COLUMBIA, SC — To the uninitiated, the large, white, rectangular silo bearing the name Adluh Flour seems out of place in the Vista, an ever-expanding, highly urbanized, arts and entertainment district.
But the reality is just the opposite.
The milling company has been there since about 1900, when an immigrant Dutchman named B.R. Crooner decided to build a flour mill there amid a tangled web of railroad tracks and sprawling warehouses.
Obviously, 105 years ago, the Vista looked a lot different, says Bill Allen, vice president of Allen Brothers Milling Co., which has operated the iconic mill since Crooner fell on hard times in the 1920s. Back then, having a flour mill there made sense.
Today, the mill thats so close to hotels, restaurants and shops cranks out 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of flour per day, using the original milling roll stands.
Were the second-oldest, continually running, electrically powered flour mill in the United States, Allen said.
The flour is sold mostly by large distribution companies to restaurants Lizards Thicket is a big customer. But you can still buy a 1-pound bag of plain flour for $2.75 in the milling companys office off Gervais Street, sort of behind the Hampton Inn.
Other products are also available. The mill produces about 25,000 pounds of cornmeal per day and 6,000 pounds of grits.
The grits have become particularly popular with the buy-local, slow food movement in the area, and the mill is planning to double production soon, Allen said.
For such a large operation, the mill seems to work well in the Vista. And it provides the area with an iconic symbol at its heart what painting of Columbias skyline would be right without it? And its quiet, clean and, well, kinda cool.
Weve had to make sure were good neighbors, said Allen, even though the mill has been there longer than almost any other business. You can hit an eight iron to the convention center, so were doing everything we can to be environmentally friendly.
So what of the future for this symbol of the Vistas past?
The mill is negotiating with potential tenants for the brick warehouse that fronts the mill likely for the same type of hospitality-based, mixed use that has become the hallmark of the district. Other than that?
More of the same, Allen said.
Why ADLUH? Its believed the Adluh name came from the original owner wanting to name the business after his daughter, Hulda. So he spelled her name backwards Adluh. True? No one knows for sure.
Love that Vista glow. The red light thats cast at night west of the State House doesnt signal anything nefarious. Its just the big neon sign flashing Adluh Flour, then Adluh, then Adluh Flour.