Windmill fans and Route 66 fans unite!
The Mill in Lincoln opened in 1929 under the name of the Blue Mill, on Stringer Avenue. It’s proprietor was Paul Coddington, who would serve patrons grilled sandwiches at any hour of the day or night.
A Dutch themed building with blue trim, it featured a revolving windmill and waitresses dressed in blue with white aprons.
In 1945, Albert and Blossom Huffman purchased the building, added a barroom and dance hall, and then painted the building barn red. Over the years, the restaurant became famous for it’s fried schnitzel, originally made of veal, and later of pork.
By the mid 1980’s the Mill had lost most of the Dutch themed interior, and was becoming a museum of rather strange objects, including a mechanical leg protruding from a hole in the ceiling.
The Mill closed in 1996, however the building is still standing in its original location.
THE MILL ON ROUTE 66 IN LINCOLN, ILLINOIS – FROM RUINS TO RESTORATION (AND MAJOR HEADACHES IN-BETWEEN)
By Geoff Ladd
The Mill, a historic structure on Route 66 in Lincoln, Illinois, has now been officially saved from demolition, and is on it’s way to complete restoration. The preservation project has already gained attention on the national and international circuit of Route 66 enthusiasts.
When I first interviewed for the job of executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County a little over a year ago, I knew the selling point for me would be the strength of historical tourism from the county’s Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 heritage. I found out right away that some of the local Route 66 attractions needed a lot of attention.
Inspired by some thoughts on the subject by Ernie Edwards of the Pig Hip Restaurant Museum, I decided it was time to do something about The Mill in Lincoln, a famous restaurant/bar that had been abandoned and left in a state of disrepair for over fifteen years.
The Mill, which is designed like a Dutch Mill, originally opened as The Blue Mill in 1929 and was a sandwich stand on a bustling section of the 1930-1940 section of Route 4/Route 66. In talking with Ernie, he told me of all the gas stations and businesses that were located along this section, and that now only The Mill was left standing. Later in the post-WWII era, The Mill became a restaurant/bar and was famous for Schnitzel sandwiches. Later, additions were added on to the back of the original building.
Jump to 2005, and we have a building that was left to deteriorate to the point where demolition seemed like the only option. The city battled with the property as well, finally clearing up several liens against it so that it could be sold at a tax auction. But the auction didn’t provide a solution either. The winning bidder didn’t have the resources to tear the structure down due to an asbestos problem. About a year later, the owner was in court receiving a $32,200 fine and a contempt of court ruling against him that could land him in jail!
I decided, against all odds at this point, to mount a campaign to save The Mill from more legal entanglements (which would delay much needed repairs even further), and to finally solve this problem to everyone’s satisfaction. The plan was to save the historic front part of the structure while at the same time demolishing the condemned back part of the structure. This was what Ernie Edwards of the Pig Hip had suggested to me several months earlier. The legal proceedings were a big new problem. I ended up serving as the liaison between the owner and his lawyer and the City of Lincoln and their attorney.
The current owner is prepared to turn over the property to our newly formed Route 66 Heritage Foundation of Logan County. We hurriedly incorporated this group which will address preservation and promotion of Route 66 in the county.
In exchange for giving us The Mill, the city has now voted in favor dropping all fines and charges against the owner. The restoration process will take a few phases, with the first being to make the structure safe and photogenic on the outside (drawing visitors as a photo attraction), and then later to fully restore the building as a museum.
Since we want to help the city quickly rid the community of the “eye-sore”, our new group has secured a loan for the demolition phase of the project. We will be relying on private donations, grants, fund-raising events, and online fund-raising (www.SaveTheMill.org) to make our loan payments and raise additional funds for the restoration phase.
We are looking for help from Route 66 enthusiasts around the world to keep this project going. We’d love to hear from you (217-732-8687 or firstname.lastname@example.org). We hope to have it ready for a photo attraction by the spring of 2007. There has been a lot of hard work so far on the part of this excellent group of concerned citizens and preservationists, and we have overcome the odds and some heated criticism at times in our effort to save The Mill from the wrecking ball. Make plans to visit Lincoln, Illinois in 2007 and see The Mill!