The Goat Farm
In 1889 Edward Van Winkle opened the E. Van Winkle Gin and Machinery Works, on what was then the outskirts of Atlanta. This industrial plant produced cotton gins and other machinery for the processing of cotton. Van Winkle chose to locate his operation on the outskirts of Atlanta at a site that was easily accessible by existing railroads.
Van Winkle's plant epitomized the idea of the New South Industry. Central to this vision of the post-Civil War South was the growth of regional industrial base as opposed to an agricultural one. This economic aspect of the New South was combined with a reestablishment of the older racially segregated and disenfranchising social system adapted to allow for lip service to the Constitutional Amendments that emerged out of the Civil War. Textiles and their ancillary industries grew quickly in the South as they were able to take advantage of the cheap labor of displaced farmers and inexpensive shipping rates for raw materials for the production of cloth goods.
In 1912 Van Winkle sold the complex to the Murray Company of Texas, who also manufactured cotton gins. The Murray Company would retain ownership of the plant until the mid-1950’s. During World War II the plant was used as munitions factory by the US Army. The plant won several production awards during the war years. It was during this time that the plant became known as Murrays Mill.
The property changed hands several times in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1972 it was acquired by Robert Haywood. Haywood intended to use the site for industrial production, using one of the buildings for his own sheet metal fabrication company, and renting the remaining buildings out to other industrial tenants. This plan changed in the 1970’s and 1980’s as artists approached Haywood about renting studio space in the old buildings. Haywood found this idea amenable and in very short order a small arts community tucked away on the Westside was born. Sometime during his tenure as owner, Haywood brought in goats to help control the kudzu on the property. These goats gave the Goat Farm its current name.
The property remained in Haywood's hands until his death in 2009. His family then sold the land to Hallister Development. Many of the former tenants had left the complex, but Hallister took inspiration from the arts community that had occupied the site. The company began to actively court artists and arts organizations by providing free gallery and performance space as well as creating a funding pool out of some of its income to create a pool to support around 150 performances and exhibitions a year. This for profit arts community has found this model to be successful and is thriving five years after Hallister took over. In the process of restoring and adapting the bulidings, this model of adaptive use has provided a method for the fostering of community. Events at the Goat Farm brought it to the city's attention and very quickly the arts community was thriving in the unique setting of a 19th century factory.