- Associated Press - Saturday, September 13, 2014

SABINA, Ill. (AP) - With nearly 94 years of life experience, Harold Oleson has seen a lot of change in and around his farm in Sabina, just a few miles east of LeRoy.

“I remember when we had two elevators, a feed store on the other side of the railroad tracks, and we had the stockyards here,” he said Tuesday afternoon while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Sabina Elevator. “We had a lot more houses, then, too. Now, it’s just corn.”

But still standing as the last non-residential building in Sabina, is one of the two elevators that served as a storage facility for grain and a meeting place for farmers over the last century. The Sabina Elevator opened August 19, 1914. Oleson was among 35 people celebrating with owner Dennis Mennenga.

“We’ve had a lot of parties here over the years,” Mennenga said. “It’s just been a great place to hold some small events and for years, the farmers met here and just talked.”

The 120-foot structure was built with southern white pen wood and held together with wooden pegs instead of nails. It holds about 50,000 bushels of grain.

“That is the way they built these things back then,” Mennenga said. “But it is still in good shape and still very sturdy.”

The facility still stores grain, although it is not open to the public anymore. But the family still uses it, especially Dennis’s son, Eric, who farms near LeRoy.

“It takes some maintenance on occasion, but it’s got a lot of charm, too,” Eric Mennenga said.

Dennis Mennenga purchased the elevator from Evergreen FS in Bloomington in 2003. The firm had decided to close the facility and one in Glen Avon because both were posting losses on an annual basis. Mennenga had managed the two facilities for more than 20 years at the time he purchased it.

“I think about selling it from time to time, but that would be hard to do,” he said. “It’s just a piece of history. Think about the things that were new back in 1914 when this was built. World War I had just started. And they opened Wrigley Field. When I look at this, I think about history.”

As does retired farmer Paul Heagy, who often met friends at the elevator to share stories over the years.

“A lot of us came here a couple of times each week because it was the place in town to visit and catch up on the news,” he said. “If the walls in that office could talk, there would be some great stories.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/1tByiH2

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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