'It's just so big; the ideas are endless,' says Thomas Moore about the grain elevator he acquired last month. Staff photo by Tom Russo
'It's just so big; the ideas are endless,' says Thomas Moore about the grain elevator he acquired last month. Staff photo by Tom Russo
GREENFIELD — The grain elevator in downtown Greenfield has been a city landmark for more than a century.

“It deserves to stand another 100 years,” Thomas Moore says.

The Greenfield resident and new owner of the property is working with the city to ensure it not only stays standing, but is restored to a new glory as well.

Moore said he’d been eyeing the property for more than 20 years. He knew demolition was a possibility for the inactive grain elevator. A restaurant, apartments and shops are some of the ideas he has for its future.

“It’s just so big; the ideas are endless,” he said, adding he hopes to settle on an objective within the next six months.

The project marks the first time he’s ever undertaken such an endeavor.

“We walked the building with the previous owner, and I just thought, what a cool building,” he said. “…It deserves to have this done to it. Everybody’s seen it for so long, but I don’t think anybody’s really noticed it.”

The original, lower part of the building was built in 1906, Moore said. He believes the tall part of the structure was added in the 1940s. At 116 feet, it’s the second-tallest building in Greenfield, behind only the courthouse.

The grain bins, which were erected in the 1970s, are coming down because they are structurally unsafe.

Moore estimates the property has been out of commission since the early 2000s.

He remembers his father telling him stories about hauling grain to the elevator and his grandfather sharing memories of it as well. Moore added many visitors have stopped by, curious about the work while eager to share their memories of the property and express their excitement over its restoration.

“It just encourages me to go faster and harder at it to make sure I do this right,” he said.

A structural engineer has advised the building has an excellent structure, Moore continued. Several local contractors already are working on the building. Jobs under way include putting walls back together and shoring up the interior. Floors have been fixed, and 60,000 gallons of water was pumped out of the basement. The building is also due for a new roof and paint job. Leftover artifacts like the elevator’s original scales, grain cleaners and signage are being preserved.

“We’ve had our hands full,” Moore said, adding he hopes to have the outside of the building finished by October.

Moore bought the property in April for $36,000 from Skylar Properties LLC, according to information released by the Hancock County Recorder’s Office. Skylar Properties’ principals are Marc Huber, a Hancock County commissioner; and Muriel Huber, his mother.

Marc Huber said they wish Moore luck in his endeavor.

“We had some of those same thoughts; we just didn’t have the resources to continue with them,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity, and I think it’d be great for the community.”

Joanie Fitzwater, Greenfield planning director, said the grain elevator has been on the city’s radar for years and that revitalizing it was part of past plans.

“We just needed funding that we could apply to it,” she added.

That all changed in 2018 when the city, Fortville and Hancock County received a designation from the state’s Stellar Communities Program, creating millions of dollars in funding opportunities for economic development and quality-of-life projects. Greenfield is using Stellar funds once again for a facade grant program, which is helping the elevator improve its siding, windows and roof along with taking down the grain bins.

The project ties in with the city’s plans for a nearby Depot Street Park and Riley Literary Trail, both also Stellar projects.

“It’s really exciting that we can save such an iconic symbol for the entire region,” Fitzwater said.

Historical structures are a “quiet asset,” she continued.

“They provide the background, they provide a sense of pride,” she said. “We don’t really pay attention to them in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, but they really create the character of our downtown. That elevator — some people love it; some would like to see it removed from the skyline, but it beckons us back to our agricultural roots.”

Fitzwater said she’s grateful for Moore’s efforts.

“If we didn’t have appreciative developers looking at saving this structure and adaptively reusing it, there’s a really good possibility the grain elevator would’ve been demolished,” she said.
© 2020 Daily Reporter