Rocky Mount Mills

A wooden stool on a wood floor overlooking three windows with a view of blue skies and a river.

In a tradition that harkens back to our dating days, my husband and I have enjoyed many spontaneous day trips over the years. Our most recent trip was to Rocky Mount Mills, a former cotton mill located on the banks of the Falls of the Tar River.

My husband had heard about the site from a colleague. In a spur-of-the-moment decision to skip our Saturday morning workout classes and enjoy a sunny late winter day, we made the one-hour drive east of Raleigh to explore this 82-acre retail and residential complex that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The property, the second-oldest cotton mill in North Carolina, was purchased in 2007 by Capitol Broadcasting Company and refurbished as part of a federal historic preservation effort to revitalize mill villages.  It now features restaurants, one of the region’s only brewery incubators, shops, office space, and more.

During our visit, we explored the Books and Beans coffee and bookshop, walked the grounds, took in a few river views from the deck of The Powerhouse, and had lunch at the Prime Smokehouse. 

A brick hallway lined with windows and an exposed beam ceiling. The windows cast shadows on the wood floor of the hallway.

With exposed wood beams, brick walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows, the architecture in the main building is stunning. Our visit before the Saturday morning lunch rush was perfectly timed for an impromptu camera phone photo shoot in the space. 

The windows that framed outdoor scenes and the shadows they cast on the wood floors provided tons of photo inspiration. My favorite capture of the day was a lone stool I saw on the second floor with an expansive view of the river and blue sky outside.

I hope to go back and spend some time on the walking trails, see the tiny homes, and learn more about the brewery incubator on the property. 

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the mill, visit

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