You can hardly think of Tempe without picturing Hayden Flour Mill, its faded white silos rising from the base of Hayden Butte and anchoring the north end of Mill Avenue.
Although the iconic building has loomed large in our collective idea of the Mill Avenue District, it’s only just becoming accessible to those of us who shop, dine, exercise and recreate in the area.
A grand opening, set for 5 to 10 p.m. tonight, Oct. 5, will celebrate the re-purposing of Hayden Flour Mill as a public event venue. After a partial renovation first unveiled in May, the once-shuttered property now boasts a grassy lawn lit by twinkly lights, an amphitheater, signage detailing the mill’s history, and a shady grove in which to sit or picnic.
Visitors are also encouraged to peek into ground-floor windows at machinery inside the historic building, which once churned out flour made from Arizona-grown grain.
“It’s a very cool space. It’s just a cool destination,” said Nancy Hormann, of Downtown Tempe Community. “There are people there every day, just milling around, reading all the signs, enjoying the history of it. We see people eating their lunch on the grass. There’s now this great pocket park for the city. It doesn’t look foreboding anymore.”
Tonight’s event will feature live music from Native American flute player David Montour, the Beatles- and Elvis-playing band Mariachi Los Rebeldes, and Jared and the Mill, a modern folk ensemble that plays washboards, banjos and other instruments reminiscent of the 1870s, when the mill was established.
About 50 restaurants, retail businesses and nonprofit groups will host booths in the parking lot. A dedication is at 6 p.m. You can also sign up for a guided tour inside the first floor of the mill with the Tempe Historic Preservation Foundation, said city spokeswoman Kris Baxter-Ging. Tours will be given at a later date.
Hormann says much is planned for the site, and an events calendar will soon be available online at MillAvenue.com.
“We’re talking with people who lead yoga classes, and we’re hoping, as the weather gets better and it gets dark earlier, to do date-night movies. Kiwanis Park has the family movies down pretty well, so we’re looking at doing date-night movies for the grown-ups (at the mill).”
The outdoor space will be available, beginning Oct. 8, for private gatherings, such as weddings. Inquiries may be made via phone or email at (480) 355-6074 or TheMill@downtowntempe.com.
Visitors to the grand opening are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating.
Hayden Flour Mill burned down twice before the current structure, started in 1918, was erected. Its restoration is due to a partnership of the Rio Salado Foundation, the city of Tempe and the Downtown Tempe Community.
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