Losing a piece of history
Roller Mill demolished
VEVAY, Ind. (Sept. 2003) Despite a last minute
rally by preservationists, the historic Vevay Roller Mill in Switzerland
County was demolished in June to make way for a new county jail.
A motion to tear down the mill due to future projects was made by Brian Morton at the county commissioners June 16 meeting, was seconded by Craig Bond and passed unanimously, according to meeting minutes. Immediately preceding the decision to tear down the mill was a motion by Morton to build a 52-bed jail for the Sheriffs Department and the courthouse annex. That motion also was seconded by Bond and passed unanimously, the minutes read.
Switzerland County does not currently have facilities for housing prisoners, but must transport them to surrounding counties where they are housed for a fee. The county spends $300,000 a year housing prisoners outside the county because there are no facilities here, Banta said. We needed that property for a jail.
Upon hearing of the mills imminent destruction, preservationists from the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana attempted to bring the mills fate back to the table for discussion.
Since 1999, the mill had been included on the foundations 10 Most Endangered Landmarks in Indiana list. The list is published annually to draw attention to significant historic places in Indiana that are threatened with extinction by deterioration, demolition, neglectful owners, development pressures and sprawl. It is often used as a tool by the organization to rally support, and has been instrumental in saving several historic buildings in the state from destruction.
Greg Sakula of the foundations Jeffersonville, Ind., field office said he contacted commissioner Brian Morton, the only commissioner he could reach at the time, to ask if the county would be interested in selling the mill to the foundation. Morton replied that the decision had already been made to tear down the mill and that the county planned to locate a jail on the property, according to Sakula.
The indication was that there was no interest in pursuing (preservation of the mill) any further, Sakula said.
The mill was demolished on June 20, just a few days after commissioners voted in favor of doing so.
Some, including David Denman of the Historic Landmarks Foundations Aurora, Ind., field office, disagreed. Until a little more than a month prior to demolition, Denman said Historic Landmarks had been in discussions with a group interested in the mill. Denman declined to name the group but said they had demonstrated genuine interest and were considering an adaptive use of the building.
Also, said Denman, he and Sakula had spoken with county commissioners in October 2002 and were told that no action would be taken on the mill for at least two years. At that time, the board of commissioners gave Historic Landmarks a mandate to find an alternative use for the building, said Denman. We were well within the two year time period. The news of (the mills) destruction came as an incredible urprise, he said.
Historic Landmarks is not the only group that tried unsuccessfully to save the roller mill from the wrecking ball. A non-profit organization called Friends of the Historic Vevay Roller Mill Inc. had made several attempts to procure grant funds and private donations to save the mill from being demolished. Switzerland County resident Barbara Huffman, one of the founding Friends members, said that the group was impeded in their quest for grant funding because they did not own the building and did not have any type of formal lease agreement with the county that would allow them to restore the mill should grants be acquired. We had to get permission from the commissioners in writing, which (they) did not give, said Huffman.
Despite being unable to apply for grant funding, the Friends group was able to elicit interest in the mill from some businesses. We had several large corporations who had promised hundreds of thousands of dollars for restoration, Huffman said. These included Procter and Gamble, General Mills and Bob Evans, according to Huffman. The group were very unhappy to hear that the mill was torn down, despite previous efforts to preserve it. We feel that it was senseless destruction, said Huffman. I think now that its gone some people are regretting it.
Realistically, we knew that it couldnt be made back into a mill again, said Switzerland County Historical Society president Martha Bladen, who had hoped to see some adaptive use of the building. Were unhappy that it had to be torn down.
Before the mill was torn down, several pieces of historic mill equipment were salvaged by the historical society, according Bladen. The equipment, which county commissioners donated to the society, will be housed in a barn to be constructed at the living history museum located three miles west of Vevay. The barn will be built using $15,000 funded by the county. Were very pleased to have gotten the equipment, Bladen said.