July 10, 2000
Volume 52, No. 37
Life quiet again for Houston Mill House
By Michael Terrazas
Construction of the grand Miller-Ward Alumni House is all but completed, and no one is happier than the brand-new facility's older next-door neighbor.
For more than two decades, the Houston Mill House has served Emory both as a china-and-linen restaurant and a genteel link to the history of the Druid Hills area. The house also has been a very popular setting for weddings, and progress in the form of bulldozers and cranes has taken some toll on the house's business.
"We do quite a bit of private parties over the weekend, and those things are [arranged] six to nine months in advance," said Ginny Trump, general manager for Houston Mill House. "So in May and June we may have experienced a little bit of slack in business, and I think it's because of the construction next door. When it was a mess, we weren't getting bookings for this time of year the way we should've been."
Emory tried to minimize the impact; Tom Tarantino, Facilities Management project manager for the Alumni House, even sits on the Houston Mill House board. Trump said both Taran-tino and the private contractor were very cooperative in working out agreeable schedules for weekend work. But there was simply no way to escape the construction itself and the condition of the parking lot between the two facilities.
"The parking lot was probably our biggest issue with brides," Trump said. "They would drive in, and the lot was mud-they were not happy campers. We had many tearful brides. Of course, once they got into the house and the wedding, all of that other stuff goes away. So it wasn't actually a problem, but it was a perceived problem."
The Houston Mill House's lunch business did drop off "just at bit" when the neighboring construction began but only because people thought the house was closed, and it soon went back to normal, according to Carolyn Childs, president of the house's board of directors.
"I have to sing Emory's praises," Childs said. "They were very accommodating to us-moving equipment and such. We're eagerly anticipating the Alumni House to be a great neighbor."
Anyone who hasn't visited Houston Mill House recently will notice a newly installed fountain in front of it. The fountain's centerpiece is one of the original millstones from the house. The stone was donated by Anne McKinley, great-granddaughter of Major Washington Jackson Houston, who built the mill in the 1870s.
It would be nice if the millstone fountain, the striking Alumni House and the absence of construction all combined to make life even better than normal at the Houston Mill House, but Trump said the house will soon undergo some work of its own. She said a renovation of the house's kitchen and some renovation to make it more handicapped-accessible will soon begin.
"We have not been [Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant] because
the house was built in 1922, prior to the regulations, and was grandfathered
in," Trump said. "But we really need to be. We have a lot of elderly
people who come here, and just being part of the Emory community, we need
to be accessible to everybody."