Above (left), an antique tractor greeted visitors to The Mill last week during the dedication of the newly remodeled building. (Above right photo) Mayor Ralph Fernandez told the crowd The Mill was an “amazing building to come into when I was a child, there are so many memories here” of the many oddities for which The Mill was known. Now, he added, the building will be used for future generations and “is an asset for our community.”

The Mill: Hundreds flock to renovated landmark slated for museum

November 18, 2009
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesIt was only fitting Friday that restored flywheeler tractors putted up to The Mill, which served farmers for more than 100 years, while inside hundreds of people marveled at the cavernous 12,000 square-foot interior that before had been minimized when it was stuffed to the brim with antiques, collectibles and the just plain odd. Friday’s gathering was to celebrate the handing over the historic Mill to the Museum of Ventura County, which will use the building for its upcoming Farm Heritage Museum.Built in 1888, The Mill over its more than a century of continuous operation was a barley seed cleaning plant, feed store, general needs store - and those needs often included socializing and barn dancing - then finally a one-of-a-kind mall for antiques and collectibles that also displayed thousands of collected over generations “Who would have thunk it?” items.Even the renovation of the building fit in that category: “I’m thrilled,” said Ginger Gherardi, the former executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC), which now owns the building. The effort to restore the building for use by the museum started more than three years ago, before Gherardi retired.Connie Tushla also found the new building and its future “really exciting... another plus for Santa Paula.”Gherardi said much credit for the renovation goes to retired City of Santa Paula Building & Safety Director Steve Stuart and Samia Maximous, VCTC director of highway and planning programs, as “They did a tremendous amount of work... without which it would have been a treasure lost to the community.”Stuart was “very pleased with the overall results and maintaining the historic character of the building, even with the alterations,” including the addition of handicapped restrooms and new heating and plumbing, among other improvements. And better yet, although the renovation of The Mill - and some sprucing up to the nearby historic Depot - cost about $2.6 million, “It still feels the same” due to careful attention to the historical integrity of the building.Although it might feel the same, Santa Paula Fire Captains Milo Bustillos and Dan Campos both expressed relief that the building is now fully protected by fire sprinklers. “This,” said Bustillos, “was one of my scary buildings.” And Campos noted had it caught fire in the past, it would have probably been lost, even with a “surround and drown effort... now it’s a viable building.”“This is marvelous, look at this!” said Supervisor Kathy Long, who said the transformation of the building was “like black to white... this is beautiful.” And the crowd, she noted, “typical of Santa Paula, the hometown shows up, and I’m sure there’s going to be lots of stories told here today” reflecting the strong social aspect also available at The Mill.Anita Tate of Santa Paula had been a Mill customer since the early 1950s, when her shopping list was heavy on fertilizer and gopher traps. “It was always fun to come in and see all the animals” of the farm and home variety for sale, as well as the pet dogs and cats that amicably roamed the building with their owners, many of whom, noted Tate, became friends.At that time, and until The Mill closed its doors, it was operated by Polly and Lou Hengehold, whose children all pitched in, even when they were little pitchers themselves.
Cathy Barringer of Santa Paula said the Hengeholds were generous community supporters, and refreshments had been served at The Mill for a Hospice Home Tour. “Nobody ever forgot the stuffed horse” that stood proudly in the building for decades.Mayor Ralph Fernandez told the crowd The Mill was an “amazing building to come into when I was a child, there are so many memories here” of the many oddities for which The Mill was known. Now, he added, the building will be used for future generations and “is an asset for our community.”Several speakers noted Gherardi’s talents in finding funding: “She was very creative in getting other peoples’ money, and she was dedicated” to the project, said Supervisor Long. “She had the dream” and found the partners, Long added.Gherardi said thanks were also due the Hengehold family, whose “vision” to save the building for museum use was notable.Alan Peck worked at The Mill from “about 1954 to 1960s probably,” starting when he was in high school. “Then I came back and worked here again... they’ve done a wonderful job,” and Peck said he was impressed how much larger the structure looked when empty.“A lot of people came in from all aspects of life.... I remember the people and the Hengeholds,” and Peck said he made it a point to be at The Mill the “last day it was open.”As a “young kid” Ken Zimmet would accompany his father to The Mill to unload hay and grain, and former Mayor John Procter said his father, Bob, “considered Lou Hengehold to be his best friend. Ginger raised this out of the political ashes... she gets all the credit for creativity.”As a councilman, Procter also served on the VCTC Board of Directors. “My colleagues never once questioned” the renovation of The Mill, an effort he said “was amazing.”The Farm Heritage Museum of Ventura County is expected to open next year.



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