The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 84

JAMES BREAKELL

JAMES BREAKELL, PATRIARCH
Viscose was a stable manufacturer
of rayon-artificial silk and hence
"the silk mill"-for many years,
initially landing in Roanoke in 1910
as a division of Courtaulds (later
renamed Crown Rayon for a while),
a British company that built seven
plants in the U.S.
Courtaulds sent one James (no
middle name) Breakell over to
help build the original plants in
Pennsylvania and Roanoke. After
returning to England to get married,
he settled in Roanoke and raised a
family that contributed heavily to
the Roanoke building community.
Stan Gill Breakell says his
grandfather was chief engineer
at Viscose and that his father,
Stanley (no middle name) Breakell
worked as a junior engineer there
for a time at Viscose. (James Gill
Breakell says a lack of a middle

84

MARCH/APRIL 2020

These days, The Viscose, as later workers called
it, is humming along as the Roanoke Industrial
Center, a mish-mash of small companies
jammed into a million square feet of space under
roof and another million below ground that
consists primarily of indoor highways linking
the buildings. Those corridors once housed a
substantial mushroom farm and a nice haul of
marijuana plants that Roanoke police discovered
back in the late '80s or early '90s.
The American Viscose Company's original 212
acres is down to a compact 56 (not counting a
couple of large adjacent parcels). Its 127 tenants
range from artists and door manufacturers to
a gym and soccer fields (indoor and outdoor),
a ballet studio, a burial vault manufacturer,
considerable storage space, a travel trailer
customizer, a sports medicine facility and a chair
manufacturer, among many others.
It has become, by definition, "a mixed-use
community," says Will Trinkle of C.W. Francis,
who runs the center. Trinkle estimates employment
at the center to be "near 2,000," making it one of
the Roanoke Valley's largest composite employers.
The former Viscose property is poised for
another phase of rebirth, this one including

JAMES BREAKELL: COURTESY OF JAMES CLAYTON / VISCOSE BUILDING: DAN SMITH

AT RIGHT: The Viscose
Building is now home to a
"mixed-use community."

name "was an English thing at the
time").
"My great-great uncle, James
Clayton, was a British industrialist
and had some involvement with the
American expansion," says James
G. Breakell.
James G. Breakell, was named
for his grandfather (like his brother,
the founder of Gill Memorial
Hospital), whom he did not know.
He says the grandfather came
from a family of haberdashers and
was the eldest of five boys. James'
father, Stanley (nmn) Breakell
worked "for a couple of summers
at Viscose as an engineer."
The younger Breakell brothers
have been significant players in
the construction business for many
years, at one time owning Breakell
Construction, since dissolved. -DS

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The Roanoker - March/April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - March/April 2020

The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Intro
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover1
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover2
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 4
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The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover4
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