Despite a last-minute plea by a former state preservation official, the History Nebraska Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to tear down an additional part of a historic flour mill in Neligh.
Cost was a major consideration in the decision to demolish a second elevator attached to Neligh Mill.
Two reports from structural engineers were presented to the board Friday, including one estimating that it might cost more than $600,000 to shore up and preserve a wheat elevator used to store and distribute the grain, which was added to the brick mill in 1886.
That “additional information” prompted the board to vote to tear it down, said David Levy, an Omaha attorney who heads the Board of Trustees. Additional documentation and interpretation of the mill’s history will be pursued, he said.
“While the elevators won’t remain, we can interpret them and use technology and whatever means to make their history visible and available to the public,” Levy said.
In April, the History Nebraska board had voted to tear down a tall, steel-sided corn elevator that was added to the mill in 1899, as well as a warehouse addition, and explore whether the older, wheat elevator could be saved.
That led to the structural engineers reports, which were presented to board members during their meeting Friday at Fort Robinson State Park.
Structural engineers R.O. Youker estimated it would cost between $325,000 and $650,000 to shore up and save the wheat elevator, due to rotted wood and some termite damage, but the firm recommended demolition as the best course due to the high cost of restoration and ongoing maintenance.
Bob Puschendorf, who had headed the historic preservation office at History Nebraska (formerly the Nebraska State Historical Society) for nearly three decades before retiring, made a last-minute pitch at Friday’s meeting to save the entire mill structure.
He had assembled a group of historians and preservationists who argued for pursuing restoration in stages and launching efforts to seek private donations and state funds.
After the meeting, Puschendorf said he was disappointed with the board’s decision, saying it was a missed opportunity. Puschendorf said he doubted whether additional interpretation of the mill and elevators will be done because money will be needed elsewhere.
Some Neligh residents had reluctantly supported the demolition, maintaining that it would retain the most historically significant portion of the Neligh Mill State Historic Site. The brick mill portion began grinding flour with water power provided by the Elkhorn River in 1873.
Broadcast journalist John Axtell contributed to this report.
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