For over a century, the flour mill has been a part of Shelburne’s history, and its demolition will soon bring the town to the small screen.
The History Channel’s Salvage Kings, features the Priestly Demolition crew documenting their demolitions and the modern scavenger hunt, and is set to feature the demolition of Sawyer’s former food mill in an upcoming episode of its second season.
Barry McLean, a longtime Shelburne resident and owner of a local construction company, is the current owner of the lot where the flour mill was located. In February 2020, he purchased the mill, which was located at the western end of town, from Sharpe’s Farm Supplies.
Speaking to the Free Press, McLean explains how he initially hoped to keep it as a historic building for the community, but with the age and condition of the mill it was best to demolish it.
“If it could have been salvaged for a historic building, I would have, because I really believe in it,” McLean said. “The building was not in the best condition so we decided it should collapse.
McLean himself has a personal connection to the factory, having purchased food and chicks there over the years.
“The Sawyers were great people to work with,” said McLean. “In a way, it was sad to see him fall, but it just wasn’t sustainable, he had really become too useful.”
After making the decision to demolish Sawyer’s Feed Mill, McLean contacted his insurance company about the demolition.
“They said it was very expensive and very dangerous, especially for a building this tall and with 100 and a few years of dust in there,” McLean said. “Next to it, we have a wood processing plan, as well as residences and businesses, which is why we called in professionals to take it apart, who really did a good job. ”
McLean contacted Priestly Demolition, based in King, Ontario and with whom he has worked in the past. Around this time, he also approached them to see if they would be interested in doing an episode for their Salvage Kings TV series.
“They sent the manager of Salvage Kings, he and I toured the building,” McLean said. “When he found out that the building’s story had its age and connection to the farming community, he thought it would be a good episode – which I think it will be.”
With its large elevators and conveyor belts, the Sawyer feed mill stood out from the growing residential landscape. It was also a historic icon of the Shelburne and surrounding farming community.
According to documents from the Dufferin Museum, the mill was established in 1900 by Henry White, Edward Berwick and Robert Rickey. Originally called H. White and Company, the mill worked with flour, feed, seeds and grains and later became a limited company in 1911.
While Henry White died in 1935, the business continued until 1957 when it was taken over by William Henry “Harry” Sawyer – marking the official opening of Sawyer’s Feed Mill.
Sawyer’s Feed Mill would become a three-generation family business, spanning over 50 years. In 2016, the plant was sold and renamed Sharpe’s Farm Supplies.
The Dufferin Museum currently has a mill wagon that was used between the 1940s and 1970s in its collection, and the sign for the Sawyer’s Feed Mill was also recovered prior to demolition.
The Sawyer Power Plant was officially demolished on March 16, 2020, and McLean had planned to use the land to build mixed-use residential homes, but has since cut back on operations.
The land where Sawyer’s power plant once stood is now up for sale again and McLean says he’s hopeful a local builder gets a chance to exploit it.
Speaking about the episode, McLean said, “I just hope people watch and enjoy it.”
The demolition of the Sawyer Power Plant will be featured in the sixth episode of Salvage Kings airing Monday, May 24 at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.