It’s been 8 years since the Butte Creek Mill burnt down, but its open now

EAGLE POINT, Ore.- Eight years ago on December 25th, the Butte Creek Mill burned to the ground in the early morning hours. Today, the historic mill is almost fully repaired, and its country store is open to the public.

“I happened to be down at the fire that morning, when the mill was burning down. It was very heartbreaking,” Co-Chair of the Butte Creek Mill Foundation John Parsons said.

On Christmas Day morning, back in 2015, the Butte Creek Mill was decimated by a fire. Jackson County Fire District responded within minutes, but by then the flames had overtaken the building. Bob Russell, the previous owner of the mill, said he didn’t know what was happening until it was too late.

“I got up, I just live across the street, and I walked downstairs, and my living room was orange,” he said, “I thought ‘that’s weird’ and a split second later, I glanced out my window and the mill was fully engulfed”.

Investigators later said the cause of the fire was an electrical malfunction. Parsons says insurance didn’t help them much.

“The mill had very minimal insurance, because of the hist-, you know, how old the building was, and no one would insure it. So, the insurance basically covered the clean-up of the building,” he said.

The mill was originally built in 1872. It remains, to this day, the last water-powered mill that operates west of the Mississippi. Russell says the mill had grown to become a hub for the community and they weren’t going to let it die in the flames.

“Somebody put a microphone in my face, some nice news-media person, and said, ‘are you going to rebuild?’,” Russell told NBC5, “I said ‘yeah, if it makes sense’ and the next day we had an eight-foot banner up in front of the mill- the smoldering mill- saying that we will rebuild”.

Over the course of the next eight years, community members and the non-profit raised over $2.5 million to repair the mill. But rebuilding the mill wouldn’t be enough, they wanted to make an exact replica of the old building in hopes of keeping its historical status.

“We wanted to rebuild it, authentically, so every dimensional piece of lumber in here is exactly what was here in 1872. But we got it done, and there have been all kinds of starts and stops and issues raising money, but we’ve had the… entire Rogue Valley has just been fantastic,” Russell said.

Now that it’s back in action, what does the future of the mill hold? Giving back to the community that helped revive it, of course.

“Now being a non-profit, we want to be able to give back, so there is… there are thoughts in the future of things such as, again, scholarships for kids, educational purposes, getting more kids through the mill,” Parsons said.

The country store is now back open. Parsons says they hope to make the store sustainable enough that they no longer have to rely on donations.

“We’re so proud, every time I walk across the street from my house, I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, and I don’t think there were many people who thought we’d ever pull it off, to tell you the truth, but we have,” Russell said.

Butte Creek Mill’s country store is open five days a week right now, but Russell told NBC5 those hours might change as they approach the post-holiday season.

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NBC5 News Reporter Lauren Pretto grew up in Livermore, California and attended University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with a double major in Film/Digital Media and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Lauren is a lover of books, especially Agatha Christie and Gothic novels. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she knits, bakes, and writes.
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