During their most recent work session, the Euharlee City Council agreed that the first step in preparing for any changes to the site would be installing a fence around the area to secure the ruins and prevent anyone from injury should a fall or collapse of the building's outer wall were to occur.
"From a liability standpoint, you've got a wall that could drop on somebody kayaking nearby," Ron Goss, planning and zoning administrator, said. "There's an issue there."
The mill was built in the 1840s and operated by using power from the Euharlee Creek. After being destroyed by a fire in 1880, a new mill, which conducted grinding as well as carding wool, was constructed on the ruins and sold to Daniel Lowry.
According to Goss, Lowry was instrumental in getting the current covered bridge built after the raging creek swept away an old bridge on his property, causing the death of one man. A new bridge was built using some materials provided by Lowry and this bridge, built in 1886 was designed by Horace King, the freeman builder, with construction completed by King's son, Washington, and another man. Each piece of the bridge was pre-cut and numbered before installation and was then assembled "in place" in 1920. The Euharlee Covered Bridge carried traffic for 90 years and in 1976 the structure was retired and a concrete bridge was built nearby over the creek on County Road 30.
"The mill site is also significant in that it is one of approximately 11 existing sites in downtown Euharlee that existed from the middle to late 1800s when Euharlee was a region agricultural village," Goss said. "It was the main driver for the development of Euharlee as a developing city."
Considering the site's importance to the city, as well as Lowry's link to the bridge that serves as the city's main attribute, when the city asked residents what projects they would like to see completed in the historic downtown, two studies revealed that a preservation and reconstruction of the Lowry Mill was the number one item on the list.
"Due to years of neglect, the stone ruins of the Lowry Mill have suffered from decay and vandalism," Goss said. "The outer wall adjacent to Euharlee Creek has significant damage that the city is investigating to determine the method of correction."
Before the city is able to conduct archeological studies and obtain permits for any construction that is expected to take place at the site, a fence would secure the area while any and all improvements are made following any necessary continued clearing of overgrown vegetation.
Currently, the city has not made final decisions on what will replace the site as far as reconstruction to preserve the original mill and restore it to a place the community can use and enjoy. When those plans are made, City Manager Trish Sullivan said that many of the funds will come from the urban redevelopment agency.
Until that moment, Mayor Kathy Foulk has expressed her sole concern of protecting the citizens as well as the historical site.
"My concern is the liability to the city," Foulk said. "The whole idea is to protect the integrity of what we have."
The city is expected to vote on the purchase and installation of a black chain link fence at their next meeting as plans for moving forward begin to take shape.