Owner of Defunct South Lyon Mill Donates a ‘Ton’ of Historic Items to Move Leonard Mill Restoration Project Step Closer to Completion

The owner of a soon-to-be demolished grain mill in South Lyon donated a ton – literally – of historic items from their mill to assist in the restoration of a similar mill in Leonard.

MillDSC_1262Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson attended the July kickoff to save the Leonard Mill. He commended Peter Grebeck, who owns the South Lyon Mill, for his generous donation – estimated to be worth at least $10,000 – and Leonard Village President Mike McDonald for their collaboration.

“This is regional cooperation on steroids,” Patterson said. “I congratulate them for their willingness to work together to preserve a piece of Oakland County history dating back to the 19th century. From a historical point of view, it will be great to be able to point to the Leonard Mill when it’s completely restored and say, ‘That’s the way we lived 120 years ago.’ This is an example of the kind of work the county can do if you get us involved early in the process.”

Grebeck, who also owns Peter’s True Value Hardware Store in South Lyon, donated various items including lighting fixtures, sliding wooden doors, scales and wooden hardware that will be used in Leonard where an ambitious project is underway to save the Leonard Mill. Some donated items date back to 1894 when the South Lyon mill was built. The centerpiece of the donations is a shaker/cleaner – weighing several thousand pounds – that was used to separate grain from impurities.

“We didn’t want it to go to waste,” said hardware store manager Shawn Shull. “It’s in beautiful shape and we wanted it to go to some place that would respect it. We didn’t want it to end up in some scrap heap. This is the best thing. Someone told us there was a shaker like this at Greenfield Village but ours was in better shape.”

SLyonMillDSC_1244Oakland County’s Planning Division has received several grants to restore the Leonard Mill, which was built in 1889. It is seen as having historic preservation and economic development benefits for the community. Additional grants are being sought to complete the project, which would ultimately include a visitor center for the Polly Ann Trail, permanent restrooms, bike racks, and a picnic area. The Leonard Mill is located at 158 E. Elmwood.

McDonald and Shull were among many who moved the donated items from South Lyon and put them in storage until they can be used in Leonard, the press release stated.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous offer that the owner of the hardware store has made – not only in terms of financial value but also in historical value,” McDonald said. “This will benefit our preservation effort now and in the future when the mill is restored. It will help us tell the story of what these mills were all about and what they meant to every town that had one and the importance of agriculture.”

Shull said the hardware store is interested in expanding on its property but can’t unless the mill is torn down. They made attempts to find buyers who wanted to restore the building – which has not been in operation for about seven years – but no one came forward. He estimated the mill would need improvements costing $100,000 just to make it safe.

“It just wasn’t feasible,” Shull said.

Planning Division architect Ron Campbell, who is working on the Leonard Mill project, said the county recently received an $8,000 grant to repair the mill roof.

He encouraged business owners and residents who may own buildings of historic significance and are unsure what to do with them to contact the planning division for assistance and advice. Campbell can be reached at campbellr@oakgov.com.

“Get us involved in the project early,” Campbell said. For more information on the Leonard Mill project, visit www.LeonardMill.com.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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