Thursday, July 30, 2009
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The Mill 2.0: Federal funds allow next step in restoration

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[July 30, 2009]  Geoff Ladd, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, also wears the hat as chairman for the Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County. It was under his Route 66 hat that Ladd sported a huge smile yesterday. He had just received word that a $10,000 grant was being processed for the restoration of The Mill.

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.

The 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 bleak.

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 was.

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 for further information.


Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County
Executive Director Geoff Ladd
1555 Fifth St.
Lincoln, IL 62656

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