EAGLE POINT — As timbers are being hewn nearby to rebuild the historic Butte Creek Mill, supporters are asking the Eagle Point City Council for $100,000 toward a fundraising goal of $2.5 million.
Nearly $1.2 million has been raised so far toward rebuilding the mill, which burned in a Christmas Day fire in 2015. Built in 1872, it had been the last water-powered grist mill still commercially operating this side of the Mississippi before its demise.
“Our timber framers are hewing timbers and will be on site through August,” said Butte Creek Mill Foundation Executive Director Maryanne Pitcher. “Concrete was being poured last week. We have so much going on, so it’s very exciting. We’ve also crossed over the $1 million mark in terms of funds raised, which is incredible.”
With more than $1.3 million more to raise, Pitcher said the foundation would look to local businesses and municipalities who benefit from the tourism draw created by the mill.
The Eagle Point City Council recently discussed a $100,000 donation and will revisit the topic on Tuesday. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 17 S. Buchanan Ave.
A similar donation also will be sought at the county level.
Once restored, funds raised from the mill sales and by the foundation will benefit the surrounding community.
Mayor Bob Russell, former owner of the mill and now an advisory committee member, said it was inspiring to see the mill being rebuilt.
“Timbers for mill are being hewn in front of my house in the parking lot by the old antique shop and will be ready to erect as the center section of the mill in just a few weeks,” he said.
“It will be just like a giant Lincoln Log program when they’re ready to do that. Everything will be pinned together with wooden pegs.”
While members of the national Timber Framers Guild (tfguild.org) initially planned a September effort, Russell said construction would be moved up a month to avoid rainy weather.
“They couldn’t all come until September, but if we waited that long we’d have never gotten the roof on before rainy season,” he said.
Following the fire, Russell sold the mill and additional properties to the nonprofit foundation for $135,000 to help gain support for restoration from grants, organizations and citizens.
Russell, who recused himself from council discussion about the mill, said a donation by the city would come with assurances that the foundation would support Eagle Point organizations after the rebuilding.
“The council wanted some assurances that the Butte Creek Mill Foundation, with funds earned by the selling of the Butte Creek Mill flour in excess of our needs, would be donated to worthy Eagle Point organizations,” he said.
Pitcher said continued community support was crucial in finishing the mill.
“This donation from Eagle Point is pivotal,” she said. “It will send a message to other donors that the city supports what we are doing. The city is who stands to benefit the most. We’re asking them to help with maybe 4 percent of our budget, but the city will benefit 100 percent from the mill after we rebuild,” she said.
“After it’s rebuilt, we will give back to the people in the region through scholarships, grants and by helping other historic projects. So many businesses benefit just by having it there. This funding is true economic development and will return an iconic structure to the entire Southern Oregon region and beyond.”
Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.