Over the years, while riding by this location with family, they'd refer to it as the "old Western Electric plant".
My Grandmother knows several people who worked there.
The building had always interested me, as abandoned buildings do, but I'd never really been interested enough to go, take some photos, and do some research until recently, and I'm very glad I did.
The facility was originally built by A. M. Johnson Rayon Mills in 1927 to produce synthetic fabric rayon. AMJ wanted to market the product to the many area textile mills in and around Burlington, NC. They failed in this endeavor and the facility was renamed the Carolina Rayon Mills, Inc, and new management was brought on board. All was for naught however, and the facility closed in November 1931.
From 1931 until 1942, the plant was largely vacant, being used for various short-term purposes, such as tobacco warehousing and automobile storage.
Obviously, the "until" date above states the obvious - it's 1942, the USA has entered World War 2, and manufacturing has to increase dramatically to drive the war effort, and any facility capable of supporting war materiel production must be active.
Thus, the facility was expanded, specifically Building 4 was added, which was designed by the famous architect Albert Kahn's Detroit based firm. It housed a manufacturing line for the Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corporation. Specifically, the Fairchild AT-21 Gunner, a twin-engine trainer, was manufactured here, among other things.
What happened between the end of WW2 and the next available info isn't really known, at least to me, but I'd assume it maybe continued with Fairchild for a time.
In 1958 however, the Cold War was in full swing, and the facility was leased to the Western Electric company for research, engineering, production, and refurb of missile components and systems.
Though leased to WE, it was under the operational control of the US Army's MICOM (Missile Command) which was, at the time, a major subcommand of DARCOM (Materiel Development and Readiness Command).
The facility was known by various names at different points - here's my best estimates:
1927-1931 : A. M. Johnson Rayon Mills, Inc/Carolina Rayon Mills
1942-1963 : Tarheel Ordnance Plant
1963-1994 : Tarheel Army Missile Plant "TAMP"
*1958-Current : Western Electric Building - WE leased during this time.
At various times while handling government work for the War Department/Department of Defense, the facility rebuilt tanks, and built anti-air systems and anti ballistic missile systems.
Who owned the facility between 1931 and 1942 is unclear, as is the info on the ownership up to 1954, but from '54 to '58 it was the US government. In '58 it was transferred to the U.S. Army Ordinance. In 2004 a private company/individual acquired it, and it remains in private hands, though it has changed hands several times, most recently in 2018 for $1,750,000.
From what I understand, the buildings have deteriorated significantly from 20 +/- years of vacancy, and the site is a Superfund site.
There've been several ideas for repurposing the site, with or without the buildings, but nothing has been done ... thankfully for me.😃
The facility was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 2016.
My prediction (and fear) is this: all existing structures leveled and then left as an empty 32-acre lot ... probably in the next 10 years, maybe within 5.
Also, the facility had a fairly lengthy siding off the Southern's H-Line. The siding is mostly removed, and the only evidence of its existence is a bit of track in the facility and in an empty lot across the street,
Also again, during the aircraft production stint, there was an airstrip, which has been totally obliterated.