Millersburg Military Institute saved by eBay

A listing on eBay might have saved the abandoned 115-year-old Millersburg Military Institute in Bourbon County.

Joseph Land, chief of staff of the private United States Army Cadet Corps, said Friday that corps officials first became aware of MMI when they saw it offered for sale on eBay about two months ago.

But after touring the 18-acre campus, corps officials were so impressed with the site's potential that they tore up some of their long range plans in order to buy it, Land said. Now, he said, the corps plans to move its national headquarters from Pennsylvania to Kentucky and make Millersburg the new home for its national, military-style training programs for boys and girls ages 12-18.

The purchase price was not released. MMI has been closed since 2006.

"Sixty days ago we didn't know where Millersburg, Ky., was, but we think it's going to be a perfect fit," Land said.

Millersburg Mayor Sam Chanslor said Friday that the town's roughly 830 residents are "elated" that the institute not only will be preserved, but will continue its long history as a military boarding school.

"We've been hoping to get somebody in there because we didn't need to have that property standing vacant," Chanslor said. "It's just a great coincidence that it's a military based organization and the school itself was founded as a military school."

MMI was founded in 1893 and once enjoyed wide popularity. But it fell on hard times as its mixture of academics and military-like discipline gradually fell out of favor with many modern-day youngsters. It struggled for several years under the name Millersburg Military Academy, then briefly changed its name to Forest Hill Prep Academy in hopes of gaining a broader appeal.

After debts finally forced the facility to close two years ago, it became the property of the Deposit Bank of Carlisle.

Greg Wills, the bank's executive vice president, said the bank started advertising MMI as a "former boarding school" on eBay about six months ago.

"During the first three or four months, not a day went by that I didn't get at least one e-mail or phone call about it," Wills said. "I can't tell you how many times we showed it."

But Wills said representatives from the United States Army Cadet Corps were enthusiastic from the first moment they saw the property.

"I think they came and looked at it about six times with different groups of people," he said. "They said it was pretty much perfect for them. The community seems really pleased, so I think it's working out well for everybody."

The United States Army Cadet Corps traces its origins back to 1909. It is the oldest and longest-serving cadet organization in the United States, according to its Web site. Though a private organization, it maintains close ties with the U.S. Army.

According to Land, the corps has about 1,200 cadets enrolled in various parts of the country. It doesn't have a unit in Kentucky but plans to launch one soon, he said.

Cadets live and go to regular schools in their hometowns, but train as military cadets one weekend a month, usually at National Guard armories or at a military base, if one is nearby. Each summer, they receive two weeks of military-style training. This is the part of the program that will be moving to the Millersburg school.

According to Land, the corps bought a former high school in Dayton, Pa., more than a year ago, planning to make it the national headquarters. But officials dropped that plan once they saw the Millersburg institute, he said.

"After looking at MMI, we found that it was a much more suitable location," he said. "We fell in love with the history of the facility and just decided that we needed to move in this direction.

"It certainly wasn't in our original plan, but this was an opportunity to make MMI our headquarters, and maintain its long history and heritage."

The fact that Fort Knox is near also made Millersburg attractive as a center for the corps' national training program, he said.

Land said some of the buildings on the Millersburg campus have been damaged by vandals and will need repair and renovation. The goal is have things ready for the cadet corps to celebrate its 100th anniversary at Millersburg in April 2009.

"There's quite a bit to be done," Land said. "But we're going to get after it."

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