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Butte Creek Mill raises $100,000 toward $2.5 million cost of rebuild

A nonprofit organization will take ownership of and raise funds to rebuild the historic Butte Creek Mill, which burned in a spectacular fire before dawn Christmas Day.

The new organization will be known as the Butte Creek Mill Foundation but does not yet have its nonprofit status, said Bob Russell, Butte Creek Mill's owner and mayor of Eagle Point. For now, the nonprofit Rogue Valley Foundation is handling donations for the fundraising campaign, which kicked off Saturday at the Vintage Faire.

Bob Russell said he plans to donate the mill property to the foundation because he was "hugely under-insured." The 143-year-old flour mill was covered by Lloyd's of London for $400,000, a fraction of the roughly $2.5 million Russell anticipates it'll cost to rebuild the mill.

Russell said the Lloyd's policy was the best he could get because the building is an old wooden structure that housed and made flour, which can be combustible.

Preliminary architect drawings of the rebuilt mill, awaiting approval from the National Register of Historic Places, were shown outside the charred mill area Saturday. Russell said they're hoping to use reclaimed wood for the rebuild.

Support for the mill came in many forms Saturday. Debbie Gardner Tossie and her husband, Don, sold Avon at a tent with all profits going to the mill rebuilding efforts.

"It was one of the first places we visited," Debbie said. Don recently had finished the last of the oatmeal they'd bought from the mill, and Debbie joked he was going through a "withdrawal phase."

Members of the Eagle Point community gave Russell hugs and donation checks at the Vintage Faire. Seeing community members reach out, and seeing VIP tickets for a Sunday Jim Belushi fundraising concert sell out within days, made an impact on Russell.

"It melts my heart, really," Russell said, saying the cleanup has been a daunting challenge for him, devoting seven-day workweeks to the cleanup.

Since the fire, 27,000 pounds of scrap metal, 600 cubic yards of wood debris and 100 tons of rotted and fermented grain have been removed by hand, some with the help of volunteers, Russell said.

Russell said that much of the mill machinery wheels and cogs are being stored at the firehouse, meaning the mill will continue to be powered by water once completed. It was the only water-powered flour mill West of the Mississippi, he said.

Russell said the sold-out Belushi benefit concert is anticipated to raise between $70,000 to $80,000, on top of approximately $30,000 in donations.

"We'll be over $100,000 this weekend," Russell said.

The foundation will need to apply for grants to fund the bulk of the rebuild, which Russell admits will be a challenge.

"There's not a lot of (grant) money available in the historic building realm," Russell said.

Donation checks may be sent to Rogue Valley Foundation for The Butte Creek Mill Rebuild, P.O. Box 1, Eagle Point, OR 97524.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.