Vex Harrow
Posted: August 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm
Subject: Will We Finally See an End to the Hayden Flour Mill Saga?

It’s been a long low legend for Mill Avenue, the way that the Hayden Flour Mill has lurked on the periphery outside of the scintillating lights of the Ave itself. As a result, it’s something that I have been watching with heavy eyes from through my windscreen for some time now. It’ll be an interesting fact to put this one in the rearview, but first I’m going to have to see where this goes.

The flour mill is our best and brightest historic structure right off Mill Ave between the main drag and the Tempe Town Lake. Constructed in the 1870s, it’s been a strange edifice that has soaked up every sight, sound, and smell of Mill culture—so much in fact, the street itself is named after it. As a historic structure, it’s been defended from the certainty of being crushed beneath the wheels of the Backhoe-of-Progress and has stood there abandoned and derelict for many years.

In fact, when I started taking fares on Mill Ave in my cab, it’s one of the first landmarks I recall using to orient myself.

According to Benjamin Leatherman over at the Phoenix New Times blog, we may be seeing some dramatic changes coming to the old mill within weeks. Decisions that will affect the future of the structure have finally come to fruition and even Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman is talking about it. As such, we can expect a renovation by Valley architect Bill Tonnesen who intends to transmogrify the old mill into a space for events and a Tempe history museum.

Something that I’ve been arguing for since I first put foot on the red bricks.

As one of the oldest and most iconic structures in Tempe, the Hayden Mill has undergone a number of changes in its lengthy lifetime. Constructed in 1874 by legendary Arizonan Charles Trumbull Hayden, the mill ground wheat into flour for generations. It was rebuilt twice in the late 1800s after being destroyed by fire, and functioned as an operating mill until it was closed down in 1998.

Ritzy redevelopment projects utilizing the property were announced in 2001 and 2008, only to be sabotaged both times when the economy tanked.

Besides giving a new lease on life to Hayden Mill, the renovation will also eliminate a blighted and abandoned property along the city’s main thoroughfare. Furthermore, Hallman says it will fix a “dead zone” and help better connect Tempe Beach Park with the rest of downtown.

Amid the attractions that should attach themselves to the newly reconstructed mill, we can expect the Tempe Urban Garden. The garden will move itself from its current location on Forest Avenue and will even include some picnic tables and benches. Perhaps the mill will become a romantic sweet spot for people to pause while moving between the Tempe Town Lake and the Ave proper.

As the place is being turned into a museum, the city expects to leave some of the ancient machinery in place as well as other fixtures as part of the display.

“The goal is to turn it into an operating museum,” Hallman says. “Opening these windows to allow visitors to view inside the building and the historic equipment to show people what’s been going on inside the mill for more than a century.”

There have been numerous attempts to do this to the Hayden Mill in the past, and yet we’ve seen them all fall by the wayside due to politics, economic recessions, and just bad planning. It’s been over a decade since anyone did anything with the structure and it’s about time that we actually set about preserving it.

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