By Bill Robinson
Two of Madison County’s oldest buildings were demolished Friday morning.
The Miller Building, constructed in the early 1800s by Richmond founder John Miller, was down before 10 a.m. The building known as the Old Creamery, across First Street from the Miller Building, went down first.
Both buildings were owned by the county, which purchased the Old Creamery at auction
Although the Miller Building was inside the city of Richmond’s Downtown Historic zone, government buildings are exempt from the city Architecture Review Board’s jurisdiction. Privately owned structures in the city’s H-1 Historic Zone may not be altered or demolished without the board’s approval.
The county acquired the Old Creamery for $110,000 in a Dec. 8 public auction. Dairy farmers in the county once sold their raw milk at the building, descendants of farmers and former owners of the building said.
At other points in its history the Old Creamery housed the Richmond post office and a law office as well as apartments.
The Miller Building served as Richmond City Hall for many years. The city transferred ownership to the county after city offices were moved out.
“It’s a sad day,” said Dr. James Murphy, a member of the Madison County Historical Society, which for years had advocated for the buildings’ preservation.
“It’s so sad that we’ve lost part of our beginnings.”
About two or three years ago, Murphy said Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark had assured historical society representatives that the Miller Building would not be demolished as long as he was judge/executive. The county did not own the Old Creamery then.
When he drove by the structures Thursday night and saw a trackhoe parked behind the Old Creamery, Murphy said he feared demolition was imminent.
“I was going to call Judge Clark this morning and tell him I hoped he would not renege on his assurance the Miller Building would not be demolished,” Murphy said, “but it’s too late now.”
He had planned to ask Clark to give the historical society another year to seek funds to restore the buildings, Murphy said.
Clark said Friday the conversation took place four years ago and was not an open-ended commitment.
The promise was contingent on the historical society raising funds to restore the building, the judge/executive said.
“In the past four years, the historical society never raised a penny to restore that building,” Clark said.
To restore both buildings would have required at least $1 million, and the county could not have afforded to restore even one of them, he said.
The existence of Class 7 asbestos in the buildings would have made restoration more expensive, the judge/executive said.
“I’ve got to look out for the county’s future and ensure we have the revenue streams to maintain essential county services,” Clark said, adding that he would be willing to talk about the county’s plans for the property on Monday.
The historical society, which had already begun circulating a petition calling on the county to save the buildings, conducted a public meeting Jan. 24 and adopted a resolution asking the county to appoint a committee with representation from the fiscal court, the Richmond City Commission and the historical society to pursue funding sources and determine uses for the buildings.
However, Murphy said Friday members of the society and the judge/executive had not recently discussed the proposal.
Bill Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or at 624-6690.