A millstone from Morenci among collection in Lansing 2008.01.09

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

“It takes energy to construct a new building;
It saves energy to preserve an old one.”
– National Trust for Historic Preservation


By DAVID GREEN

A piece of Morenci history lies embedded in a Lansing sidewalk as part of a historical renovation project.

Morenci’s Buck & Kellogg Mill was torn down in 1975, but sometime before that, a millstone was transported to Lansing to become part of a collection owned by Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company. Founded in 1881, the company was among the first in the nation to offer fire insurance to millers.

Morenci’s mill was built at the north end of Mill Street in 1866 for use as a woolen mill. Charles Buck and Frank Kellogg leased the business in 1889, four years after it was converted to a flour mill.mill.plaque.jpg

The owners’ sons, Arthur Buck and C. Ray Kellogg, took over ownership in 1921 and continued the mill operation until 1952 when it was converted to a feed mill, owned by Stanley Russell.

Eventually the property was sold to the Parker Company and the mill was demolished in 1975.

Move ahead 32 years to a renovation project in downtown Lansing. Morenci native Jim Harper served as an electrician at the site and spotted a plaque that mentioned his home town.

He learned the millstones displayed in front of the building were collected from seven Michigan communities, including Morenci.

The renovated building was constructed in 1925—at least the first three floors were finished at that time. Two additional floors were added in 1928 when the Art Deco style structure became the home of Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance.

The company moved its offices to a new location in 1956 and the old building on Capitol Avenue fell into disrepair.

Renovation

 That changed when the Lansing-based construction management firm, the Christman Company, announced plans to renovate the historic structure. About 20 percent of Christman’s business involves renovation projects, so it was only fitting that the company chose to rehabilitate a stately old building for its own offices.

Christman is incorporating brownfield tax credits, state and federal historic tax credits, and the federal Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act to aid in the $12 million rehabilitation. The project includes a new sixth floor with a glass west wall and garden terrace, offering a view of the state capitol—one of the company’s many renovation projects.mill.stone.jpg

“At the time it was built,” said Angela Bailey, Christman’s director of corporate communications, “it was a very cutting-edge building and it’s going to be that again.”

The renovation makes the structure a LEED-certified building, indicating environmentally responsible operation and a healthy place to work.

The original slate floor, wrought-iron ornamental stairway and Pewabic pottery on the walls of the main corridors were all kept intact.

When Christman moves into its new home a week from Friday, the combination of the old and the new will be highlighted by those historic millstones in front of the building. That’s where a piece of Morenci’s past will remain embedded.

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