Last February (2021) Linda and Bill Dunn – who live just outside the Village – sent a letter to the Lanark Era about the sad state of the Kitten Mill:
“Every time we pass down the main street of Lanark we see the Glenayr Kitten Mill sinking a little further into extinction. More decay, more collapse, roofs that were sagging gone completely, walls falling in, more broken windows. How can this be allowed to go on?”
That was a question that struck home with me, and I knew a lot of people were also thinking about it. So Linda and I talked, and we decided to contact the owner to find out what, after all, he had in mind for the building.
It turned out that the owner had no plans for the original building. He was using the concrete-block buildings behind it to store equipment, but other than finding a way to fix the roof, he had no ideas for the building’s future. We asked if he’d be interested in us researching the possible uses for the site so he could put together a plan (I’m a retired community planner and Linda has been involved in a number of building restorations). He agreed to us doing that.
And we started along that road, contacting the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority to see if they had any concerns, getting information about alternative waste disposal systems, etc. We were just about to start looking at municipal planning items – when the roof literally fell in.
That shifted things into emergency territory. So we contacted an engineering company that specializes in heritage properties to see if the remaining structure was viable; if it wasn’t, there wasn’t much we could do.
But the walls are sound, and with enough energy and will, the building could be restored. It could be the cornerstone for an economic revival in the Village. We saw this as a community issue, and called a meeting to see how people felt about that kind of project.
The response was amazing (you can see a video of the whole meeting here.)
The big stumbling block is that so far, the owner of the building hasn’t really responded to our offer to take an option on the property, to give the community time to develop a business plan. Stay tuned, we’re working on it! Clearly, this is not a done deal, but we’re getting guidance and help from people who’ve worked on similar restoration projects in this part of the world.
- we’re setting up a non-profit community Board as the legal entity to marshal the project.
- this website (and an associated Facebook page) will let everyone stay in the loop about what’s happening and be the place where people from the community can find out how to get involved
- we’re collecting technical, regulatory, planning and other information we’ll need to assess the project and make it viable – and make sure it’s what the community wants.