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No Use Crying

Bellevue milk bottle finds a new home at the Children’s Museum.

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There will be no spilled milk in the upcoming demolition of the former Midwest Dairy plant on South Bellevue.

That's because the South Memphis Alliance, which is redeveloping the site, will donate the enormous milk bottle that sits atop the dairy to the Children's Museum of Memphis (CMOM).

The abandoned dairy plant, which has gone through many ownership changes since it opened in 1930, will be demolished under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 3, a grant-funded program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The program aims to reverse disinvestment in communities most impacted by foreclosure. In addition to the South Memphis Soulsville neighborhood where the dairy plant is located, Frayser, Binghampton, Vance Avenue Choice Neighborhood, and Glenview/Orange Mound are also being targeted by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program for future demolition and community development.

Dick Hackett, CEO of CMOM, first noticed the giant milk bottle as a child when making trips to visit family in the Soulsville area. Standing over three stories tall and weighing more than five tons, the structure is one of 22 in existence in the United States and currently the largest milk bottle in the world. As plans to demolish the historic dairy plant circulated, Hackett's interest in the milk bottle grew.

"I've kept an eye on it over the past five years, knowing that at some point that building had to be renovated or removed," Hackett said.

"I got a call from the [South Memphis Alliance], and we jumped at the opportunity to have the world's largest milk bottle at our museum. To us, it represents a large part of the American dream. A lot of immigrants came to the United States and had the dairy industry as part of their livelihood. Turner Dairy also bought the plant at one point and is still located in Memphis, so that's another tie."

South Memphis Alliance's development manager, Shelley Thomas, said she is excited to work with Hackett and the museum.

"I love how CMOM incorporates things that are relevant to the area, and obviously milk is very important to the health of a child," Thomas said.

After the dairy plant is demolished, the South Memphis Alliance will build a children's center with programs aimed at helping foster children and local families. Fund-raising for the children's center has yet to begin.

While Hackett estimates that it will take a few weeks to renovate the milk bottle, plans for incorporating it into the museum are already under way. One plan includes building a barn-like outdoor classroom with the milk jug serving as a centerpiece as well as a functioning space for exhibits.

"There's a little bit of clean-up that needs to be done to the exterior, and then we will bring it to the site and set it up," Hackett said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to add concrete walls and have some sort of door or entrance from an outdoor classroom into the bottle. We're also hoping to have space for some kind of exhibit unique to the milk bottle."

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