CHESHIRE -- A piece of local history is no longer, with the demolition of the former U.S. Gypsum mill on Cheshire Lake completed early this month.
The project follows years of persistent requests from various state agencies to tear down the mill due to environmental and safety concerns, including the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the Water Resources Authority and the Department of Environmental Protection.
In addition, owners Misha and Lucia Saradoff weathered theft, trespassing and security troubles at the site over the years.
Nonetheless, in an interview Thursday, Misha Saradoff, 76, a New York, N.Y., architect, said he was "very saddened" by the loss of the mill -- a building his wife, Lucia, had envisioned restored and reused until her death last year.
"It's painful to see it go," Saradoff said. "It was unique to the area. The historic value was considerable. For years, 150 people worked there -- it was its own little town with roads, trains and it even had a schoolhouse."
The mill, formerly located on the west side of Cheshire Lake, dated back to the 1800s, near a 50-acre lime and marble quarry. It was purchased by the twin Farnam brothers Alfred S. and Albert S. in 1874 to form Farnam Cheshire Lime Company and was operated by various owners in some capacity until the 1960s. Saradoff bought it in the late 80s for $1 million.
According to Saradoff, his wife wanted to see the mill turned into an art gallery. She
"That was her thing," Saradoff said, "she wanted to keep it alive."
Occasionally, Lucia Saradoff hosted bluegrass concerts and community events on the property.
In the end, though, it proved too much a burden.
"Maintenance and security were overwhelming," Saradoff said. "There were three major copper robberies that cost $24,000 total. We kept replacing it but the third time it happened again within two weeks. It was just too much."
Sinopoli and Son Construction out of Lanesborough performed some of the demolition, along with another contractor Saradoff chose to keep private. He estimated the total demolition cost at $1 million.
The fresh demolition site, Saradoff said, "looks nice, but there's still a major cleanup job to be done."
Materials including thousands of bricks and cement still need disposal, with Saradoff recently giving out bricks by the thousand to local farmers and other inquirers. He said some of the materials might end up being crushed at the Cheshire quarry, currently operated by D. Condron Construction Inc., of Willow Cove.
Some smaller buildings on the property, however, and others also owned by Saradoff on Lanesborough Road, are slated to be restored. Additionally, Saradoff has plans of marketing various meadows and other tracts he owns along the road to farmers and others.
"I'm passing it all on to my son, with hopes he continues in the same manner to preserve it as is."
To reach Phil Demers, email