Historic Committee is cool to residential project

During their regular meeting Tuesday, the members of the Historic Preservation Committee suggested that they would be more receptive to a proposed residential development on 100 South St. if the project included plans to honor and preserve the nearby ruins of the Thatcher Mill and Elevator Company.

LOGAN – The Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) intends to live up to its name when it comes to the ruins of one of Cache Valley’s former landmarks.

In an informal workshop discussion during their regular meeting Tuesday, the members of the HPC showed little interest in supporting a proposed six-story, 75-unit residential development on 100 South St. unless the project included plans to preserve the fragmentary remains of the historic Thatcher Mill and Elevator Company.

“I realize that we’re only talking about ruins,” said HPC member Thomas Graham. “But they are what remains of one of Cache Valley’s oldest structures. I see no effort (in the project plans) to preserve that original structure.”

The proposed residential development would be the southern anchor of a revitalized downtown envisioned by Mayor Holly Daines stretching from 100 South to 400 North on the west side of Main Street. The components of that redevelopment effort would be the Mill Creek housing project to the south, the proposed city plaza replacing the Emporium on the city’s Center Block, a new library on the corner of 300 North and a commercial mixed-use development across that thoroughfare

City officials say the addition of residential housing on 100 South would contribute to Logan’s community development goals by growing the city’s property tax base, increasing population in the downtown area and encouraging additional redevelopment projects.

As explained by Paul Willie of Mountain States Property Management, the Mill Creek development would occupy most of the vacant southern side of 100 South St., straddling what remains of Cache Valley’s oldest commercial mill.

Senior city planner Russ Holly said the mill was built in 1860 as a saw-mill and was later transformed into a grist mill. With the addition of a grain elevator by Logan entrepreneurs G.W. and Moses Thatcher in 1886, the Thatcher flour mill was the largest in Utah and Idaho. The mill continued to operate until the Great Depression in the 1930s and finally burned to the ground in 1946.

Willie said that all that remains of the mill today is an l-shaped portion of its foundation that is now crumbling and covered in crude graffiti.

It’s practically a homeless camp,” Willie added while displaying recent photos of the ruins.

That description prompted to HPC member Gary Olsen to initially take an open-minded view of the proposed Mill Creek development.

“What we have now is a desecration (of history),” he emphasized. “Anything would be better than that.”

But when Willie offered only vague suggestions that it might be possible to rehabilitate the ruins, Olsen countered that it would be easier for him to favorably consider the Mill Creek development if it incorporated the ruins in some way to commemorate their history.

HPC chair David Lewis agreed that some kind of structure or plaza honoring the mill’s history would be an appropriate addition to the housing project.

Graham also argued that, despite their condition, the mill ruins “are a piece of history that should not be lost.”

No formal decision was made at the HPC meeting, however.

Daines said that city officials were simply seeking general feedback on their tentative plans to guide Logan’s next steps toward downtown revitalization.

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