years raising money to build the plaza. It will be finished by late 2017.

The city of Rock Hill and Riverwalk owners and developers have been crucial to the project, and many other businesses and individuals contributed money for the construction.

The plaza will simply honor the hard work that Rock Hill and York County prided itself on for so long.

Names of workers can be etched forever on the plaza grounds for a monetary donation. There is room for everybody.

“The contributions of the plant and its people, the employees, is in churches, civic groups, service clubs, all parts of this community,” said former plant manager Ed Ewald, chair of the Celriver project.

Ewald said he calls it “Celanese” but Bailey called it “the Celanese.”

Who is right?

Both are acceptable, according to Bailey and Ewald. They said the plaza honors everyone who worked there, who called it by both names. And it made Rock Hill for six decades a manufacturing powerhouse, a place where an honest job for a decent dollar was the mark of the best of America.

Want to know more or contribute?

▪ Visit the Celriver Legacy Project on Facebook at

▪ Visit the project Web site at

▪ Email:

▪ Phone 803-329-2321

▪ Mail Celriver Legacy Prject, PO Box 11134, Rock Hill, S.C. 29731.