Big Mill

Lawrence, KS (2020)

900 Mississippi Street

Big Mill is located at 900 Mississippi Street. Originally, the 5,425 square-foot building consisted of two tenant areas. The property was constructed in 1921 and was initially home to Klock’s Windmill grocery and Beal Brother’s Meat Market. It reflected early 20th century commercial development in Lawrence. The space was transformed in the 1960s to a coin-operated laundromat where the grocery store was located, and a hair salon in the butcher shop space. In 2018, the building was converted into a restaurant and no longer housed separate tenant areas. The building also features a basement, although no overall configuration changes were made beyond some minor updates to meet code requirements. All existing materials that were able to be retained were incorporated into the rehabilitation. Visible historic materials that deteriorated beyond usability were replaced with matching-in-kind materials.

Several rehabilitation projects were completed to convert the building to a new commercial restaurant. The ceiling tiles were removed, leaving the pressed-tin exposed. Original plaster wall hidden behind the laundromat dryers was exposed. Paint on the wall showcases the location of the original grocery store shelves; new wood and concrete floors were restored with an oak finish. A commercial kitchen was also installed. On the exterior, the prismatic transom glass was restored. The door and windows were restored on the back of the building to allow natural light into the bathroom and kitchen. An original sign from the laundromat was kept above the rear entrance.  An outdoor patio was added with a steel-structure canopy; the roof was replaced, including HVAC.

The building has been configured to show deference to both historical uses. Areas that were public for both the grocery store and laundromat are still the public areas of the restaurant, and the “back-of-house” areas are now used as the restaurant’s kitchen. The building is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also received a Kansas Preservation Alliance Award. The character of the Klock’s Grocery & Independent Laundry pays homage to its historic configuration and its rehabilitated  historic materials, such as the ceiling’s pressed tin panels. It honors the laundromat by featuring dryer doors on the host stand and through building decor. Big Mill is a fun and lively atmosphere showcasing various textures and materials and it has an abundance of natural light. The restaurant serves classic American food such as burgers, wings, and Detroit Style pizza; the bar serves specialty cocktails and a selection of beer and wine.

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