The basement of The Mill, a popular social house focused on music and student culture, was severely damaged by flooding this summer. The ongoing project to repair the space has closed the beloved community and performance space for the fall 2023 semester, although the renovations are predicted to finish by the start of the spring semester at the latest.
The heavy storm on Aug. 3 and 4 brought 6 inches of rainfall to Addison County in a two-and-a-half-hour period, which caused flash flooding downtown, a number of road closures and a water main break on Route 116.
At the college, the damage was minimal. Director of Facilities Services Mike Mosner explained that most spaces on campus were not significantly affected, but there was a short-term overload of the campus stormwater system and some lower levels of buildings, such as the Mill, did flood.
“Buildings ‘downhill’ from main campus were significantly impacted, particularly basements and levels below ground. The Mill, Twilight Hall, and other houses on Route 30 included,” Mosner wrote in an email to The Campus. “The lower level of The Mill is in the process of full restoration. This work will be complete for the start of Spring semester 2024 at the latest.”
President of the Mill Steil ’24 shared that it has been a challenge for their social house to host music events without their typical basement venue, and The Mill has only been able to host one band from outside of Middlebury this semester.
“It’s been a balancing act trying to have music events without a venue… I think our actual basement space brought a certain vibe to the music we host that we can't emulate in other spaces,” Steil wrote in a message to The Campus.
Steil also shared that some of The Mill’s belongings were damaged and lost in the summer flooding. Decorations and equipment were replaced, but the loss of some items with sentimental value could not be restored.
“It was generations of mill legacy items, passed down from graduated students that had a place in our home, but because The Mill as an organization did not purchase them, we could not get them replaced,” Steil wrote.
On campus, The Mill is known as a social house with a focus on music and culture where members regularly host parties and shows, including both student and visiting DJs and bands. Located on South Street just downhill from Twilight Hall toward town, The Mill is home to eight students and a cat, and has an expansive membership in addition to frequently hosting events that welcome non-members.
In a typical semester, The Mill basement and downstairs recreation room are a social hub for Middlebury students. Mira Ward ’24 shared her perspective on closure of the basement, describing how last semester she was able to perform at several events such as Punk Night and jazz concerts, as well as with various indie rock groups.
“It’s really too bad that it isn’t an active venue for Midd’s music scene right now. Because the Mill is all about music, it encouraged students who play an instrument to get together and jam a ton with an upcoming event in mind,” Ward wrote in a message to The Campus. “Now there are just less spaces to do that in.”
Steil described the significance of The Mill as a social environment to many students on campus.
“The basement of the Mill was our way of holding true to the 'music social house' of it all. Being able to host DJs and bands, whether from on campus or out of town, was really a fantastic way to bring people together,” Steil wrote.
Steil added that they were initially drawn to The Mill because they saw it as a center for count-culture of sorts on campus — “I enjoyed every event that I went to at the Mill and I love the people. I feel like it's an environment that really encourages you to express yourself, and it's a place to feel safe.”
Abby Wilkins ’23.5 shared her perspective on The Mill’s social scene in a message to The Campus. She reflected on how her lower engagement with The Mill this semester may have resulted from the closure of the space.
“I wonder if it has culturally changed The Mill too and I am less in it for that reason too,” Wilkins wrote. “The Mill basement was just the perfect place at the end of the night where you knew things were still happening and could get your dance on.”
With the basement closed, The Mill pivoted to hosting performances from some student bluegrass and jazz bands in the living room upstairs. They hosted “Live Jazz Night at the Mill” on Oct. 7, for the living room space provided a cozy atmosphere, Steil wrote.
Scott Li ’23.5, who performed at the jazz event after performing in the basement in prior years, was glad his music was still able to reach people.
“The mill basement vibe doesn’t really fit the jazzy vibe anyways,” he wrote in a message to The Campus.
Still, Li expressed that the closure was a disappointment, as The Mill hosts his and his friends’ favorite parties.
“I think our actual basement space brought a certain vibe to the music we host that we can't emulate in other spaces,” Steil wrote.
The Mill has continued to host other typical social programming this fall, including bagel nights on Thursdays, with a smaller capacity. “These events are notably smaller than they have been in the past, but we've still been able to offer our special little corner of campus to the community at large,” Steil wrote.
The absence of The Mill basement has been felt acutely this fall, often leaving a large question mark for students looking for somewhere lively and inclusive to go on weekend evenings. The Mill basement’s return to operations next semester comes as a highly anticipated refreshment for Mill frequenters.
Editor’s Note: Editor in Chief Maggie Reynolds ’24 and Managing Editor Katie Futterman ’24 contributed reporting to this article.