Wake Finishing, Burlington Industries

Raleigh, NC

Wake Finishing Plant, Burlington Industries
Olin Wilson, March 2008

A sister plant of the Altavista Finishing Plant, Hurt, VA, the plant started production operations in the late 1940’s.  Wake was always a dyeing and finishing plant, and was ideally suited for that type of textile processing because of its physical location and equipment:

  1. Located on U.S. Hwy. 1, a major north-south highway with easy connection to I-85 north and south and I-40 east and west.
  2. Located adjacent to Seaboard Railway for bulk delivery of coal.
  3. Located adjacent to the Neuse River and downstream from the city of Raleigh’s fresh water discharge .
  4. Equipped with coal-fired boilers for thermal energy; with natural gas for tenters; and propane as back up.
  5. Equipped with incoming water treatment and outgoing wastewater treatment.  It was often stated that 4 million gallons of Neuse River water was treated every day.  The evaporative loss was normally 20 per cent.   The remaining 80 percent was treated and returned to the Neuse River.
  6. Equipped with smoke abatement units on dryers.

Aerial view of mill.  Neuse River just out of picture to the bottom.

The Wake Plant was largely staffed by residents of northern Wake County and Franklin County.  Normal employment was usually from 700 to 800 people depending on product mix and production volume.

Over the years of operation, the Wake Plant processed woven and knitted fabrics for apparel. Over the years, several divisions directed work:  Burlington Finishing; Burlington Menswear; Klopman Fabrics; and Burlington Knitted Fabrics.  Fabrics were piece-dyed, then chemically and/or mechanically finished.  Synthetic fibers and blends, as well as cotton and cotton blends were processed on a wide range of textile dyeing and finishing equipment.  Greige mill supplying fabric included: Denton Plant, a yarn manufacturing and knitting facility that supplied fabrics; Statesville Plant, a knitting and finishing plant for yarn-dyed fabrics; Lakewood Plant, Cramerton, a yarn-dyeing plant; and Mount Holly Plant, a yarn-manufacturing plant.

Over the years of operating under several Burlington divisions, the Wake Plant had a very broad customer base of woven and knitted apparel manufacturers numbering in the hundreds.  Four of the better-known companies were:

J.C. Penney;
Haggar Slacks;
Crest Uniforms; and
Levi Strauss.

The plant closed in summer 1996.

In early 2009, the plant site was in the news again.  Franklin County needs water for growth.  They would like to tap the same water used all those years by Wake Finishing.  The City of Raleigh objects.  They say they will have to release more water from Falls Lake to assure an adequate downstream flow for citizens below Wake County.