Building Description Union County Alliance Flouring Mill - La Grande Milling Company, La Grande Oregon

Construction on the Union County Alliance Flouring Mill was begun in 1892. It provided an essential service to the citizens of La Grande and to the farmers of the Grande Ronde Valley The unknown architect was hired by the Case Manufacturing Company which supplied the machinery. The buildings occupy Lot 6 of Block 8, Honan's Addition to La Grande, Union County, Oregon, and dominate the valley-level townscape which is bordered on the west by foothills of the Blue Mountains.

The mill and elevator are wood frame structures on stone basement foundations. The original portions of each building are 36x48', lined up on either side of a spur railroad track. The mill's structural system is organized on 12x12' bays with heavy timber posts and beams (12x12" typical). The floor joists are rough 3x16's and the exterior wall studs are 2x6's. The elevator is of even heavier timber construction due to the enormous loads. An ingenious system of angled posts and heavy bearing blocks enables the loads to be carried almost gracefully. This supporting system occurs in the basement and on the main floor, with the grain bin walls above being stacked 2x6's.

Both buildings were originally clad in horizontal 1x6 drop siding, though it appears that part of the elevator may have not been sided, exposing the stacked 2x6's. The door and window trim on the original portions of each building is quite formal for industrial use, with the slightly "gabled" head trim. (Later additions did not continue these subtleties.)

The original portion of the mill is four bays wide and three bays deep with two full stories above grade and a mansard attic (more than 15' to the ceiling) making a third story. Typically, there is a four-over-four double-hung window in the center of each bay. In the mansard story, these become tall gabled dormers. The elevator is a simple gable-roofed building with a gabled machinery penthouse. Both buildings have had many additions down to 1950. The mill, being more formally designed, has not accommodated these "growths" very gracefully. The shed and gable additions to the elevator are much less awkward visually.

The power plant wing which projected from the rear (east) of the mill was a lean-to affair which would have had the appearance of an afterthought though actually part of the original construction. It housed an 80-hp gasoline engine with belts to line shafts on each floor to operate the elevators, sifters, rolls and so forth. There was a 12 amp generator in the basement of the mill which operated the electric lights. Later the mill operated with a 60 or 70-hp electric motor (which is still inside a brick-walled room in the basement) connected to the line shafts until milling was disconnected after World War II, probably about 1948.

The lean-to had fallen in by the 1950s and all of the structure was torn down in 1970..." (This information is from a short history of the mill written by an anonymous person who used to work in the buildings. Other "old-timers" insist that the original power plant was a wood-fired steam engine.)

The only historical photographs of the mill uncovered to date appear in Bernal Hug's History of Union County. The photo caption says "Alliance Flouring Mill," but is not dated. It was probably taken prior to 1902 when the operation was sold to La Grande Milling Company. In any case, there were no porch roofs or extensions from the basic 36x48' rectangle on either building save the power plant shelter mentioned above. At that time, however, there were platforms for loading and unloading by rail and wagon.

The various porch roofs and extensions were added as needed down to 1950 when the truck scales and grain dump chute were added at the west end of the elevator.

The mill had been used for cheap warehouse space for its last 5-10 years and the elevator was still used for storing grain until 1977. In the winter of 1978-79, the elevator was used in an experimental grain cleaning operation. Burr Courtright, who ran the operation, says the building is basically sound and could provide many more years of life as a farm industrial building.