A federal grant has been awarded to the McMinnville-Warren County Industrial Development Board to determine the best use of the old mill at Rock Island State Park.
The grant will be used to conduct a feasibility study to determine best uses of the structure.
“I think it would be a great conference center,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander. “It’s far enough away from Nashville and Chattanooga to make it a real desirable destination.”
Suggested uses for the old mill have been as a restaurant, inn, boutique hotel and a conference center. Alexander pointed out cabins at Rock Island State Park are in demand and often at full capacity so adding rooms might be a practical use.
“The feasibility study would determine what the rooms could rent for and what the occupancy rate would need to be,” said Alexander. “There are a lot of factors that go into deciding what the best uses would be.”
The grant does not provide any money for construction or renovation. Rather, it’s for a feasibility study only. Alexander said there will be a bid process for companies to be considered for conducting the study.
The old mill was built by Asa Faulkner and several partners in 1892. It was the only textile mill in Warren County at that time.
The mill was in operation for just 10 years until the great flood of 1902. That flood destroyed many mills in the region. The brick building in Rock Island survived the flood, but it was forced to close due to the loss of a turbine which was washed away.
Overall plans for the mill and the area around it are extensive. Because the mill is located so close to the road, there are plans to reroute traffic and close the road. The area around the mill would be used for parking.