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Deconstruction begins on old Butte Creek Mill site

The deconstruction is in preparation for the installation of the Keller Mill this Spring. The Keller Mill has been nonoperational for over 60 years, but was built in the same time period as the Butte Creek Mill. (Genevieve Grippo/KTVL)

After the 143-year-old Butte Creek Mill burned down in 2015, a sign hung outside the site saying 'We Will Rebuild.'

Just over two years later, the start of restoration has prompted a change in that same sign: 'We Are Rebuilding.'

Construction crews were on-site Thursday, tearing out the mill's charred wood frames and building a new foundation. Dan Horton, the architect on the project, was also at the mill.

"We're trying to save as much of the mill as we can, the portions that didn't get burnt too bad," said David Hammonds, owner of HamCon Builders-- the construction company in charge of the project. "We'll reuse what we can."

The deconstruction is in preparation for the installation of the Keller Mill this Spring. The Keller Mill has been nonoperational for over 60 years, but was built in the same time period as Butte Creek. Using the donated parts of the Keller Mill will contribute to keeping the rebuild as authentic as possible.

"The grinding wheel-- all that stuff is going to be back as it was. So it'll be grinding flour again," said Hammonds.

He says working on reconstructing the Butte Creek Mill is a project near and dear to his heart.

"It's way cool. Because I live about a mile from here. So I drive by the mill in the morning and at night coming home, and it's going to be nice to get the mill back."

Tearing down parts of the burned mill isn't as easy as taking a wrecking ball to what's left of the structure. Workers must be cautious of the creek that runs just behind the site, careful not to drop debris in the water.

The new building must also comply with modern safety codes and restrictions that weren't in place when the mill was built in the 1870's.

"We're putting it back like it was, but we still have current codes and ADA requirements that we have to maintain," said Hammonds. "So that makes it a little bit of a challenge on Dan's side, to make it look historic without shorting the fire-life safety aspects of it."

Come September, the Timber Framers Guild will be on-site to start constructing the mill's framework.

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