Historic Mill Spring building needs help

Published 11:54 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

MILL SPRING – Footsteps echo down the wood floor hallways and bounce off paint-cracked plaster walls. Artists have set up studios in old classrooms and a community farm store, featuring local meat and produce, is tucked in on the first floor. 

After nearly 20 years the old Mill Spring School building is slowly coming to life, but it needs help to keep going.  

“This building has so much potential,” said building property manager and Mill Spring Farm Store owner Reda Harvey. “The auditorium is perfect for all kinds of events such as community plays, dance or music recitals, classes or town hall meetings.” 

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The 90-year-old building recently got a new roof, so now the walls can be painted and some water-damaged ceiling tiles replaced. However, in order to make the auditorium fully functional, it needs a heating and air conditioning system, a new balcony railing and painting.  

The building was used as a school until the early 1990s. Then it became a warehouse for about five years and was abandoned in 1998. In December 2009 it was donated to the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District. 

The Soil and Water Conservation District put out the word they needed volunteers and donations to restore the old building. According to polkcountyfarms.org, more than 1,000 volunteer hours went into restoring the old building.  

“The building was in pretty bad shape,” Harvey said. “It was overgrown with Kudzu.” 

Harvey said while many of the spaces in the building have been rented, there is still much more potential with other areas such as the auditorium. She added that all the rent monies go to help with the building maintenance fund. “They help pay for the upkeep of the building and grounds and for things like the new roof,” she said. 

In addition to the new roof, someone donated a piano a few years back, and Blair Murphy donated a beautiful organ. Harvey herself used donated cloth to make curtains for the auditorium windows. 

Mill Spring Agricultural Center building manager Reda Harvey made curtains for the auditorium windows from donated material. (photo by Catherine Hunter)

The auditorium still has the 300 old fashioned wooden theatre chairs. There is even a balcony that could be used if they can replace the old pipe railing to bring it up to code. Though they can still be opened and closed, the stage curtains are at least 30 or 40 years old and, in some places, are merely ragged tatters from a by-gone day. 

Harvey who took over managing the building in 2016, sees great opportunity for the auditorium as well as the old building. “It wouldn’t take much,” she said. “Just some cosmetic work and the heating and air conditioning. There is so much here for the community.” 

Anyone wishing to help with the efforts to continue restoring the historic building can contact Harvey at 828-894-8028 or contact the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District at 828-894-8550.