The federal money from the National Park Service comes from a
specific fund created to aid the repair and restoration of
structures and other milestones along the Route 66 corridor.
Mill, our local, iconic structure on Old 66, was in jeopardy of
being demolished until a group of local citizens took on the
daunting task of restoring and saving the building two years ago.
The hearts for the project were there. The skilled hands were there
as well. But it also takes money -- and in the case of The Mill,
roughly $100,000 worth -- to bring the dream to fruition.
A good jolt of grant money was sorely needed at this time to keep
the project going. Although the group was determined to continue the
work, grant or not, the promise of the much-needed money has lifted
Ladd's spirits, and he says this funding will put the restoration
into high gear for at least a while. Now that they have it, hammers
will fly and cement will be poured in the next phase of restoration.
With all labor performed by volunteers, the group has donated a
great many man-hours to the project. They have torn down the
dilapidated back and side structures that were unsalvageable. They
also have new soffit and fascia and roof in place. Newly installed
windows are preventing the interior from being subjected to the
elements, as well as a wildlife population that called The Mill home
for a decade.
Still, with all that has been done, there is a great deal left
needing repair or replacement, and there are significant material
costs to such a large restoration task.
Ladd recalled the long journey to obtain this much-needed bolus
to continue the "Save the Mill" campaign. The National Park Service
had originally visited The Mill on Aug. 28, 2008.
Shortly after, they authorized a matching grant of $10,000 if the
organization could raise an in- kind amount from other sources.
Thanks to a donation of $17,000 from the Danner Trust Fund that was
used to purchase all the needed windows, the Save the Mill
organization was eligible for the grant.
For a time it looked like the latest grant would never come
through. John Sutton, project manager for the restoration, as well
as Ladd, felt the prospects of the money ever being released looked
Ladd went on to explain that delays in receiving the money had
many factors. "We caught them (the federal government) at a bad
time," he said. "It was the middle of a fiscal cycle. Then we had to
submit a plan and have that plan cleared by the Illinois Historical
Preservation Agency, which had suffered staffing cutbacks and faced
possibly being included into the Department of Natural Resources."
Then came another visit from both the NPS and the IHPS on July 8
of this year. Both groups were able to walk The Mill with Ladd and
Sutton as both explained the completed work to the officials as well
as what the grant money would be used for.
Sutton, talking to the group, said that The Mill's floor was a
floating floor, and as such, when the wood flooring was torn out, a
foundation around the building could then be built, allowing the
building to rest on a newer, sounder footing than the current
spaced-out piers. The floor then could be jacked up to level and
fastened to the new foundation.
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The money would also be used to repair the old rock maple floor or
replace it, if the floor, once uncovered, was too badly damaged.
Both the National Park Service personnel and Illinois Historic
Preservation visitors were interested in how authentic the group
intended to make the restored building compared with the original.
Ladd, saying he called the building "The Mill 2.0," explained to the
group that The Mill had gone through so many changes over its 80
years that it is difficult to say exactly what it looked like in the
immediate post-World War II days, which is the era the National Park
Service is interested in seeing Route 66 buildings restored to.
Continued conversations with Sutton and Ladd during their visit
brought both groups to feel comfortable that the Save the Mill
organization was going to do the best possible to return the
building to the correct look for the era, if not exactly as it once
After the visit, Ladd said he received positive feedback from the
groups but was still waiting to hear if the money would be coming or
not. He received the call yesterday that the funds had been
approved, and intentions are to begin the flooring and foundation
work as early as this August.
"We're very pleased to get this much-needed grant from the Park
Service," he said. "This is very important work vital to the
structural stabilization of the building. I want to thank NPS and
IHPA for their help and assistance."
Ladd wanted to also personally thank John Sutton for all his
expertise and work with the restoration, as well as Bob Wilmert and
Bill Cavestani for their efforts.
Ladd said that although an exact dollar figure to complete the
restoration isn't known, it is approximated that the total
restoration will run $100,000. After this grant, almost half
($45,000) has been collected.
Anyone wishing more information or wanting to become involved can
go to www.savethemill.org
for further information.
Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of
Executive Director Geoff Ladd
1555 Fifth St.
Lincoln, IL 62656