Luxury loft living in downtown Hornell: Rockland Silk Mill ready for tenants
The Lofts at Rockland Silk Mill will open for tenants later this month, bringing the building back to life for the first time in two decades
HORNELL — The Rockland Silk Mill once churned out luxury goods by the train-full, helping Hornell become known as the “City of Silk” in the early 20th century.
Today, nearly 100 years after the final silk manufacturing company departed the building at 18 N. Main St. in 1923, the Rockland Silk Mill has been repurposed for a different kind of luxury — luxury loft living in downtown Hornell.
The Lofts at Rockland Silk Mill will open for tenants later this month, bringing the building back to life for the first time in two decades. Seven of the 23 units have already been spoken for as Park Grove Realty hopes to open to a full house by mid-May.
“We really like bringing old buildings back to life and giving them a new purpose,” said Christina Budd, Regional Manager for Park Grove Realty. “I think that was largely the reason behind this project. We like doing these historical renovations.”
The loft-style apartments add a new component to Hornell’s growing housing stock. The Rockland Silk Mill has been redeveloped into 23 loft apartments, 17 one-bedroom units, five two-bedroom units and one studio apartment. Pricing starts at $925 a month, with square footage ranging from 568 square feet to 1,180 square feet. Covered parking is available for rent in an adjacent parking garage.
“There’s nothing like this in Hornell,” said Budd. “We’re so excited to offer a product that just isn’t available to people currently.”
Preserving Hornell history
Park Grove Realty received historical tax credits to maintain the character of the building as much as possible, sometimes at great effort. The original wood flooring was refurbished, the building’s original trusses are evident in many of the units, windows unique to the original design were replicated, and the brick masonry on the exterior was restored after portions of the building had been painted over the years.
The apartments feature high ceilings and large windows with plenty of natural light. The brick walls contrast with modern-day stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops and new cabinetry in the kitchen areas. The entrance to the building even features a few original doors in the foyer, where the original walls have been restored.
“It has a very industrial feel to it,” said Tim Crilly, Director of Development for Park Grove Realty. “It’s a building that had been vacant and left by the wayside for 25 years or so. We saw a lot of potential in it. We’ve done these projects before, these historic rehabs.”
The transformation from abandoned factory to luxury lofts has taken about a year, with the project costing around $5 million. Outside, tenants can find an outdoor patio and a courtyard with views of Canacadea Creek.
“The building had great bones and had a lot of potential,” said Crilly. “We’ve done projects like this before and we’re familiar with it, but when you see a building like this you don’t know what you’re going to get into. We’re proud of the end product. The units turned out fantastic.
“It is truly unique. It’s a custom-built home. Every unit is different. It’s not cookie-cutter at all. That’s something that is pretty cool and something we’re proud of, and we’re proud the Hornell community has something like this now.”
Many longtime Hornell residents wondered about the building’s location when apartments were proposed for the site. The Rockland Silk Mill sits next to the railroad tracks, a convenience during its life as a factory but perhaps less ideal for residential use.
The fully insulated windows and brick walls are expected to lessen most of the noise. For some, the sounds of passing trains may add to the ambiance of living in a historic structure in a city with deep ties to rail car manufacturing.
“Most of the windows in the building are new and that does drown out a lot of the sound,” said Budd. “The interior is actually pretty quiet when you’re inside. We are working on getting a train schedule to make sure that we know when the trains are going to come through. We are located right next to a train track, but we don’t think that will detract from anything. I live in a train town and you get used to the noise. It doesn’t bother you and it’s actually a neat feature.”
Feeding a growing need for housing in Hornell
Hornell officials welcomed the conclusion of the Rockland Silk Mill project, which arrives at a time of growing population in Hornell. A new project at Alstom is expected to add 250 new jobs within the next few years, further adding to housing demand in the city. The Lofts have been in the works for several years with the support of the City of Hornell Industrial Development Agency.
“We were pretty fortunate to find someone who would take an old building and renovate it,” said IDA Executive Director and CEO Jim Griffin. “It’s difficult to find developers who will take old buildings, old schools, old manufacturing buildings, and then turn them into something. We’ve been fairly fortunate here in the City of Hornell to be able to do that.”
IDA Executive Consultant Shawn Hogan and Mayor John Buckley both said they expect residents to be “blown away” when they see the finished product. A public open house is scheduled for Thursday, May 13 from 1-4 p.m.
Many longtime residents may know the site as the Marion Rohr building, after one of its final manufacturing tenants. The garment company’s employees called the building the “Panty Shanty” over the years as it turned out undergarments until closing for good in 2001 due to overseas competition, according to a National Register of Historic Places application.
The Rockland Silk Mill was initially constructed in 1894 and remained in silk production until 1923.
“To us it was always Marion Rohr. The history of that building really was eye opening,” said Hogan. “It was originally a silk mill. Hornell at one time was the second largest producer of silk in the United States, second only to Patterson, New Jersey. Hornell was a hotbed of silk.”
Chris Potter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.