The old S. D. Keeler grain elevator, the tall wood-frame building along lower Bailey Avenue, should be saved and recycled, says owner Shane Casey.
“I intend on reusing it, and not tearing it down, and preserving the historical flavor of it the best I can,” said Casey, president of Casey Energy, which acquired the building in 2013.
There’s plenty of historical flavor to preserve. The late Town Historian Dick Venus said in a 1983 column in The Press, “At one time, when farming played an important part in the daily life of Ridgefield, farmers brought in their wheat, oats, rye, corn and barley. These grains were taken up in the elevator to the top floor where they were processed and mixed.
“Different ingredients were required in the diets prepared for horses, cows, sheep, hogs and chickens. The proper amount of each of the grains, for the diet of each of the different farm animals, was mixed and placed in large bins on the top floor.
“From each bin, a chute was extended to the ground floor. Through these chutes the mixed feed would filter to be bagged and sold back to the farmers who had previously sold some of the ingredients to Mr. Keeler.
“This whole operation was of great importance to Ridgefield’s economy and provided employment for a number of people.”
Venus added, “Despite all the many changes that have been made to Bailey Avenue, the old elevator house has stood its ground. Perhaps it should not be labeled ‘majestic’ but it stands in stark contrast to what passes as our modern architecture.”
Casey told The Press in an interview, “I’d absolutely like to preserve the integrity of the building and keep it looking as close to the original building as possible. I’m just starting to have conversations with townspeople and architects. It’s going to be a long process.”
He plans “to identify the highest and best use for the property while maintaining the historic look and feel as best as possible.”
A little over an acre, 34 Bailey Avenue has a couple of commercial tenants who’ve been there from before Casey purchased it for $725,000.
The neighboring half-acre at 26 Bailey Avenue has been owned by the Casey family for some 60 years. “So it was a logical decision to buy that adjoining property when I got the opportunity, even though I didn’t really have a plan for it at the time,” Casey said.
“We do not use 34 Bailey for storing oil or trucks or tanks or anything like that,” he said. “We do keep some vans there.”
The owners of Ridgefield Supply, which sold him the old building, are renting part of the site for parking until their redevelopment project is finished later this year.
The three-and-a-half-story grain elevator, built around 1880, is one of the more striking structures in the village, and the largest building on Bailey Avenue.
The town’s Historic Resources Inventory, done 40 years ago by the Ridgefield Preservation Trust, calls it a “late 19th century industrial building of unusual height for this area, with a distinctive verticality.”
The property is in the Central Business District, permitting a wide variety of commercial uses, including retail stores, restaurants and offices.
“Essentially, it’s going to come down to what P&Z is looking for, and what I’m looking for, and doing what’s best for the integrity of the building and the town and continue to be a good neighbor — whether it’s retail, or mixed retail and residential, or parking,” Casey said.
“It was in its current state of disrepair years before I bought it,” he added. “I certainly do not plan to let it fall any further into disrepair. And ultimately, in three to five years, the town should see something much better there.”