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History

Built in 1930, the Hollar Hosiery Mills were originally occupied by Best Hosiery Mills, a manufacturer of cotton knit goods that opened in 1920. According to the 1924 report by the North Carolina Department of Labor, Best Hosiery was the third largest hosiery mill in Hickory with sixty employees and eighty knitting machines. Dr. O. L. Hollar of Hickory served as company president, and his son, W. Long Hollar, was secretary/treasurer. Best Hosiery Mills was housed in a one-story brick plant (no longer extant) that had a long, roughly L-shaped plan oriented to Highland Avenue.

In 1926, Best Hosiery Mills was dissolved and restructured as Hollar Hosiery Mills, Inc.  Formally incorporated in 1931 with $200,000 in capital, Hollar Hosiery Mills was a family-owned and operated business. W. Long Hollar served as president, and his wife, Minnie Hollar, was vice-president. The couple owned 898 of the firm’s 900 shares. Their son-in-law, Charles W. Knott, was secretary/treasurer. In 1928, Hollar Hosiery was located in the former Best Hosiery plant on Highland Avenue. By 1930, Hollar Hosiery had opened its new, larger, free-standing mill at the northeast corner of Highland Avenue Eighth Street S.E., immediately west of the Best Hosiery plant. The ca. 1930 Hollar Hosiery Mills now forms the western section of the present mill complex.

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During the early 1930s, the former Best Hosiery facility was occupied by the Sterling Overall Company, but by 1935, the Best building became home to the Hollar Hosiery’s finishing plant. This finishing plant operated under a separate corporate structure known as Kramer-Hollar-Brown Hosiery Mills. Theodore Kramer was president, W. Long Hollar served as vice-president, and P. J. Brown was secretary/treasurer. In 1938, the Hickory Daily Record noted that together, these two mills ranked “among Hickory’s largest industrial plants”, employing some 300 workers and producing 15,000 dozen pairs of hose per week.  Hollar Hosiery Mills occupied this site until 1939 when the company moved to a new location on 12th Street in Hickory.

 

In the same year, Hickory businessman, Louis Lavitt, purchased the two-acre parcel from Hollar Hosiery. Lavitt had recently created the Louis Lavitt Company, a yarn manufacturer, and together with other family members established Knit-Sox Knitting Mills, Inc. to produce children’s hoses in conjunction with the yarn mill. The entire knitting and yarn weaving enterprise soon functioned under the corporate name, Knit-Xox Knitting Mills, with the Louis Lavitt Company serving as a division of Knit-Sox Knitting. In 1916, father, Pincus Lavitt, moved the family to Asheville, North Carolina, from Norfolk, Virginia. Shortly thereafter the Lavitts relocated to Marion, North Carolina, where he and his two sons, Louis and Sam, began manufacturing knit goods, but by the mid-1920s, the Lavitts were residing in Hickory. 

Around 1940, the Lavitts constructed a free-standing, two-story, brick yarn mill to the east of the original Hollar Hosiery building. This ca. 1940 mill now forms the easternmost section of the present mill complex. A one-story warehouse (now gone) was also constructed at the same time just north of the yarn mill alongside the railroad tracks. Although the Lavitts had bought the Hollar Hosiery building, during the ensuing decade of the 1940s, the Hollar building was occupied by Duke Hosiery, Inc. Incorporated in December 1938 with $50,000 in capital, Duke Hosiery had close ties to the Kramer-Hollar-Brown Hosiery Mills, which in the 1930s had combined operations with Hollar Hosiery Mills. Theodore Kramer was president of both companies. In the late 1950s, Duke Hosiery became a division of the hosiery manufacturer, Kaysar-Roth, Inc., of Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Duke division moved to a new location in Hickory. Kramer then became head of Kaysar-Roth’s Hickory operations.  

By 1951, the Lavitts’ successful and expanding hosiery business encompassed the entire two-acre mill complex. As depicted on the 1951 Sanborn map (updated 1961), the hosiery operations took place in the ca. 1930 western building (formerly Holler Hosiery Mills) while the associated yarn weaving and knitting functions were housed in the ca. 1940 eastern building. Tucked in between the two was the smaller, ca. 1920 building erected for Best Hosiery that housed the hosiery finishing operations. A 1962 newspaper piece on the Knit-Sox Knitting Mills complex described the firm as “one of the area’s larger and progressive industries.” The company’s large line of hosiery, which included both women’s and children’s socks by the 1960s, was distributed to jobbers and chain stores nationally, and the company had a prestigious New York City sales office in the Empire State Building. Louis Lavitt, the president, ran the New York office while his brother Sam, “who is equally well known in North Carolina textile circles,” lived in Hickory and was secretary/treasurer. The Lavitts’ sister, Mrs. M. L. Nolanbogen, was vice president of the company, and Hickory resident, Joe Dale, was superintendent.

Dale had been a veteran knitting machine fixer with the Adam-Millis Corporation in High Point, North Carolina. In 1962, Knit-Sox Knitting Mills contained 140 Komet knitting machines producing up to 18,000 pairs of socks weekly.

 

Knit-Sox Knitting Mills remained in business at this location until 1968. In the mid-1960s, the original Best mill building was demolished and replaced by the hyphen that now connects the two principal sections of the complex. By 1968, the two-acre tract had been sold and was subsequently used for storage by the Hickory Box Company as well as by other businesses. The property has been vacant since the early 1990s. Hollar Hosiery Mills-Knit-Sox Knitting Mills is one of only five early-to-mid twentieth-century hosiery plants remaining in Hickory. It stands among the most intact of these mills, clearly representing the city’s industrial heyday as a hosiery center.

In 2011 the mill began its revitalization process. Neill Grading and Construction utilized its long-held General Contractor's license and headed this project.  Since this restoration Hollar Mill has become a go-to spot in the Hickory Community. 

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