October 2, 2003



Last days for Grinnell Mill

Antioch University is running out of time to save Grinnell Mill from destruction. It has until Monday, Oct. 6, to come up with a plan to preserve the historic structure. That’s just four days to keep the mill standing. That’s not a lot of time.

The mill, which was originally built in 1812, is a noteworthy, historic landmark, and as its owner and steward, Antioch has a responsibility to conserve a piece of Yellow Springs’ history. Otherwise, Grinnell Mill will go the troubling way of other beloved buildings, like the Yellow Springs Opera House, which were neglected and finally lost.

Earlier this summer, the Miami Township fire chief, Colin Altman, declared the mill a fire and safety hazard and ordered Antioch to repair the property or face hefty daily fines. Antioch cannot sustain such fines, however, and has been trying to secure a deal to either sell or lease the mill to someone who could rehab it. Despite a summer of intense negotiations, talks broke down last month between the university and the one local resident who had a solid plan for the mill.

Glenn Watts, the Antioch vice chancellor in charge of negotiations for the mill, bluntly said this week that the university does not have the money to save the mill, and as of Wednesday, no one had come forward with a last-minute offer. If Monday’s deadline passes without some kind of deal, Mr. Watts said, Antioch will start advertising for people to salvage the mill’s wood. Mr. Watts said that Antioch might be able to use some of the wood on the Covered Bridge, another popular landmark in the Glen that has been the victim of repeated vandalism.

With Antioch facing a deficit of more than $1 million, Mr. Watts said, the mill is a lower priority. After all, as Mr. Watts said, Antioch’s primary mission is education and “salvaging the mill doesn’t fit into that equation.” That’s a sad, hard truth. That’s also why Antioch, whose resources are stretched so thin, would have been better off selling the mill long before the fire department gave the university its strong ultimatum.

—Robert Mihalek