‘Preserving history:’ Noblesville firefighters create centerpieces from an old mill

Noblesville firefighters Dan Milligan and Joe Scheumann stand by a table they made using wood from a historic mill. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)
Noblesville firefighters Dan Milligan and Joe Scheumann stand by a table they made using wood from a historic mill. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – More than a year after coming down, parts of an historic Hamilton County mill are coming back to life.

A project pieced together by the Noblesville Fire Department. A task that isn’t a typical rescue.

“For me, personally, it’s not necessarily my legacy,” Noblesville firefighter Dan Milligan said. “I’d like to think it’s more of the fire department’s legacy. That this is something that new guys will come to the station, and be able to take a little bit of pride in themselves.”

For 13 years, Noblesville firefighters Milligan and Joe Scheumann have taken part in hundreds of calls. But their biggest challenge to date has been saving the historic wood.

“We’re guessing that it’s pine, but it’s not the pine that you get now,” Scheumann said, “It’s very dense, very hard lumber.”

Noblesville firefighters Dan Milligan and Joe Scheumann stand by a table they made using wood from a historic mill. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

The wood comes from what’s now vacant lot. A spot that once housed one of the area’s oldest mills.

Built around 1910, Hamilton County Historical Society said the facility stored hay, flour and feed. Since it was torn down last year, its memory is now only found in photos.

But things are about to change. “We felt like it was important to preserve a little bit of that history,” Milligan said.

The fire department received pieces of the mill. After brainstorming, firefighters came up with a plan.

“Several guys are pretty handy around here, and the idea got to just build a really neat table with the old, 100 plus year lumber,” Scheumann said.

For the past few weeks, Milligan and Scheumann have been busy. But after several grueling hours, they’re nearly complete.

“It’s exceeded our expectations,” Scheumann said. “It’s really neat.”

“It’s pretty cool that I was a part of it,” Milligan said. “I’m proud of what it’s become and where it’s going.”

Thing is, the 300 pound table wasn’t going far without help. The furniture needed legs.

That’s when craftsman Rick Helflin sparked an interest. “[Firefighters] walked by one day and we were talking over at my gate, and telling me about this project with this table, and I basically said I had to get in on this,” RC Metal Works Owner Heflin said.

The metal shop owner created ladder legs, and pieces bearing the department’s signature number, 71. “It’s always emotional when you see a project go together,” Heflin said.

It’s also moving for the firefighters piecing it together. Not only because of the history, but the fact they have only a handful of pieces.

“We got 7 total,” Milligan said. “So we have just enough to do the other table as well.”

The tables will be kept in the fire station. Pieces of furniture responders say will remind neighbors of the past, and give firefighters a better look into the future.

“It’s where we deal with some of the problems that we see on a daily basis,” Milligan said. “We do de-briefings of big incidents. All that stuff can take place at the bay table downstairs.”

“It’s kind of neat to think that that table could be here when my kids are older, and I’m passed and gone,” Scheumann said. Firefighters say the tables should be done in a few weeks.

The property where a historic mill once sat remains vacant after it was torn down in 2015. A Hamilton County agency is trying to turn it into a low-income apartment complex. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)
The property where a historic mill once sat remains vacant after it was torn down in 2015. A Hamilton County agency is trying to turn it into a low-income apartment complex. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

As for the mill site, it still sits empty. Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development is proposing to build a low-income apartment complex.

It’s applied for federal tax credits, and should get an answer by February. If approved, the group would build a complex that could house more than 50 apartments, and retail space.

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