Plaque commemorates Old Stone Mill

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Thursday, June 28, 2012
— Gerry Pelishek noted during a ceremony at his Darien office Wednesday that it was 173 years ago to the day that work began on what would become Whitewater's Old Stone Mill.

The mill, built on a dam in what would later become downtown Whitewater, served as a grain mill until the 1950s and was the centerpiece of the community's development. From its beginnings in 1839, the mill was a city landmark until the late 1960s, when its condition deteriorated and Pelishek bought it with the intent of generating electrical power.

A stormy process ensued and the structure was condemned by the city in 1969. It was demolished in 1972.

Pelishek's frustration has not cooled in 40 years. He is adamant the city is responsible for tearing down the mill despite his efforts in time and money to preserve it.

Before its demolition, Pelishek secured the mill's cornerstone and took it to Darien, where the ceremony commemorated the mill with a plaque.

"I became involved in the mill project based on Whitewater's city plan published in 1968," Pelishek said. "The plan called for restoration of the mill, and I believed then, and still do, that the mill could have been converted to generate electricity. That would have been in keeping with the history of the mill as a source of power."

About 30 people attended Wednesday's ceremony including state Sen. Neal Kedzie, Assembly Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, Walworth Country Administrator Dave Bretl, Walworth County Board Chairman Nancy Russell and several county board supervisors.

"We are all making history here today," Pelishek said. "On this very day and probably at this very hour 173 years ago, work began on the mill. Today, we commemorate that important event in Whitewater's history.

"Sadly, we have had to find a new home for the cornerstone in Darien," he said. "It is the hope of my wife (Beth) and I that someday this cornerstone and plaque will be placed in Whitewater where they should be."

If people know nothing else about the mill, Pelishek wants them to understand that he did not tear it down.

"About the time I bought the mill, the issue of water rights was transferred to the new Department of Natural Resources," he said. "There were issues about private generation of electrical power, issues with the dam, issues with the street and other things that resulted in a governmental nightmare."

A legal battle over the dam and legal representation between Pelishek and the city of Whitewater was resolved in Pelishek's favor by a state court of appeals in 1981. The city appealed, but the state Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

"I had made a serious financial commitment and put in countless hours to save the mill and dam," Pelishek said. "But in the end, my efforts did not succeed. I was out of money, and the long process just wore me down."

Worn down perhaps, but Pelishek is far from down and out. During Wednesday's ceremony, he presented a representative of the Whitewater Historical Society, John Newhouse, with the engineering study by Warzyn Engineering of Madison to generate electricity at the mill.

"I hope we can have discussions with Whitewater," Pelishek said. "But today, I just want to recognize this day in history and begin to set the record straight."

Last updated: 8:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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