The view from the booth windows at Sammy’s Bar and Grill is quite a different picture since Marlowe Feed was razed, and its destruction only accents the construction mess along Route 47.
Sally Guge has been a waitress at Sammy’s for a “long time,” she says, and when she looks out the window at the wreck that for so long used to be a historic landmark, she can’t help but remember the old window scene.
“It’s kind of sad to see,” she said. “I remember my kids were in 4-H and they would buy rabbit feed there. In the spring, they would have car loads of baby chicks for the farmers to start growing. It’s just the last little proof that Huntley used to be a rural town.
“Now, it just looks like we’re at the backend of an industrial park.”
Marlowe Feed was recently sold by property owner Warren Wolschlager, who has a local chiropractic business along 47 and Mill Street in Huntley.
According to Development Services Director Charles Nordman, the decision to tear it down had nothing to do with any 47 construction plans. It simply no longer has a purpose in Huntley and was becoming too expensive to preserve. The Huntley Village Board gave out the permit, Nordman said.
“Bottom line is it would’ve cost too much to revamp it,” said Wolschlager. Wolschlager took ownership of the property in 2005 with a few ideas in mind for the mill’s future. He hoped it could be turned into a restaurant similar to Nick’s Pizza and Pub, but after realizing the financial barriers involved, the idea was a no-go.
He was thinking about tearing down the mill for the past two years, but made the final decision in the past six months.
“There’s a lot of road construction, so we decided to put all the destruction together,” he said.
However, although the building has been dismantled, most of the materials will be salvaged. Elmer West, head of Renewable Resources, will be selling the maple, pine, and sycamore wood, as well as the brick.
“We claim everything,” he said. “It’s being completely salvaged.”
Helen Marlowe, who still lives in the heart of Huntley and helped run the Marlowe Feed mill for over 50 years along with her husband, Henry, is pleased with the decision to save materials.
“I’m so glad they’re saving the lumber,” she said. “It was wonderful—those maple floors, and great pine.”
The mill was built in Huntley in 1890 by men of the names of Sawyer and Kelly. According to Marlowe, her husband took ownership of the mill in 1942 upon moving to Huntley.
“It was a very congenial place,” Marlowe said. “Farmers liked to come in and talk; my husband liked to talk to them. We had very congenial help—the help was excellent.”
When Henry Marlowe bought it, it had been a flour mill powered by a steam engine. Marlowe said that, to start out with, the mill was almost all for dairy feed, but progressed into more for poultry as business changed.
“We had a chicken hatchery in the basement,” Marlowe said. “There was a lot of work involved—all the older children worked there.”
Wolschlager said he did consider the community’s sentimental ties to the historic mill upon making his final decision. However, the mill no longer served a purpose and according to Wolschlager, the taxes on the building were eating up too much money.
“We knew a lot of people loved that building,” he said. “It was a tough decision. But it was a financial decision to tear it down.”
A variety of different businesses have been considering the open lot, Wolschlager said, including Burger King, Merlin Muffler, and Aldi.
“No one has signed the dotted line yet to buy it,” said Wolschlager, “so we’re still looking for the right user.
“The community will have a good service. It will better serve the public in a different dimension.”
Even Marlowe, who has been in the community for close to 70 years, recognizes that it would be too expensive to keep, even as an official landmark.
“It’s definitely a part of Huntley history. It’s a landmark,” said Marlowe, “and I hate to see [it go]. But I think it’s inevitable. It’s just progress and change.”