ELEVATOR EVOLUTION: Grain elevator finishes transition to restaurant

Thomas Moore, left, and Ronnie Riggs stand behind the bar of their new restaurant, The Depot, located in Greenfield’s historical grain elevator. (Mitchell Kirk | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — After about two decades of dormancy, a historical city landmark has a new lease on life that pays homage to its past.

The Depot, a restaurant and bar that two Greenfield natives spent over a year putting into a grain elevator with roots dating back more than a century, opens today (Friday, Sept. 3).

What once had a capacity of 40,000 bushels of grain can now accommodate 200 patrons on its two floors and bar, along with another 50 to 75 on its seasonal patio overlooking the future Depot Street Park.

Located at 240 W. Mill St., business partners Thomas Moore and Ronnie Riggs led the property’s transition from grain to grub.

“Everything that is in here that could be preserved, is,” Riggs said. “Top to bottom.”

Modern tables and chairs stand between the elevator’s original wooden pillars. Flat-screen TVs hang on the walls along with framed feed sacks found throughout the elevator. Under the slick bar top, an old rail spur discovered buried outside serves as a foot rail. Not far from a drink station is a feed mixer.

“We spared no expense,” Moore said. “We tore nothing out. We modified to make it work.”

Moore and Riggs enhanced the building with other local history too, like lumber throughout the interior that New Palestine’s Masonic Lodge donated, and bricks on an exterior east wall from the College Hill school house built in 1894 at Morristown Pike and County Road 200S.

“I think we’ve got a lot of county history invested in this place,” Riggs said.

The original lower part of the elevator was built in 1906. In 1945, 12 feet was cut off its north side and razed to make room for Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. The following year, a basement started to be dug out and work began on expanding the first story along with building upward to a height of 112 feet. It remains the second-tallest building in Greenfield behind only the courthouse.

About 60,000 gallons of water was pumped out of the property’s basement at the beginning of Moore and Riggs’ endeavor. On the restaurant’s main floor, a bar surrounds a pane of glass in the floor revealing the basement, allowing patrons to peer inside.

As the elevator’s updates were completed, the Greenfield Daily Reporter reported in 1947 that “Many complimentary remarks concerning the splendid new structure with its modern equipment and increased capacity have been made by the farmers and residents of the community who are well pleased with their new grain market.”

Riggs and Moore look forward to similar sentiments about the structure’s latest round of improvements.

“I’m not usually too emotional or anything like that, but I’m getting to where I’m ready to pop them doors open and let people see what we’ve been up to for 18 months,” Riggs said. “We get calls and people peeking in the windows, but to let them come in and see the look on their faces, that’s pretty gratifying.”

Moore agreed.

“It’s exciting, to put in all this hard work and know it was for something,” he said.

The Greenfield natives couldn’t stand the thought of old structure getting demolished.

“I grew up in this neighborhood,” Riggs said. “The thought of even someone tearing this building down just didn’t sit well.”

Hancock County Farm Bureau Cooperative owned the elevator from 1931 to 1994. The property has been out of commission since the early 2000s.

The Depot will start out with limited hours as staff get acclimated — 2 to 9 p.m. seven days a week, before eventually moving to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Its menu is inspired by Midwestern foods and flavors like burgers, tenderloins and barbecue.

“We did it for them — all the old farmers that ran through here; everyone that worked in here; blood, sweat and tears; the guys who came back from World War II that helped build the towers,” Moore said. “It wasn’t torn down. We made it work and now it’s going to stand another hundred years as long as we have anything to do with it.”

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The Depot

240 W. Mill St., Greenfield

Hours: 2-9 p.m. seven days a week to start, eventually 11 a.m.-11 p.m.