This story began in 2005. I was interested in obtaining a designation as a historic landmark for some of our historic properties. Our Historic Preservation Commission has the capability to designate certain buildings or structures as worthy of preservation. Their advice is easily overridden by a vote from the council but I hoped that such a designation would spur the HPC or the City Council to take a harder look at a proposed alteration or demolition of a historic building should the situation arise.
I hoped that the Maplewood Mill complex (the mill itself, the Saratoga building and the Mule Palace) could be designated as community landmarks. Adjacent to the mill were the chimney and the boiler building (with boiler inside) topped by a giant cyclonic dust collector. To historic preservationists these features would naturally be included as an integral part of the package. The chimney, the boiler building and boiler survive today.
The late Alan Blood, then owner and grandson of the founder, Albert, explained to me how the chimney, boiler and dust collector operated together. The dust collector, powered by a huge fan in the basement of the mill building, collected wood chips and dust created by the woodworking machinery. This debris was sucked through extensive ductwork until it reached the large inner chamber of the collector. There it whirled around in the manner of a cyclone. The larger bits fell through a pipe in the bottom of the collector. They landed in a hopper where they were mixed with coal and burned in the boiler to provide steam for various uses. One of the uses was heating both the mill building and the Saratoga building. The fine dust was discharged through a large opening at the top of the collector. This would create an environment today that would be regarded as intolerable and extremely unhealthy. So much for the good old days.
About that time, Matt and Jennifer Williams were looking for a new home for their St. Louis Closet Company. They were considering the mill complex and had an option to buy it. I felt that the aforementioned trio of the chimney, boiler building and cyclone collector had more value than just being an integral part of the historic complex. I thought then and still do that their commanding presence could be a huge asset to the success of the mill rehabilitation. With a bit of creative cosmetic work, the chimney and the Maplewood Cyclone as I had begun to call it, could be used as a locator and a giant 3D sign for businesses located within.
With this in mind, I made a photographic presentation to Matt and Jennifer attempting to convince them to include the trio in their plans for the building. As I recall they were polite and smiling but noncommittal. So the search went on to find a creative way to reuse these elements of the mill complex and hopefully to preserve them.
To be continued next post.