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Menasha votes to have former Whiting Mill property declared blighted

Firefighters battle a fire at the George A. Whiting Mill in Menasha. May 3, 2021.
Firefighters battle a fire at the George A. Whiting Mill in Menasha. May 3, 2021.(WBAY)
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 8:49 PM CDT|Updated: May. 3, 2021 at 8:53 PM CDT
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MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - The fire which destroyed the Whiting Paper Mill on Sunday night, came on the eve of a vote where the Menasha city council was expected to declare the former mill as a blighted property.

RELATED: Police: Menasha mill walls unstable, could collapse

Since 1882, the former Whiting Paper Mill had been in the same family for five generations, and Sunday’s fire was the third in its history according to Kathleen Humski, who has kept many of the records.

“The first fire there was in 1888, and it was and still is the worst disaster in Menasha history. There was a fire and explosion and many people gathered to watch the fire and when the explosion occurred 15 people were killed bystanders were killed,” said Humski, who is Vice President of the Menasha Historical Society.

Humski says a second fire destroyed much of the property once again in 1964.

When it was rebuilt, alderperson James Taylor was among the workers.

“There’s a lot of generations that have worked there with 134 years of paper machine operating,” said Taylor.

Eventually, the mill closed for good in 2016, but even before the fire, concerns were raised about the property and the safety of the structure.

That led to the property being placed on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting, so the council could discuss the property’s future, and whether it should be declared as blighted.

Taylor added, “Certainly it’s a loss for the community, but there’s an opportunity we can rise from the ashes. Maybe build a really nice housing unit there, because the views on all three sides are water.”

The council voted 6-2, to begin a process, which will declare the former mill a blighted property.

This will include public hearings and court action.

City officials also revealed that the owner has several years of back taxes due.

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