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Kannapolis NC

Kannapolis, North Carolina, or the City of Kannapolis, is located in Cabarrus and Rowan counties. Kannapolis is a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, and only 24 miles from downtown Charlotte. The 2019 U.S. Census estimate for Kannapolis was 50,841. Kannapolis’ zip codes are 28081, 28082, and 28083.  The area codes are 704 and 980. 

Per the United States Census Bureau for Kannapolis

Kannapolis, North Carolina

Historical population

Census Pop. %±

1990 29,696 –

2000 36,910 24.3%

2010 42,621 15.5%

2019 (est.) 50,841 19.3%

Population per 2010 Census: 42,621

Male population: 48.1%

Female population: 51.9%

Population under 18 years: 27.9%

Population 65 years & over: 13.4%

High school graduate or higher 2015-2019: 84.9%

Bachelor’s degree or higher 2015-2019: 21.8%

Median home value 2015-2019: $144,400

Owner-occupied: 60.3%  

Total households 2015-2019: 17,248

As of the 2012 U.S. Census, there were 3,128 businesses within the City of Kannapolis.  

Kannapolis History and Interesting Points

The Name “Controversy”

Kannapolis was founded in 1907, and there are several popular theories of the origin of the name “Kannapolis.” The first, and probably the least likely, is that name is derived from the Greek language. The combining of the word “polis” is Greek for “city,” with “kanna,” to supposedly translate to “City of Looms.” Modern Greek translates the word “kanna” to the English word “reeds,” such as cattail reeds. However, with this being said, in ancient Greek, “kanna” (κᾰνών) has over a dozen potential meanings, with one being: “a type of rod used in weaving.” Additionally, with the modern Greek translation of kanna to “reeds,”; reeds for millenniums have been used to weave baskets. So, there is a possibility that the name was purposely derived from Greek with a meaning to relate to the weaving done within the textile mills that were being constructed in the future Kannapolis in 1906.  

A more likely origination is that Kannapolis is the outcome of a play on words for Cannon Mills or from James William Cannon (1852 – 1921), the owner of Cannon Mills. It is not certain where this play on words began, but possibly from the media of the time. The Charlotte News, in their June 26, 1906 edition, noted: “The new Cannon Cotton Mill No. 4 will be built four miles north of Concord, N.C.” Within two weeks, The Charlotte News, in their July 9, 1906 edition, had the following headline: “Cannonopolis Will Be Name of New Cotton Mill Town Near Concord.” The article’s author states that J.W. Cannon “tells your correspondent that the location is ideal.” The article is under 150 words, so it is unlikely that J.W. Cannon was actually interviewed in such a short piece. Additionally, the article’s writer does not denote who told him “Cannonpolis would be the new name. Raleigh’s The News and Observer, in their July 10, 1906 edition, essentially repeated the same story about the new name being Cannonpolis and again did not denote the source of this new town’s name. 

A little over a month later, The Concord Daily Tribune, in their August 17, 1906 edition, closed their article about the new Cannon new mill village with yet another name: “The people are enthusiastic over the coming Cannapolis.” A month later, The Wilmington Messenger, in their September 23, 1906 edition, used Cannapolis in their article about the new towns along the Southern Railway’s route from Charlotte to Greensboro. However, four days before this September 23 article, The Concord Daily Tribune in their September 20, 1906 edition appears to be the first instance where the name “Kannapolis” is used in the print media. Ironically in this article, the headline states, “First Contract is Made for the New Cannapolis…” then goes onto denote “Kannapolis” four times in the short article. 

Kannapolis’ longtime unofficial historian, Norris Dearmon, states that James W. Cannon made the city’s naming request of the Cabarrus County commissioners. Dearmon theorizes that the “C” being changed to a “K” may have been to help differentiate Kannapolis from nearby Concord mill village.

 

Planned City

It is common to hear the term “company town” thrown around when a small town is dominated by one company or a certain industry. It is rare that one company, especially in modern times, has that kind of control over an area, let alone an entire town. Kannapolis was 100% a company town from its initial formation up until recent history. Today, it is very common to hear the phrase “planned city” with homeowner associations (HOAs) and other planned communities being so prevalent. Kannapolis was a planned city, probably not totally in the concept that planned cities are conceived today; nonetheless, it was a planned city. 

The owner of Cannon Mills in Concord, North Carolina, James W. Cannon, in 1906 purchased 600 acres in Cabarrus and Rowan counties from Jacob (Jake) Valentine Pethel. These undeveloped cotton fields were to become the location of two new textile mills and housing for the mill’s workers. This is what would eventually become Kannapolis. At the time, this land was around seven miles north of Concord. In the last one hundred years, both cities have grown to the point their city limits touch. To those familiar with both cities, it can be difficult to determine when one city ends and the other begins. Concerns about being annexed by Concord is one of the primary reasons Kannapolis finally incorporated in 1984. At the time of incorporation, Kannapolis was the largest unincorporated “city” in the Southeast.

The Southern Railway Company’s main rail line between Charlotte and Salisbury ran through the 600 acres. The main rail line that is convenient to a manufacturing facility is a huge benefit with reduced shipping costs and allows the manufacturer access to more markets. The Cannon Mill Number 4 was built on one side of the tracks, and the Patterson Mill Number 1 was built on the other side.

In September of 2006, the contract to construct the two mills and the three hundred homes for the mill workers were awarded to T.C. Thompson & Brother of Birmingham, Alabama. The contract stipulated that construction must be completed in twelve months. Construction of the mills was completed, and Cannon Manufacturing began production in 1908. Reportedly both mills cost $400,000; in today’s dollars, that would be $11,364,000. At completion, the structures of both mills covered seven acres of land, making these mills the largest in the region. The initial textile machinery installed was 20,000 spindles, and 1,300 looms. There was unutilized space in the mills, and later more machinery would be added to increase production capacity. 

The initial population of Kannapolis after the 300 homes were completed was estimated at 1,300. The worker’s homes, commonly referred to as mill houses, were available for employees to rent from the mill owners. These houses were characterized as being modern, with a heating grate in every room and having a large yard.

Along with the two mills and homes, there were town amenities constructed by Cannon Mills for the use of the population. There was a bank, theatre, general store, drug store, hotel, post office, town hall, ice factory, barbershop, and a livery stable. There was a two-story schoolhouse for the mill worker’s children. There was the three-story D.F. Cannon Memorial Hall (YMCA) with an adjacent large and beautiful lake. The Hall had a gymnasium, swimming pool, bowling alleys, and pool tables. While much has changed in the last one hundred years in Kannapolis, downtown with its Colonial architectural style has stood the test of time to this day.  

With the construction of these two new mills and his other textile mills, it is said that James W. Cannon controlled and managed every textile mill within 20 miles of Kannapolis. When the two Kannapolis mills were up and operational, 1 out of every 10 textile spindles in North Carolina were owned by James W. Cannon. He also controlled more looms than any one single interest in the south.

By 1914 William W. Cannon’s Cannon Manufacturing was the world’s largest manufacturer of sheets and towels. In the next few years, Cannon Manufacturing, building on their success, opened another mill in Concord, one in Salisbury, and one in York, South Carolina. Employment at all his mills at this time reached 20,000 people. Charles “Mr. Charlie” Albert Cannon (1892 – 1971), James W. Cannon’s youngest son, became president in 1921 and, in 1928, consolidated all nine mills into the Cannon Mills Company. Charles A. Cannon’s stewardship of Cannon Mills Company is credited with bringing the company through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Cannon Mills Company continued to prosper through the coming decades after the Great Depression. The company made a number of high-profile acquisitions in the 1960s and 1970s. Charles A. Cannon and his successors at Cannon Mills Company inadvertently made a mistake with how fiscally conservative they operated the company. The mistake being operating the company in such a way made the company a target of a hostile takeover. 

Before being dominated by cheaper foreign-produced textiles starting in the 1970s, the textile industry was a large economic factor in the industrial base in the south. However, as with almost all industries, textile production was subject to cyclical economic downturns. To help weather these cyclical economic downturns, the management of Cannon Mills maintained a tight balance sheet. The company had very low levels of debt, a great deal of valuable real estate, and a fully-funded retirement plan. Another crucial factor was that no substantial cohesive shareholders, such as the Cannon family members, stopped a hostile takeover. All these factors combined made a hostile takeover through a leveraged buyout a very attractive option. In short, a leveraged buyout is buying a business using the business’ own assets to finance the purchase. A hostile takeover typically means gaining control of a company without the management of that company’s agreeing to be taken over.

Industrialist and financier David H. Murdock, on January 7, 1982, through his Pacific Holdings Corporation, offered to pay $40 per share for Cannon Mills stock or $375 million for the textile company. That day, Cannon Mills stock was selling for around $29 a share. Murdock eventually increased his offer to $44 a share or $413 million for Cannon Mills. In the next thirty days, Murdock owned or controlled over 98% of Cannon Mills’ stock. 

There was a great deal of trepidation in Kannapolis when David H. Murdock arrived on his three-engine French-made corporate jet, a Falcon 50. Within four months of his purchase, he had terminated over a hundred salaried employees and more than three thousand hourly workers. Some of the worker layoffs were the result of technology and efficiency improvements that Murdock implemented, along with changing economic conditions. Murdock, within three years, had spent $200 million on capital improvements modernizing the mills. He was deeply involved in the evacuation and development of Cannon Mills’ product lines and redesigning older products. When it comes to worker relations, Murdock successfully fought unionization efforts. He donated land to Kannapolis for parks and made other civic contributions to the city.  

Having difficulty responding to less expensive foreign textile imports to the United States, Murdock sold Cannon Mills’ bath and bedding operations to Fieldcrest Mills in January 1986. In this deal, Fieldcrest Mills of Eden, North Carolina, paid $250 million for twelve mills and fourteen sales offices. This sale included most of Cannon Mill’s remaining employees. The combined company emerged as a new company named Fieldcrest Cannon, Inc. 

Initially, there was hope in Kannapolis that the combining of Cannon Mills and Fieldcrest Mills would lead to additional textile jobs. Because of additional technological advances in textile machinery, this did not turn out to be the case, leading to even more further job reductions. With this acquisition, Fieldcrest Cannon became one of the largest manufacturers of home furnishings and textile products. Pillowtex, Inc., a Dallas, Texas home furnishings and textile products manufacturer, purchased Fieldcrest Cannon for $700 million. 

Pillowtex struggled under the acquisition debt loads and overall economic conditions and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2000. Reemerging from bankruptcy in 2002, they once again entered bankruptcy in 2003.  As a result of these developments, Pillowtex announced on July 30, 2003, that it would be closing its mills in the Carolinas. The Pillowtex mills in Kannapolis were to be closed, laying off 3,690 people. Pillowtex was not only Kannapolis’ largest employer but the largest employer in Cabarrus County. At the time, the 4,800 layoffs statewide were the largest ever in North Carolina history.

 

One major need of many textile operations is water. Municipality-supplied water was essential to many textile operations for production. With Pillowtex closing, it did cause a problem and an opportunity for Kannapolis’ municipal water system. Pillowtex used about 60% of the water supply produced by the municipal water system. This excess water supply was eventually used to fuel additional housing developments in Kannapolis and the surrounding area.

In 2005 David H. Murdock announced his vision for the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis. The NCRC is a public-private research institution for advancing human health through research into nutrition and agriculture. The institute is in partnership with the State of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina system, and private financial parties. One of the institute’s core studies is the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes through nutrients and plant-based compounds.

When Pillowtex closed, Kannapolis and Cabarrus County were already a commuter community for Charlotte. For the past thirty years, Charlotte has been a major economic driver for the entire region and especially for the surrounding counties. Kannapolis is just twenty-four miles from downtown Charlotte making daily commutes an easy option for people looking for lower taxes in Cabarrus County. 

Kannapolis NC

Kannapolis, North Carolina, or the City of Kannapolis, is located in Cabarrus and Rowan counties. Kannapolis is a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, and only 24 miles from downtown Charlotte. The 2019 U.S. Census estimate for Kannapolis was 50,841. Kannapolis’ zip codes are 28081, 28082, and 28083.  The area codes are 704 and 980.

Per the United States Census Bureau for Kannapolis

Kannapolis, North Carolina

Historical population

Census Pop. %±

1990 29,696 –

2000 36,910 24.3%

2010 42,621 15.5%

2019 (est.) 50,841 19.3%

Population per 2010 Census: 42,621

Male population: 48.1%

Female population: 51.9%

Population under 18 years: 27.9%

Population 65 years & over: 13.4%

High school graduate or higher 2015-2019: 84.9%

Bachelor’s degree or higher 2015-2019: 21.8%

Median home value 2015-2019: $144,400

Owner-occupied: 60.3%

Total households 2015-2019: 17,248

As of the 2012 U.S. Census, there were 3,128 businesses within the City of Kannapolis.

Kannapolis History and Interesting Points

The Name “Controversy”

Kannapolis was founded in 1907, and there are several popular theories of the origin of the name “Kannapolis.” The first, and probably the least likely, is that name is derived from the Greek language. The combining of the word “polis” is Greek for “city,” with “kanna,” to supposedly translate to “City of Looms.” Modern Greek translates the word “kanna” to the English word “reeds,” such as cattail reeds. However, with this being said, in ancient Greek, “kanna” (κᾰνών) has over a dozen potential meanings, with one being: “a type of rod used in weaving.” Additionally, with the modern Greek translation of kanna to “reeds,”; reeds for millenniums have been used to weave baskets. So, there is a possibility that the name was purposely derived from Greek with a meaning to relate to the weaving done within the textile mills that were being constructed in the future Kannapolis in 1906.

A more likely origination is that Kannapolis is the outcome of a play on words for Cannon Mills or from James William Cannon (1852 – 1921), the owner of Cannon Mills. It is not certain where this play on words began, but possibly from the media of the time. The Charlotte News, in their June 26, 1906 edition, noted: “The new Cannon Cotton Mill No. 4 will be built four miles north of Concord, N.C.” Within two weeks, The Charlotte News, in their July 9, 1906 edition, had the following headline: “Cannonopolis Will Be Name of New Cotton Mill Town Near Concord.” The article’s author states that J.W. Cannon “tells your correspondent that the location is ideal.” The article is under 150 words, so it is unlikely that J.W. Cannon was actually interviewed in such a short piece. Additionally, the article’s writer does not denote who told him “Cannonpolis would be the new name. Raleigh’s The News and Observer, in their July 10, 1906 edition, essentially repeated the same story about the new name being Cannonpolis and again did not denote the source of this new town’s name.

A little over a month later, The Concord Daily Tribune, in their August 17, 1906 edition, closed their article about the new Cannon new mill village with yet another name: “The people are enthusiastic over the coming Cannapolis.” A month later, The Wilmington Messenger, in their September 23, 1906 edition, used Cannapolis in their article about the new towns along the Southern Railway’s route from Charlotte to Greensboro. However, four days before this September 23 article, The Concord Daily Tribune in their September 20, 1906 edition appears to be the first instance where the name “Kannapolis” is used in the print media. Ironically in this article, the headline states, “First Contract is Made for the New Cannapolis…” then goes onto denote “Kannapolis” four times in the short article.

Kannapolis’ longtime unofficial historian, Norris Dearmon, states that James W. Cannon made the city’s naming request of the Cabarrus County commissioners. Dearmon theorizes that the “C” being changed to a “K” may have been to help differentiate Kannapolis from nearby Concord mill village.

 

Planned City

It is common to hear the term “company town” thrown around when a small town is dominated by one company or a certain industry. It is rare that one company, especially in modern times, has that kind of control over an area, let alone an entire town. Kannapolis was 100% a company town from its initial formation up until recent history. Today, it is very common to hear the phrase “planned city” with homeowner associations (HOAs) and other planned communities being so prevalent. Kannapolis was a planned city, probably not totally in the concept that planned cities are conceived today; nonetheless, it was a planned city.

The owner of Cannon Mills in Concord, North Carolina, James W. Cannon, in 1906 purchased 600 acres in Cabarrus and Rowan counties from Jacob (Jake) Valentine Pethel. These undeveloped cotton fields were to become the location of two new textile mills and housing for the mill’s workers. This is what would eventually become Kannapolis. At the time, this land was around seven miles north of Concord. In the last one hundred years, both cities have grown to the point their city limits touch. To those familiar with both cities, it can be difficult to determine when one city ends and the other begins. Concerns about being annexed by Concord is one of the primary reasons Kannapolis finally incorporated in 1984. At the time of incorporation, Kannapolis was the largest unincorporated “city” in the Southeast.

The Southern Railway Company’s main rail line between Charlotte and Salisbury ran through the 600 acres. The main rail line that is convenient to a manufacturing facility is a huge benefit with reduced shipping costs and allows the manufacturer access to more markets. The Cannon Mill Number 4 was built on one side of the tracks, and the Patterson Mill Number 1 was built on the other side.

In September of 2006, the contract to construct the two mills and the three hundred homes for the mill workers were awarded to T.C. Thompson & Brother of Birmingham, Alabama. The contract stipulated that construction must be completed in twelve months. Construction of the mills was completed, and Cannon Manufacturing began production in 1908. Reportedly both mills cost $400,000; in today’s dollars, that would be $11,364,000. At completion, the structures of both mills covered seven acres of land, making these mills the largest in the region. The initial textile machinery installed was 20,000 spindles, and 1,300 looms. There was unutilized space in the mills, and later more machinery would be added to increase production capacity.

The initial population of Kannapolis after the 300 homes were completed was estimated at 1,300. The worker’s homes, commonly referred to as mill houses, were available for employees to rent from the mill owners. These houses were characterized as being modern, with a heating grate in every room and having a large yard.

Along with the two mills and homes, there were town amenities constructed by Cannon Mills for the use of the population. There was a bank, theatre, general store, drug store, hotel, post office, town hall, ice factory, barbershop, and a livery stable. There was a two-story schoolhouse for the mill worker’s children. There was the three-story D.F. Cannon Memorial Hall (YMCA) with an adjacent large and beautiful lake. The Hall had a gymnasium, swimming pool, bowling alleys, and pool tables. While much has changed in the last one hundred years in Kannapolis, downtown with its Colonial architectural style has stood the test of time to this day.

With the construction of these two new mills and his other textile mills, it is said that James W. Cannon controlled and managed every textile mill within 20 miles of Kannapolis. When the two Kannapolis mills were up and operational, 1 out of every 10 textile spindles in North Carolina were owned by James W. Cannon. He also controlled more looms than any one single interest in the south.

By 1914 William W. Cannon’s Cannon Manufacturing was the world’s largest manufacturer of sheets and towels. In the next few years, Cannon Manufacturing, building on their success, opened another mill in Concord, one in Salisbury, and one in York, South Carolina. Employment at all his mills at this time reached 20,000 people. Charles “Mr. Charlie” Albert Cannon (1892 – 1971), James W. Cannon’s youngest son, became president in 1921 and, in 1928, consolidated all nine mills into the Cannon Mills Company. Charles A. Cannon’s stewardship of Cannon Mills Company is credited with bringing the company through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Cannon Mills Company continued to prosper through the coming decades after the Great Depression. The company made a number of high-profile acquisitions in the 1960s and 1970s. Charles A. Cannon and his successors at Cannon Mills Company inadvertently made a mistake with how fiscally conservative they operated the company. The mistake being operating the company in such a way made the company a target of a hostile takeover.

Before being dominated by cheaper foreign-produced textiles starting in the 1970s, the textile industry was a large economic factor in the industrial base in the south. However, as with almost all industries, textile production was subject to cyclical economic downturns. To help weather these cyclical economic downturns, the management of Cannon Mills maintained a tight balance sheet. The company had very low levels of debt, a great deal of valuable real estate, and a fully-funded retirement plan. Another crucial factor was that no substantial cohesive shareholders, such as the Cannon family members, stopped a hostile takeover. All these factors combined made a hostile takeover through a leveraged buyout a very attractive option. In short, a leveraged buyout is buying a business using the business’ own assets to finance the purchase. A hostile takeover typically means gaining control of a company without the management of that company’s agreeing to be taken over.

Industrialist and financier David H. Murdock, on January 7, 1982, through his Pacific Holdings Corporation, offered to pay $40 per share for Cannon Mills stock or $375 million for the textile company. That day, Cannon Mills stock was selling for around $29 a share. Murdock eventually increased his offer to $44 a share or $413 million for Cannon Mills. In the next thirty days, Murdock owned or controlled over 98% of Cannon Mills’ stock.

There was a great deal of trepidation in Kannapolis when David H. Murdock arrived on his three-engine French-made corporate jet, a Falcon 50. Within four months of his purchase, he had terminated over a hundred salaried employees and more than three thousand hourly workers. Some of the worker layoffs were the result of technology and efficiency improvements that Murdock implemented, along with changing economic conditions. Murdock, within three years, had spent $200 million on capital improvements modernizing the mills. He was deeply involved in the evacuation and development of Cannon Mills’ product lines and redesigning older products. When it comes to worker relations, Murdock successfully fought unionization efforts. He donated land to Kannapolis for parks and made other civic contributions to the city.

Having difficulty responding to less expensive foreign textile imports to the United States, Murdock sold Cannon Mills’ bath and bedding operations to Fieldcrest Mills in January 1986. In this deal, Fieldcrest Mills of Eden, North Carolina, paid $250 million for twelve mills and fourteen sales offices. This sale included most of Cannon Mill’s remaining employees. The combined company emerged as a new company named Fieldcrest Cannon, Inc.

Initially, there was hope in Kannapolis that the combining of Cannon Mills and Fieldcrest Mills would lead to additional textile jobs. Because of additional technological advances in textile machinery, this did not turn out to be the case, leading to even more further job reductions. With this acquisition, Fieldcrest Cannon became one of the largest manufacturers of home furnishings and textile products. Pillowtex, Inc., a Dallas, Texas home furnishings and textile products manufacturer, purchased Fieldcrest Cannon for $700 million.

Pillowtex struggled under the acquisition debt loads and overall economic conditions and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2000. Reemerging from bankruptcy in 2002, they once again entered bankruptcy in 2003.  As a result of these developments, Pillowtex announced on July 30, 2003, that it would be closing its mills in the Carolinas. The Pillowtex mills in Kannapolis were to be closed, laying off 3,690 people. Pillowtex was not only Kannapolis’ largest employer but the largest employer in Cabarrus County. At the time, the 4,800 layoffs statewide were the largest ever in North Carolina history.

 

One major need of many textile operations is water. Municipality-supplied water was essential to many textile operations for production. With Pillowtex closing, it did cause a problem and an opportunity for Kannapolis’ municipal water system. Pillowtex used about 60% of the water supply produced by the municipal water system. This excess water supply was eventually used to fuel additional housing developments in Kannapolis and the surrounding area.

In 2005 David H. Murdock announced his vision for the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis. The NCRC is a public-private research institution for advancing human health through research into nutrition and agriculture. The institute is in partnership with the State of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina system, and private financial parties. One of the institute’s core studies is the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes through nutrients and plant-based compounds.

When Pillowtex closed, Kannapolis and Cabarrus County were already a commuter community for Charlotte. For the past thirty years, Charlotte has been a major economic driver for the entire region and especially for the surrounding counties. Kannapolis is just twenty-four miles from downtown Charlotte making daily commutes an easy option for people looking for lower taxes in Cabarrus County.

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