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Rocky Mount Mills has transformed its self from big cotton to brewery hub and place to stay (and live)!

Rocky Mount Mills: Big Cotton to Beer Hub and More!

Last Updated on October 14, 2020

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Rocky Mount Mills was the second oldest cotton mill in North Carolina and also the longest continuously running one in the United States. Today, it has transformed into a thriving live-work-play 82-acre destination off US-64 and I-95.

With 5,000 square feet of event space, restaurants, 100 restored mill houses, and 200,000 square feet for office leasing, this place is a big reason why Rocky Mount is one of our most interesting small towns to visit.

It’s home to breweries and restaurants, as well as places to stay and live. There’s plenty of fun and excitement to find at Rocky Mount Mills, and we plan to share as much of it as possible in this guide.

This post is part of our series on all the awesome things to do in Eastern North Carolina, especially focused on Rocky Mount, Nash County, and other I-95 stops.

Rocky Mount Mills

In case you’re searching for something specific about Rocky Mount Mills, here’s how we’ve organized this article (with Main Sections in Bold followed by Sub-sections):

  • History of Rocky Mount Mills
  • Origins and Success
  • Fires and Rebuilding Efforts
  • Cheers! How Beer Made Rocky Mount Mills
  • The Breweries of Rocky Mount Mills
  • More Things to Do at Rocky Mount Mills
  • Restaurants
  • Stay at River & Twine
  • Live at Rocky Mount Mills
  • Rocky Mount Mills Quick Guide (Address and Website)
  • More Things to Do in Eastern North Carolina (Related Posts)

History of Rocky Mount Mills

Origins

The original Rocky Mount Mills dam is still there and a nice place for a stroll.

Prominent planter and cotton manufacturer Joel Battle founded the original mill, which was built by enslaved people and completed in 1818.

For its first 30 years of operation, slaves and free people of color made up the workforce. After that initial period and until 1965, only white workers were employed here.

Its location on the banks of the Tar River helped the mill profit as a big cotton industry player. Rocky Mount Mills was one of the largest operations by the 1890s, employing 600 people and producing a number of textile products including raw cotton.

Rocky Mount Mills isn’t hiding its history and the current owners are working with UNC’s Community Histories Workshop in ongoing projects to collect stories, digitize materials, and display information throughout the campus.

Fires and Rebuilding Efforts

Rocky Mount Mills is no stranger to rebuilding, as several fires ravaged the mill. A fire in 1863 when Union troops attacked the supply line during the Civil War.  

This fire was an important strategic move since Rocky Mount Mills produced yarn and cloth for the Confederacy. The fire also burned down the railroad bridge, which connected the Confederate capitol in Richmond and Wilmington, the prominent port city.

The Battle Family and Capital Broadcasting

The Battle family owned the mill for most of its existence. Their success made the mill and the Tar River the center of economic life in Rocky Mount.

Textile production declined and the mill ceased operations in 1996, sitting empty for nearly two decades. Capital Broadcasting Company (of WRAL and Durham Bulls fame) acquired the property and began restoration efforts.

Today, the mill and river remain major parts of life in Rocky Mount. The Power House that once generated the mill’s energy is now an event center, perfect for weddings and upscale gatherings.

Cheers! How Beer Made Rocky Mount Mills

Capitol Broadcasting Company sought to replicate what they did for Durham’s American Tobacco Campus at Rocky Mount Mills. While the ATC soared with innovation and tech, Rocky Mount Mills started with beer.

CBC transformed the campus into a beer incubator by partnering with Nash Community College’s then-fermentation sciences program.

Start-up breweries are able to perfect their craft at the incubator. The setup breaks down the financial difficulties that many budding breweries face by providing shared equipment and facilitating community collaboration.

Each brewer who participates in the incubator commits to a three-year lease and pays a fee for each barrel produced. As a result, there are many breweries to explore in Rocky Mount Mills.

We think a few Rocky Mount beer stops deserve a place among our favorite North Carolina breweries!

Breweries of Rocky Mount Mills

As a beer incubator, there is a whole lot of fermenting going on at Rocky Mount Mills. Not only are there four breweries, but there are many more instances of the shared space being used to brew, bottle, and discover.

Back to the breweries of Rocky Mount Mills, though, where you’ll find interesting stories and unique spins on beer. Here’s a sampling of each.

Tarboro Brewing Company

TBC West: Tacos & Taproom is a second location for the nearby Tarboro Brewing Company. While most of the brewing happens in Tarboro, small-batch beers and test runs are still produced at the Rocky Mount Mills location.

Note: this are the only brewery on site that also serves food, so stay tuned for more below!

HopFly Brewing Company

Starting in the Rocky Mount Mills incubator, HopFly Brewing Company has expanded to a 1700-square-foot taproom and brewhouse. The beer is delicious, and we definitely recommend grabbing one of their hazy IPAs.

Take your brew out to the bier garten and enjoy!

Koi Pond Brewing Company

Koi Pond Brewing Company opened in 2016 as Rocky Mount’s first craft brewery. Their family-friendly taproom resides inside a historic mill house.

The brewery uses unique flavors and local produce for their specialty beers. Slug down the Longstreet American Pale Ale or savor the Rise Sun Mocha Java Stout while you’re there.

Mythic Brewing

Mythic Brewing is where you go if you want a story to go with your beer. Each of their beers is themed after mythical creatures like Sasquatch, Hawaiian Kanaloa, and even Grover Krantz, the legendary researcher to Bigfoot.

You’ll find more mainstay beers here with a couple of new releases. Make sure to check out the super cool can art inside, too!

More Things to Do at Rocky Mount Mills

More things to do at Rocky Mount Mills including some great restaurants and places to stay. Your first bite is most important, so we’ll start there.

Restaurants at Rocky Mount Mills

Books and Beans

Books & Beans opened in 2019 and quickly became a national success thanks to social media. Owner Etaf Rum is a local professor and New York Times bestselling author of A Woman is No Man.

B&B is the only independently owned coffee and book shop in Rocky Mount. They serve Durham-based Counter Culture coffee and also offer pastries and lunch service.

Tap @ 1918

Tap @ 1918 is the culinary experience from mastermind Chef Justin Gaines and Rocky Mount restaurateur Lou Reda. You’ll find burgers, charcuterie, Duck Leg Jambalaya, and house-made corn dogs that go above your childhood experiences.

TBC West

Nothing goes together better than beer and tacos! TBC West: Tacos & Taproom serves inventive tacos in a laid-back atmosphere. Their lunch specials are a great deal- especially the $3 beers!

Tipsy Tomato

Another great beer and food combination gets wood-fired over at Tipsy Tomato! Here, you can devour (or savor) the best local pizza in Rocky Mount, Italian-style with an unbeatable crust!

Stay at River & Twine

With so many beer and food establishments to explore, you should stretch out your time with a stay at the world’s largest tiny house hotel, River & Twine. We were hosted here and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.

Note: Nobody paid us to write that last sentence. That is our opinion!

You can choose from 20 fully-furnished tiny homes built specifically for Rocky Mount Mills.

One of only 12 tiny house resorts of its kind in the United States, River & Twine boasts homes with a truly unique getaway experience. Each is named after a North Carolina river and can accommodate up to four guests.

The property’s diverse array of accommodations make this perfect for wedding parties, corporate groups, and even romantic getaways.

If you want to elevate your experience one more notch, add-on experiences can be ready for you upon check-in. Everything from s’mores kits, wine, mimosa baskets, and more are available! All you have to do is contact River and Twine.

Live at Rocky Mount Mills

If you really fall in love with this place or had the area in mind for relocation, Rocky Mount Mills has a few living options.

For starters, there are 55 village homes here, perfect for families and featuring covered porches and screened-in, spacious backyards. These homes also feature kegerators that can be filled from Goat Island Bottle Shop!

67 apartments are also available, with tall windows, plank floors, stout timbers, and beautiful brickwork overlooking the Tar River Reservoir. With these great choices, It’s not hard to see why so many people have flocked to live in Rocky Mount Mills.

There are also plenty of ways to enjoy the campus for young children! There is a Wiffle ball field that is perfect for children, plenty of space and corn hole at Koi Pond Brewing, and Tipsy Tomato has an outbuilding with arcade games.

Not only are the spaces beautiful and affordable, but the proximity of so many restaurants, breweries, and businesses also boosts the convenience factor.

Ready to Explore Rocky Mount Mills?

Steeped in history and beautifully restored brick buildings, the 82-acre campus of Rocky Mount Mills is a wonderful live-work-play destination just off I-95.

Whether you are looking to move in or spend a weekend, we know you’ll find plenty of fun things to do, a brewery community to join, and a restaurant scene to awaken those taste buds.

Have you ever visited Rocky Mount Mills? What’s your favorite thing to do here? If you haven’t made it out here yet, we’d love to know the first place you’ll go that first time!

Rocky Mount Mills Quick Guide

More Things to Do in Eastern North Carolina

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