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April 23, 2021

Grimes Mill cleanup: Ashes to art

SALISBURY — When is a 3-pound brick a 15-pound brick? When you touch it five times, says Doug Black, a volunteer helping Historic Salisbury Foundation clean up the Grimes Mill site.

Fire destroyed the 117-year-old roller mill on Jan. 16, and Black and a handful of stalwarts have been picking through the rubble to salvage materials almost ever since.

As Black was poring over the site Monday, he found a bit of porcelain — more likely a remnant of one of the foundation’s ABC sales (attic, basement and closets) than an artifact of the mill’s operating days.

Still, everything has value to someone, it seems. Black says some artists have taken an interest in some of the metal pieces found on the site.

“To us it looks like a twisted mess. To them it looks like an opportunity,” he says.

The foundation has taken orders for some 120 pallets of the building’s bricks from people who want a bit of history. That includes a woman in Pittsboro who said she grew up three doors down from the mill; she plans to pave a patio of priceless sentimental value. Ninety of those orders have been filled — 250 bricks per $100 pallet — and volunteers have some 30 more to go. Proceeds go toward cleanup costs.

Between picking, smacking, cleaning, stacking and loading all those bricks on pallets, Black estimates volunteers will have handled about 80,000 pounds of brick before all is said and done.

In the basement of the building, out of reach of the fire, volunteers have found old machine wheels and shafts that appear to have been cast off by the miller, Black says. And though the old building “burned to a crisp,” as he put it, some of the surviving lumber might be reusable with the right treatment.

With the help of Central Piedmont Builders, the foundation hopes to complete the cleanup by July, he says. “Whatever man put there will be pulled out.”

For more information about Grimes Mill materials, stop by the Historic Salisbury Foundation office at 215 Depot St. or call 704-636-0103.

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