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Community Raises Enough Dough to Revive Historic Hayden Flour Mill

Published: Friday, May 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 15:05

Hayden Flour Mill

Tiera Allen

A newly added lawn area to attract tourism and concerts to Mill Avenue

The Hayden Flour Mill served as the heart of Tempe and an important economic engine and cultural landmark from Arizona’s territorial days to the close of the 20th century. But, for nearly the past decade and a half, the site of the Mill has served as more of an eyesore than an asset – a vacant, run down and fenced off gap along Mill Avenue, the otherwise vibrant downtown district that bears its name.

Tempe completed the first step toward re-integrating the mill into the life of the city this week, opening the grounds to the public for the first time since the site ceased operations in 1998. A newly installed stage and lawn will provide a venue for concerts, movies, special events and weddings this fall, while a grove of trees offers a shady spot for picnics and community gatherings. Milling equipment can be viewed through the ground floor windows of the mill with interpretive plaques explaining their function and the historical significance of the site.

Beyond restoring a once-prominent institution to its rightful place in the community, the project aims to tie together Mill Avenue businesses and the area around Tempe Town Lake, thereby enhancing the economic viability of the area. The upgrade in appearance and access to the property also makes it a more attractive gateway to the city.

“We wanted to beautify that part of Mill [Avenue] and create a much more inviting way to greet people as they come into Tempe,” said Nancy Stern of the Rio Salado Foundation, the group that organized fundraising for the project.

Fundraising for the Hayden Flour Mill began around a year and half ago, and work started on the site last May. In an indicator of the mill’s importance to the city, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman, who sits on the Rio Salado Foundation’s board of directors, took the lead on the effort to restore the site. The foundation raised $545,000 and spent $416,000 to complete this initial phase. Stern said the foundation was unable to specify who donated and how much without the donors’ individual consent but said local businesses and organizations have chipped in to bring the idea of rejuvenating the site to fruition.

“We’ve had generous support with large donations from people who saw this would be a worthwhile project and a great thing for the downtown community,” she said.

The original Hayden Flour Mill began operations in 1874, under the direction of now-Tempe founding father Charles Trumbull Hayden. It provided flour to mining camps and military outposts throughout the Arizona Territory, helping to ensure the continued growth and development of the region. The original adobe mill burned down on July 8, 1895, and its replacement, also an adobe structure, burned on July 10, 1917, but Hayden’s company overcame the setbacks and rebuilt each time. The current concrete mill structure was completed in 1918 with a grain elevator and silos added in 1951.

In 1981, after three generations in the Hayden Family, Hayden C. Hayden sold the property to Bay State Milling Company of Massachusetts, which continued operating the mill until 1998, by which time it had become the longest continuously used industrial site in the Salt River Valley. A fire threatened the landmark again in 2002, but the more safely engineered incarnation withstood the blaze.

Since the mill shut down, the city has sought a way to redevelop the site while retaining the historic integrity of the structures. Two different developer contracts using the mill buildings and silos have fallen through, and Tempe continues to look for a way to more fully utilize the mill. The current project means, at the very least, the Hayden Flour Mill, such an integral piece of the community for so many years, is once again part of Tempe’s lifeblood.


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