Then and Now: History Edition
Press & Dakotan
Home

Then and Now: History Edition



« PREVIOUS » NEXT

Ads on this page from the following advertisers...
  • Yankton School District

Keywords: , , , ,
THEN & NOW: PAGE 11B PRESS & DAKOTAN n MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 KELLY HERTZ/P&D LEFT: The Excelsior Flour Mill was opened in 1872. It survived the massive flood of 1881, which destroyed much of the steamboat fleet on the Missouri River. ABOVE: The mill sat empty for many years, but it has now been turned into a saloon that can also host numerous events. PHOTO: DAKOTA TERRITORIAL MUSEUM An Old Mill Finds New Life 19th Century Flour Mill Has A New Role In The 21st Century BY RANDY DOCKENDORF F randy.dockendorf@yankton.net or Paul Lowrie, the best things in life are worth the wait. That includes his Gurney Development Group s restoration of the Excelsior Flour Mill Company, one of Yankton s oldest structures. The 1872 mill has been turned into a tavern and event center. Located in the 100 block of Capitol Street, the Old Mill stands near The Landing bar and restaurant, also owned by the Gurney Development Group. Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, Lowrie kicked back behind the Old Mill s bar to explain the group s approach. The project remains a work in progress on purpose, he noted. We re doing the conservative approach, and that s what has made it go, he said. This is one of the biggest projects in Yankton. It s OK to take your time to get something done. It may take years to create its legacy. Let it continue as we build on it. Lowrie offered a walk through the Old Mill. He pointed out numerous original features which have been retained and incorporated into the business. You can see photos from 1880, prior to the 1881 (Missouri River) flood, he said. Downtown From Page 1B were closed off. I just remember that being a bigger deal than it seems like it is now. I remember going to the Fantle s building when they had the little restaurant in the basement as a kid. Some experiences with downtown Yankton were uniquely personal. Mike Huether, a Yankton native and current mayor of Sioux Falls, said that, in spite of trying financial times for his family growing up, one positive downtown memory really stuck out. As we were struggling on one hand but capturing life on the other, there was Russo s Pizzeria, Huether said. Russo s was downtown and my family would go down there my mom and the four of us kids and we had no money. They had a special where you could get a pitcher of pop and a large pizza for a cheap price. I remember we d get a pitcher of root beer and a large pizza, and that was kind of how we celebrated in a small way, but it was a big way for our poor family and we did it downtown. He added shopping for clothes was even more meaningful at the time. As I got older, the thing that I remember was buying the clothes for those fancy pictures we had to take, whether it was for a graduation ceremony or a confirmation ceremony, he said. You bought those clothes downtown. That was kind of a big deal for a poor kid who lived out on the east side of Yankton. Huether said downtown was the center of town for everybody. It was the place where people went to get their stuff, he said. You d get your clothes there. You d get your hardware there. You d get your paint there. You d get your groceries there and you d get your entertainment there. Hunhoff recalled a few of the special events that he witnessed each year growing up. Gurney s was still having big promotional events back then, he said. The tractor dealers would show off the new tractors, sometimes with movies in the old Dakota Theatre. It was always a big deal with the car dealers when the new car models came out every year and they d be wrapped in paper in the showrooms until the designated day when the wrappings came off and everybody was excited about that. Holidays were a crazy time, and it was really festive during the holidays. While downtown seemed to have everything at the time, it wasn t infallible. Hunhoff told the Press & Dakotan that downtown Yankton for many decades failed to utilize one of its most obvious assets. Back in its heyday, we were not capitalizing on the river, he said. Today we re starting to really understand that the river is a unique gift that we can build on. I can remember when the (riverside) was almost a dump there was actually a city dump down there at one time, and it was the manufacturing area. People want authentic, and this is as authentic as it get. Paul Lowrie The pioneer era saw the use of not only trains but also ox and mule teams for taking flour to the Black Hills miners in Deadwood, he said. The current Old Mill renovation project has incorporated parts of other Yankton and regional landmarks, adding to the structure s history and charm. The saloon gives the place an old market feel, he said. It s a cool place and a real draw. But not everything is Old West or River City. Lowrie pointed to a clown painting in one corner of the bar. He like to keep people guessing and coming back to see what s next. (The Old Mill) feels quirky, and it s a comfortable place, he said. After opening in 1872, the Old Mill was producing more than 200, 100-pound sacks of flour a day within its first year of operation. The mill took advantage of Yankton s location on the river for shipping to markets in the west. The mill continued to produce flour, corn meal and livestock feed until 1923, when THE MERIDIAN DISTRICT Downtown Yankton today finds itself evolving and setting up for the future. Though the river may not have been utilized in the past, the reality is far different today. What was once literally a dump has given rise to Riverside Park where the city hosts the vast majority of Riverboat Days each year. The Meridian Bridge long a symbol of Yankton has also found new life helping connect downtown Yankton to the river. In 2011, after being closed to vehicle traffic in favor of the modern Discovery Bridge, Meridian was reopened as a pedestrian walkway, allowing people to walk across the river on both decks to visit the Nebraska side. The bridge was given a further boost with the development of Meridian Bridge Plaza, beginning construction in 2014 and ceremoniously opened in 2016 and featuring seating, a fountain and a splash pad area that has proven popular during the summer. Since 2016, green space to the west of the bridge has played host to Music at the Meridian a weekly summer concert series that invites people to come downtown and enjoy free music. But perhaps the biggest change downtown Yankton is seeing is a change in concept. In 2015, community leaders commenced Onward Yankton, an attempt to crowdsource ideas for Yankton s next big idea. The winning idea to make Yankton the entrepreneurial capital of South Dakota has a heavy focus on improving downtown s business climate. This has led to initiatives such as building an identity for the district the Meridian District. When I started this job, I went and talked to every one of the businesses downtown, and one of the biggest things they said was, We don t have an identity, and they questioned what are we? That is the point of why we are doing this, downtown coordinator Mollie Grey said during a February 2017 meeting of 1 Million Cups announcing the change to the Meridian District. The projects and planning that we have going on take time, take collaboration and it takes people who are working together. I want people to know that we are striving toward those changes and working together, and that we are doing really cool things down here. One of the Meridian District s first big initiatives was to bring in Dakota Resources design:SD event, during which residents were asked to pitch ideas for what they d like to see done with downtown. In September, the city began repainting light poles and replacing street signs in the district. Officials are continuing to look at how to implement other ideas going forward. Downtown Yankton s glory days may be both behind it and ahead of it as the city finds ways to grapple with the issues that have taken commerce from downtowns across the country and looks to the future for how to revitalize the area. Follow @RobNielsenPandD on Twitter. Gurney s Seed & Nursery purchased the structure. The Gurney Redevelopment Group, with Lowrie as the managing member, purchased the building along with other Gurney property put up for sale. Now, Lowrie and business partner Paul Remmes want to take advantage of that same riverside location. They see the river as Yankton s front porch, welcoming visitors. Lowrie credited one of his travels for inspiring the Old Mill idea. We were sitting in a bar in Austin, Texas, and I was asking myself, What makes this place so cool feeling? he said. I looked around, and I noticed six things: the ceiling, floor and four walls. Everything else was immaterial. Lowrie realized he already owned such a building. We could use the Old Mill as a cool place. It already has those six things, he said. And we have the 1872 vintage building. It s four years older than Deadwood. Taking the thought a step further, Lowrie envisioned a way to incorporate the Landing and Old Mill into one dining, bar and entertainment complex. We have the whole property, he said. We could utilize this space as something really unique in the area. Rather than raze the Old Mill, Lowrie em- braced it. The Gurney Development Group pursued the approach of restoring historic buildings. The typical answer for older properties is that they must be torn down because they re not economically viable, he said. The belief is that it costs too much to cure them. On the face, the cost seems prohibitive. But the reality is that old buildings are very usable and very viable as long as you cure them in feasible steps. From the outset, the Gurney Development Group took the Old Mill project step at a time, Lowrie said. Since we opened the Landing, we ve utilized the Old Mill in stages, he said. That meant starting with the basics literally. The Old Mill opened in 2011 with a Halloween event featuring a very rustic atmosphere. We had no bathrooms, no heating and no cooling. It was basically a minimal open barn, Lowrie admitted. But over the years, we added pieces to it. The Old Mill eventually added the restrooms, heating and cooling in a more economical way. We could have spent $1 million all at once. We could have done it that way, if we MILL | PAGE 12B The Mission Statement of the Yankton School District is to optimize student potential for success in a global society. Belief Statement... PARTNERSHIP 1. Education is a partnership among the community, parents, students and school personnel; high standards are essential for this partnership to be successful. SAFE ENVIRONMENT 2. The school system provides a safe educational environment, which encourages physical, emotional, and academic growth in a culturally diverse society. ATMOSPHERE POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE 3. Learning is enhanced by a positive and supportive atmosphere, which encourages creativity, builds self-esteem, and recognizes students success. INDIVIDUAL STUDENT FOCUS 4. Learning requires recognition of each student s instructional style and the use of effective methods, which make learning interesting and individualized. VALUES INTEGRATION 5. Ethical values, including an appreciation of diversity, integrity, compassion, courage, commitment, and responsibility, are integral to the learning process. STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY 6. With proper guidance, students are capable of making informed choices and are responsible for their actions. LIFELONG LEARNING 7. Education must support life-long learning by teaching students to access and apply information for success in a global society. Adopted by the Yankton School Board on June 14, 1993, Action #93-347 Amended June 12, 1999, Action #2000-123 Amended February 9, 2004, Action #2004-17 Amended August 11, 2014, Action #2015-113 The Yankton Public School District has a strong partnership with all the non-profit organizations as they all impact our schools, children and community.
Mission Statement
Yankton School District
Downtown
An Old Mill Finds New Life
Photos