East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

“What Makes A Brick Happy Part 2” – Good News for the Garver Feed Mill

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on July 26, 2013

Results of a study of the conditions of the Garver Feed Mill were presented to the public Thursday night, July 26 by Facility Engineering, Inc. and  representatives from Vogel Construction.  The study was commissioned by the City of Madison last fall.

The two hour presentation covered details regarding the high-tech laser scanning techniques and other aspects of the engineering survey.

The purpose of the survey was  to discover what, if any, of the building could be stabilized against further deterioration. The study finds that

All stabilization issues are solvable!

garver report cover

The price tag estimated for the stabilization of the 49,750 sq ft. building, consisting of 10 separate interior spaces was estimated at just north of 4.5 million dollars. A 224-page report describing the structure’s condition and findings regarding its repair is available on the City of Madison website here.

The most serious issue facing the building is the instability of a section of the north-facing wall that encloses the only intentionally unroofed section of the building. At 30′ high, perforated with windows, and unsupported by buttresses or cross-members, this wall is one severe windstorm away from falling down.

Interior south wall, Goodman Community Center

Interior south wall, Goodman Community Center

The unroofed area  once formed the base for a “pelletizer” that was part of the feed mill’s operation, shown below (photo circa 1990).


It  was removed in in 1997 when Olbrich Botanical Society purchased the property, which was subsequently transferred to the City, with certain deed restrictions. DNR Stewardship Funds were  used for both the City and OBS purchases, so DNR permission is required for any sale, transfer or conversion to non-park uses, which affects current opportunities for adaptive reuse after stabilization is completed.

The worst fear of preservationists and East Siders is that some unfortunate person will die in the building–which presents many dangers in its current state, from deep pits (probably used to store molasses during the feed mill’s operation) to cement roofs that could shed dangerous spalls at any moment. A death or severe injury would likely create a sentiment that it is too risky to leave the building standing while waiting for the money and will to stabilize or re-develop the building to materialize.

Questions from attendees included:

Q. Is it practical to consider keeping the building–is it too far gone?

A. The spokesman for Vogel Brothers Construction, the firm that did the renovation of the Goodman Community Center, and recently finished a complete exterior repair of the brickwork of the YWCA building downtown, said “It’s not up to us to say,” but confirmed their passionate belief that it could, indeed, be stabilized and adapted to new uses.

Q. Will it be useable once stabilized?

A. In the most fundamental sense, yes. The building will include minimal electrical for safety, but no other utility service. Any use would need to be consistent with current zoning.

Q. What is Olbrich Botanical Society thinking concerning their use of the building?

A. Roberta Sladky, OBS Executive Director, was attending and offered to answer. Citing the lack of safe access across the railroad tracks, she said that Olbrich’s “back of house” needs could be satisfied by use of part of the building, but costs need to be assessed. Until this report became available, Olbrich had nothing to base an evaluation on.

Curiously, no one representing Madison City Parks Department, which owns the land on which the building sits, attended the meeting.

-Sarah White


One Response to ““What Makes A Brick Happy Part 2” – Good News for the Garver Feed Mill”

  1. See Zane William’s photos of the Garver Feed Mill here–

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