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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Salvage gives old mill new life

Salvage gives old mill new life

The flour mill has been both a landmark and an eyesore to residents. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).
The flour mill has been both a landmark and an eyesore to residents. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

Baker Citys second-tallest building is coming down, but its old wooden bones will still stand as integral parts of new homes.

Workers are dismantling the former Baker flour mill, on Campbell Street just west of the railroad tracks.

Before the salvage operation started, the tip of the century-old buildings grain elevator loomed about 115 feet above the ground, owner Tom Bootsma said.

Only the 10-story Baker Tower is taller.

Bootsma said he sold the old mill to a Portland building company that builds old-fashioned homes.

The company re-mills old lumber and uses it to add an historic touch to its new home, he said.

Bootsmas selling price?

$1.

A bargain for any piece of real estate to be sure; but Bootsma said he figured it would have cost him more to tear down the building than the old fir and pine timbers were worth.

I took the least expensive way, he said.

The mills structural skeleton, of post-and-beam construction, is made up of straight-grained timbers of a size and quality virtually impossible to find these days, Bootsma said.

You cant buy that stuff any more, he said.

But it is the buildings very size that worries Bootsma a stray spark could transform the 115-foot tower of old wood into a pretty spectacular bonfire.

Bootsma said he decided he had to tear down the building because he was unable to insure it.

Vandals have broken into the building ever year he has owned it, and he feared a careless person would ignite the mill.

If they burn that building that whole block would go up in smoke, Bootsma said.

Previous owners shared Bootsmas concerns.

Dick Haynes, who owned the mill for more than 20 years, said vandals often broke windows and emptied the buildings fire extinguishers.

He sold the mill to Chris Dunn in 1989.

It had been such a grief in later years, Haynes said.

Like Bootsma, he knew the buildings potential to turn into a towering inferno.

It would be one heck of a torch, Haynes said.

Although he doesnt know the mills whole history, Haynes said it apparently operated as a flour mill at least until the early 1950s.

When he bought the building in the 1960s all the machinery was dusty but operable.

Haynes stored grain and grass seed in the mill. He also ran his Farmterials store there before moving it to the Maxi-Mart Center on Pocahontas Road.

Bootsma said the top 30 feet of the grain elevator probably was added around World War II. A pre-1940 photograph of the mill shows that the top section wasnt part of the original building, he said.

The newer parts of the mill are easy to distinguish because their walls are finished with 12-inch lap siding; the original sections have 6-inch siding, Bootsma said.

Equally obvious is the vast difference in quality between the types of paint slathered on the siding during the two periods of construction.

Paint on the older parts of the building is still in decent shape, Bootsma said.

But most of the paint has flaked off the newer sections, he said.

Bootsma said he has no plans for the property now.

 
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