Behind the Scenes of Abandoned: Maryland Silk Mill
Written by Alex Rogers, Producer
Silk mills and baseball. The two subjects don't usually go hand-in-hand, but when you're exploring a silk mill that's been abandoned since the 1950s anything can happen. Even baseball.
I was scouting the abandoned silk mill in Lonaconing, MD with the elderly owner Herb Crawford. Thanks to Herb the building had been largely untouched since the last workers filed out for unemployment fifty years ago and the entire building was full of items from that era. However, what really shocked me was what Herb kept safely out of reach behind a locked in a large safe in the old office.
The safe still worked and Herb was the only man left alive who knew the exact combination. What could be left inside the vault after all these years and why would Herb go to the trouble to keep it locked up? At first he was reluctant to reveal the treasures stored inside the old safe but after some appeals he agreed to open it up. I hoped there would be a great historical treasure hidden away inside and I was right: among the files and letters in the safe were stacks of employee identification cards.
Names, ages and dates were all contained here. It was more than a list of silk workers— it was the history of the town of Lonaconing. It seemed like everyone worked there at one time or another and I could understand why the entire town was still attached to the old building. Among the names Herb said, one really stood out: Robert Groves.
I checked the card. According to that card, Robert Groves was a 16-year-old employee of the silk mill who was leaving to go work at the glass factory across the street. The name had a nice ring to it, I guess. Groves. But other than that it just seemed like any other of the dozen or so names in that safe. Herb told me he was a famous ball player. Really? Never heard of him!
Then I looked him up. It turned out Robert Groves went on to become one of the most famous professional pitchers in baseball history. He was once the highest paid player in history and is immortalized in baseball's Hall of Fame. And he started out as a failed silk mill employee in the little town of Lonaconing.
Abandoned buildings are filled with history, but it's the history and connections you would never have expected that make these places special. I never would have imagined to be holding the employee card of a baseball legend, signed by the man years before he even knew he would become that legend. It was really rediscovering a relic of history that likely even big baseball fans and collectors didn't know about.
It made me wonder what other big stories these names contained.