“Times change, and with that comes the loss of important components of our built heritage. The fur trade was once a prime economic force in Canada, and many trading posts were established throughout Saskatchewan’s north. Today not a single original post remains... The Yorkton Flour Mill has unquestionable heritage significance not only to Yorkton, but also to the province and western Canada.” – Frank Korvemaker, Archivist, Historian, Member of the Sask. Association of Architects
With the support of Yorkton’s Economic Development Committee and city council, the JJ Smith Mill Committee has been given the green light to continue with efforts to preserve and restore the old Yorkton Flour Mill situated along Livingtone Street in the city.
On Monday Yorkton City Council members heard another presentation made by members of the JJ Smith Mill Committee, who brought with them a letter of support for their cause written by the Yorkton Economic Development Committee.
“We would like to indicate our support for the Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society Inc’s request for an extension to the October 15, 2012 deadline so they may complete a renovation plan for the preservation of the Yorkton Flour Mill,” the letter read.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Yorkton Brick Mill Heritage Society Inc. (formerly the JJ Smith Mill Committee) in preserving the historical building as this may have an economic significance in the future with a productive re-use. We believe allowing the society extra time will enable them to prepare an effective renovation plan with funding commitments for the self sustaining historical building.”
Since beginning their campaign to preserve and rejuvenate the old mill, the local brick mill committee commissioned a full mill report from PCR Services Corporation and on Monday it was made available for council’s consideration.
The report outlined six options for the mill, three of which the committee recommended to council.
Phase one includes cleaning the interior of the building to ensure it is safe for phase two. Phase two would see the building stabilized. This would include roof and wall repairs as well as making it water tight. The next step includes seeking private and corporate donations as well as government grants to rehabilitate the mill and grow it into a self-sustaining historical facility.
Built in 1898, the Yorkton Flour Mill is the oldest of three surviving flour mills, and the only one constructed of brick, a brick that was manufactured in Yorkton by John J. Smith, a leading pioneer entrepreneur in the community. At that time the mill cost $18,000 to build and equip – the equivalent of about $900,000 today.
“The Yorkton Brick Mill is a diamond in the raw,” says Korvemaker, and when rejuvenated he adds, “it can form another jewel in the crown that is comprised of many fine assets that the City of Yorkton has to offer. Yorkton will continue to prosper without the mill, but it will be a better city if the mill is preserved and rehabilitated for a new use.”
Acknowledging the fact the old mill has value, city council agreed to give the mill committee one year to come back with a progress report. At that time council of the day will make more concrete decisions. To ensure public safety it will also inspect the facility periodically over the next 12 months.
“Building services does not feel the current facility poses immediate danger to the general public in its current state,” said Brant Hryhorczuk from the city’s planning and engineering department to council.
The mill committee is to return to council armed with a detailed plan on how the mill vision can be realized.