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Local feed mill demolition picked up by History Channel

·4 min read

For more than a century the feed mill stood as a part of Shelburne’s history, and its demolition will soon be taking the Town to the small screen.

History Channel’s Salvage Kings, stars the crew from Priestly Demolition documenting their demolitions and modern-day treasure hunting, and is set to feature the demolition of the old Sawyer’s Feed Mill in an upcoming episode of its second season.

Barry McLean, a lifelong resident of Shelburne and owner of a local construction company is the current owner of the lot were the feed mill used to stand. In February of 2020 he purchased the mill, which was located on the west end of town, from Sharpe’s Farm Supplies.

Speaking with the Free Press, McLean explains how he had originally hoped to keep it as a historic building for the community, but with the age and condition of the mill, it was better to knock it down.

“If it could have been salvaged for a historic building I would have done it, because I really believe in that,” said McLean. “The building wasn’t in the greatest shape, so we decided that it should come down.”

McLean, himself has a personal connection to the mill, having bought feed and baby chicks there over the years.

“The Sawyer’s were great people to work with,” said McLean. “In a way it was sad to see it come down but it just wasn’t viable, it had really outgrown usefulness.”

After making the decision to demolish Sawyer’s Feed Mill, McLean contacted his insurance company about the demolition.

“They said it was very expensive and very dangerous, especially for a building that tall and with 100 and some years of dust in there,” said McLean. “Next door, we have a wood processing plan, plus residential, and businesses, that’s why we brought in professionals to take it down, who really did a good job.”

McLean contacted Priestly Demolition, based out of King, Ontario and whom he’s used for work in the past. At that time he also approached them to see if they would be interested in doing an episode for their T.V. series Salvage Kings.

“They sent the director of Salvage Kings up, him and I toured the building,” recounts McLean. “When he found out the history of the building being the age that it is, and the connection to the farming community, he thought it would be a good episode – which I think it will be.”

With its large silos and convey belts, the Sawyer’s Feed Mill stood out amongst the growing residential landscape. It also stood as a historic icon of the farming community in Shelburne and the surrounding area.

According to documents from the Museum of Dufferin, the mill was first established in 1900 by Henry White, Edward Berwick and Robert Rickey. Originally called H. White and Company, the mill worked with flour, feed, seed, and grain and later became a limited company in 1911.

While Henry White died in 1935, the company continued on until 1957, when it was taken over by William Henry “Harry” Sawyer – marking of official opening of Sawyer’s Feed Mill.

Sawyer’s Feed Mill would go on to become a three generation family owned business, spanning over 50 years. In 2016 the mill was sold and renamed Sharpe’s Farm Supplies.

The Museum of Dufferin currently has a wagon from the mill which was used between the 1940s-1970s in their collection, and the sign for the Sawyer’s Feed Mill was also salvaged prior to demolition.

Sawyer’s Feed Mill was officially demolished on March 16, 2020, and McLean had planned to use the lot to build multi-purpose residential homes, but has since downsized his business.

The lot where Sawyer’s Feed Mill used to stand is now up for sale once again and McLean says he hopes a local builder gets the chance to build on it.

Talking about the episode McLean said, “I just hope that people watch it and enjoy it.”

The demolition of the Sawyer’s Feed Mill will be featured in the sixth episode of Salvage Kings airing on Monday, May 24 at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.

Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press