A big, old complex of buildings needs a lot of upkeep and “jacks of all trades” to do it. Fortunately, the Mill is in good hands. We scurried along behind Mike, our Maintenance Manager, talking with him in his usual modus operandi, on the move.
Why do you like Savage Mill?
I like the history of the Mill and the fact that the building presents its own challenges with maintenance and repairs. And the people are great.
What’s your connection to the Mill?
I actually grew up right here in Savage, although I didn’t come to the Mill much. It was different then, and what I mainly remember was hearing that you had to be 18 years old or with a guardian to be allowed inside. When I was 16, I began working at Rams Head, first as a host, then a server, then a bartender. I’ve always enjoyed fixing and modifying cars, and I graduated from Lincoln Tech with a degree in Automotive Mechanics. After I worked in that field for a while, I noticed it was taking the pleasure out of my hobby, so I found a job here. I discovered I enjoy carpentry and fixing up buildings, and love doing what I do.
What is the most rewarding thing about working here?
My favorite thing is taking old, rotten-looking parts of the Mill and making them new and modern. Fixing up things that are historic like the original floors is a real treat. You can see that they’re old but have been restored. And we’ve done significant repairs to many windows while still preserving them. On the more practical side, I also like repairing something like a broken toilet because it benefits so many people and is such a tangible improvement.
What are some unique challenges of working on a historic building?
One thing that comes to mind is how the electric and plumbing have been run. Wires and pipes have been jerry-rigged and connected in quirky ways over the years. I’ve also had fun discovering that the clerestory windows in the New Weave building are still operable. One side is connected with the original chain, and the other side is controlled by electric connected to our fire system.
What’s a hidden place in the Mill?
One day I was working in the maintenance shop and removed a piece of wood from the wall. Behind it I found a hole that goes underground behind the Great Room. I think it might connect to the original mill race.
Do you think the Mill is haunted?
I’ve spent entire nights here and nothing has happened. But one incident happened years ago that makes me think it could be. I was a teenager and hanging out with friends near Baldwin Hall across the street. We saw a lady sitting in a chair near the bus stop by the Cotton Shed. Her dress and demeanor struck us as unusual, and we couldn’t resist walking over to her and asking her if she was real. She didn’t respond to us or to a driver who stopped and asked if she was OK. After the car drove off, we walked a few steps away and turned back, and she had disappeared. Just the chair was left. The only thing I can think of is that she was a spirit.
How many steps do you average a day?
I’ve never used a pedometer, but I’m sure at least 10,000 a day when I’m here. I’m always on the move – even in meetings, I don’t sit down.