To The Daily Sun,
On Dec. 8, a public input session will be held about the current challenges facing the Belknap Mill Society. Since the Society is a public, non-profit organization, perhaps it should be recommended that an independent audit of the organization's finances be made before any public hearing is held and that audit be made available to the general public. It is important to note that the members of the current board of trustees of the mill are all new, and the public needs to know exactly how the society got into its present-day financial difficulties.
The Save the Mill Society was formed during the turmoil of urban renewal. There were two mills in need of preservation: the Busiel Mill and the Belknap Mill. When attorney Arthur Nighswander bought and restored the Busiel, the Save the Mills Society was renamed the Belknap Mill Society, and its mission was to preserve and restore the Belknap Mill. Four local businessmen were the founders of both organizations. Peter Karagianis, Norman Weeks, Lawrence Baldi, and Richard Davis. They put their entire lives on the line to save those mills, and they were highly successful.
They did it before the field of historic preservation was in place. They did it before there were LCHIP grants for preservation. They had a tremendous passion for their mission, and they hit the ground running. It was hard, hard work, but they never once doubted that what they were doing was right, and that it needed to happen.
When these men were facing the restoration of the Belknap Mill, the mill was in far worse shape than it is today. The mill was unwanted by the city of Laconia, as well as a high percentage of the city's residents. One of them went as far as to set the mill on fire in order to rid the city of such an "eyesore." Fortunately, that fire was extinguished before it caused any damage.
Economic environments are often far from perfect when it comes to conducting historic preservation projects. That's where passion and creativity come into play. The Belknap Mill today is in need of repair, and some of the repairs are costly. That is what preservation is all about, and that is the job of the Belknap Mill Society. There are preservation grants available, such as LCHIP, which this year was funded with millions of dollars.
The Belknap Mill's future is not gloom and doom. There is a one-of-a-kind industrial museum housed within the mill, which includes a power system built in 1918 and a room filled with knitting machines that were made in Laconia. There are tenants that utilize the building on a daily basis and an award-winning school program that is held there on an annual basis. The mill is functioning, but it needs some preservation.
If the four men who saved the mill in the 1970s saw what the mill needed today, I can assure you that they would say, "Is that all?"
- Category: Letters
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