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Did Kurt Vonnegut Drink at The Mill?

The Mill on Burlington Street, Iowa City, Iowa. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Someone posted a notice on social media that a demolition permit was issued to tear down the building where The Mill operated. They had been in business since 1962. I’ve forgotten more than I remember about The Mill. Time for demolition? So it goes, Kurt Vonnegut may have said. He wrote Slaughterhouse-Five after he moved to Iowa City in 1965.

Who knows if Vonnegut drank at The Mill during his two-year stay in the future UNESCO City of Literature? We do know he was fond of Donnelly’s. There were only so many bars within walking distance of his home at 800 North Van Buren. Given random associations between Vonnegut’s two years in Iowa City and a finite set of bars, it seems likely he did.

So it goes.

What I recall of The Mill is spending time with friends in graduate school. I listened to Joe Pratt, who dragged his new wife with him to Iowa from California for the American Studies Program. He played Stan Rogers songs on Open Mike nights at The Mill. Our writers for Blog for Iowa met up there for beverages and food. When I was more active in the Johnson County Democrats there were events at The Mill, or we’d just go to hang out after an event finished elsewhere downtown. It was a serviceable bar, which by the 2000s showed its age.

The Iowa City I knew upon arrival in 1970 is long gone. One more non-historical landmark demolished is no big deal. It would be best if the corporation razing the property built another high rise. More people of means could live near the city center. I don’t know what residents might do with their automobiles yet that never seems to be an issue. Downtown should be built up while there is interest among wealthy people and contractors to do so.

To me the death knell for downtown Iowa City was when Things, Things, Things closed. The department store came out of the turbulent 1960s and found commercial success into the 21st Century. It was administratively dissolved by the Iowa Secretary of State on Aug. 9, 2012 for failure to file a biennial report.

So it goes.

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