Residents Debate the Fate of Bemis Mill
For more than one-hundred years, the Bemis Cotton Mill has stood tall in the heart of the historic town. Now, it’s fate lies in question Built in 1900, local community members say the Bemis Mill is the whole reason there’s a Bemis. “The mill itself is the focal point- the reason there was a town,” said Joel Jackson, Chairman of the Bemis Historical Society. “Originally in 1900 when it was founded, the founder – the guy who owned the thing -he owned the whole town, he owned every house and every street and everything in the town, and the mill… So it means a whole lot.” Although the building was recognized by the national register of historic places, protection of the property is not guaranteed. “We found out that the National Register of Historic Places is just an honorary title when it comes to local,” said Jackson. “It protects you from state and federal encroachment, but doesn’t protect you from local projects.” And without protection, the mill – now used as a warehouse – faces demolition. “There’s not many people that would have the money to renovate that building,” said local business owner Diane Wright. “It’s just not realistic. With the economy we live in right now, very few people have that kind of money.” While a demolition permit has yet to be issued, residents fear it’s only a matter of time. “I just don’t see anybody taking that building and putting what it would take to put something in there or make money off of it or even maybe get their money back,” said Wright. “It’d take years and years.” Years that those wishing to preserve the mill just don’t have. “The only thing we have left is public attention or public opinion,” said Jackson. “We’ve done all we can do as a historical society. Our hands are tied.” Because the mill was deemed an industrial zone rather than a historic zone, the building’s owner is free to make a decision about the building’s fate.