The exterior has been painted and the foundation shored up over the years, but otherwise, the grist mill sits like a time capsule in downtown Braselton.
The building lacks modern conveniences, such as plumbing. It has early original tools and equipment still in place.
Various handwritten scribblings in pencil — including Bible verses and people’s names — are on still-sturdy upright wooden beams throughout the three-story structure, which was built about 1900.
The mill at 20 Frances St. has sat overlooking busy Ga. 53, which cuts through downtown and into neighboring Hoschton, while growth and change took place around it.
That is, until a few years ago, when the Braselton Town Council decided to plot a future for the 6,000-square-foot building it had acquired about 15 years ago, Town Manager Jennifer Scott said during a visit to the property earlier this week.
“One of the challenges is how do we preserve the history and still use the building,” she said.
A major step was taken Monday, March 13, when the council voted to transfer ownership of the mill to the Braselton Visitors Bureau Authority, which can borrow money without needing it to be backed by property taxes.
Next is a process of accepting bids through March to renovate the mill and build a 3,854-square-foot, two-story addition. The addition will include a lobby, restrooms, stairs and office space. Other work will include “grading around the addition and existing mill, and new site walls to improve site drainage.”
Maps of the project show part of the mill being used as a museum, a suite of offices in the existing building and then the addition with a connecting lobby, conference rooms, kitchenette and more offices.
The first floor of the existing building will be used for Braselton Visitors Bureau offices.
The agency “will run all our tourism, but they’ll also have the mill open for tours,” said Scott, who also serves as chairwoman of the Visitors Bureau Authority.
The town now opens the mill several times a year to do tours, she said.
“We have a whole mill group who has come in and studied the whole (building),” she said. “They know what the equipment does, and we have a tour guide who can take you through the whole thing.”
Back in its day, the mill basically was used to turn grains into flour, which then could be sold in bags — a couple of which are on display inside the mill.
Plans also call for the addition to house BraseltonTech, a public-private initiative to help start up technology companies.
“The renderings (of the project) are very cool,” Scott said. “I can’t wait to see what it’s like when this (building) is actually habitable. There’s so much to do, but the whole structure is in perfect shape.”
The project, budgeted at $2 million, may take a year to complete, she said.
But the waiting will be worth it, Scott said.
“It’ll be so much fun to see this building come back to life in a whole new way,” she said.