WARREN — Some 90 years after it last powered a mill there, Chuck Eddy thinks putting a dam back on Black Brook along with a multi-use pond would help put the town — famous for its Redstone rocket on the Green — back on the tourism map. And by doing so, Eddy sees such changes as a means to provide some much-needed economic vitality to the town.
A longtime Warren resident, Eddy owns the property on the corner of route 25 and 25C, currently home to Greenhouse Pizza and behind which Black Brook runs on its way to joining the Baker River.
The brook, a short distance downstream from the pizzeria, had been dammed since Colonial times, according to Eddy, who said that the town fathers needed someone to grind corn and wheat into flour for local consumption.
Like their brethren who did likewise throughout New England, those early Warren leaders came upon a scheme known as a “mill privilege” under which a private party, in exchange for making flour, would be entitled to earn a profit and have what Eddy said was “the exclusive license to construct a dam, flood a pond and with rights to all flowage necessary in order to power the new mill.”
The flour mill on Black Brook eventually became a lumber mill and remained in operation until about 1927, when it was damaged by a torrential flood, said Eddy. Three years later, when then-owner William Park died, his daughter sold the property to Charles Little, although the town of Warren, he maintained, reserved the “mill privileges.”
Later, Little built what Eddy called “a fine home at the site and operated a lunch room there,” which after several iterations and owners, is now Greenhouse Pizza. Down a steep bank from the restaurant’s parking lot, the base logs of the log-and-stone crib-style dam are still visible in Black Brook as is some brick foundation on the bank.
The dam had been 15 feet deep, 40 feet across and 9 feet high, said Eddy.
Under a tentative plan that Eddy will present to the community at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at Warren Town Hall, the dam, mill and a half-mile long pond would be re-created, resulting in what Eddy said would be a “‘historic-village destination for tourism, construction employment, then service jobs and opportunity for small business entrepreneurs.”
Eddy sees a community asset that could include a hydro-electric generator at the dam site as well as in the mill a harness shop and exhibits such as wood turning, blacksmithing, carding wool and weaving.
He said the Park Mill Pond could have lighted walkways and be accessible in warm weather to canoes, kayaks and paddle boats, while in the winter it could host ice skaters and also be popular with cross-country skiers and other outdoorsmen and women.
The restored pond, Eddy said, might also raise the value of the 10 or so upstream properties while also helping raise the level of fire protection in the town.
Eddy acknowledged that his idea would cost a considerable amount of money and take several years to bring to fruition, whether under a nonprofit corporation or a private developer, which is why he conceded that the Warren Board of Selectmen were “cool” to his proposal when he presented.
The immediate task at hand, said Eddy, is to gauge community interest in the project or some variation of it. If the latter option is pursued, Eddy on Monday said one of the next steps would be to bring a grant writer on board.
Eddy said he has been in contact with state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and representatives of the Grafton County Economic Development Council and the Center for Rural Partnerships at Plymouth State University.
Anyone who’d like to learn more about the Park Mill Pond project, should attend the Sept. 17 meeting at Town Hall or contact Eddy at 764-5583 or via email at: Charleseddy33@gmail.com.