Very soon, the once-popular Mill Race Inn restaurant complex in Geneva will be no more.
Demolition began this week, with workers separating the oldest part of the structure -- a 170-year-old building originally constructed as a small factory -- from the rest of it, by hand.
The owner, Shodeen Inc., is trying to save that part, at the city's request. The Historic Preservation Commission believes it could be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
On Friday or Monday, heavy equipment will show up to tear down the rest of the building, said Dave Patzelt, Shodeen's president.
"We're peeling back the onion," is how Patzelt described the process of separating the buildings at 4 E. State St. "We have to make sure it is disconnected and can stand independently."
Workers discovered that at some point there must have been a fire in that part, because they uncovered charred rafters and roof decking.
The rest of the complex was added throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Mill Race Inn opened as a tearoom in the oldest building in 1933.
In the city's Downtown/Station Area Master Plan, developed in 2012, the land is labeled as a prime redevelopment site. It suggests it would be a good place for a mixed-use development including stores, restaurants and a banquet hall.
Shodeen has a contract to buy the Geneva Cyclery building just to the north, but has not closed on the sale, Patzelt said.
The Mill Race Inn was extensively damaged when the Fox River overflowed its banks in August 2007. The lower level, which contained the Mill Grill and the Duck Inn, filled with water. That part never reopened.
The restaurant closed in January 2011, and a bank foreclosed on its mortgage.
The property had been valued by the Geneva Township assessor as high as $2.8 million in 2009, but that dropped to $1.15 million by 2013. Shodeen bought it in 2014 for $550,000, according to the assessor's records.
Materials containing asbestos were removed from the restaurant earlier this month, Patzelt said.
Shodeen has not submitted any building plans to the city, Patzelt said.
"Before we can plan, we need to know what, if any, historical structure do we have," he said. "Is it salvageable? Can it be incorporated?"