Owner of Southern Milling Company speaks out about fire

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News 12 @ 6 o'clock -- September 29, 2008

AUGUSTA,GA-- Edgar Matthews saw his mill today for the first time since it went up in flames on Friday night (September 26).

"I was just in shock, I don't know what to say or what was going through my mind. It's like unbelievable, something that's been here 150 years gone," he said.

Matthews says he was in New York when the fire first happened. He says he worked in the mill for years before he took over ownership in the early nineties and made the big investment.

"I've sold property and done other things to pay off the notes on this building and that type of thing," said Matthews.

But the millions of dollars Matthews says he invested in the property is only a small portion of what the burned wood inside was worth.

"Heart pine sells for anywhere from eight dollars to twenty-two dollars a square foot and there were several hundred thousand square feet in there," said Matthews.

Matthews says there was interest in the building from both the city and private investors.

"We were in negotiations at this time and what we were doing here now before this fire happened was we were doing a major clean up of the property and equipment in the building," said Matthews.

It's an investment Matthews says he put his whole life into and now he doesn't know what he'll do.

"There's a lot of money in it and now it's gone, it's gone, " said Matthews.

Matthews says he will try and see if any part of the historic building can be saved. Investigators say because of the hot spots, they haven't been able to get inside of the mill. Once they have the spots out for good, that's when they'll be able to start the investigation.

News 12 looked into that property at 7th and Twiggs Street and found the owner is behind in his taxes by more than $28,000.

This isn't the first time that building has burned. There was a fire there in February of 1996.

News 12 talked to Historic Augusta this weekend. They say the mill dates back to the 1850s, and it was on their endangered properties list.

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