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The Preservation of Historic Mills, Preservation in Brief

Johnson's Mill on the Appomattox near Campbell's Bridge, Petersburg, Virginia, vicinity.
Timothy H. O'Sullivan, 1840-1882, photographer, Library of Congress.

The Preservation of Historic Mills, Preservation in Brief
by Theodore R. Hazen

1. Historical Background
2. Traditional Mill Construction
3. Historic Mill Types
4. Historical Evaluation and Damage Assessment
5. Preservation of Historic Mills
7. Preserving Mill Buildings in Their Historic Settings
8. The Public: A Special Concern
9. Summary
10. Examples of Restoration Planning
11. Examples of Work Schedule for Major Work Projects
12. Selected Reading

Historical Background

Thomas Jefferson envisioned the new republic as a nation which would be covered with grist and flour mills. From very early on in our history, mills became a vital image in the American consciousness. Mills even before the improvements of Oliver Evans were the first industrial process people came into contact with that was powered by wind, water or tidal power. Mills evoke a sense of tradition and security, a closeness to the land, and the power of nature. They also represent a sense of stability and freedom, because only in America the average person could build their own mill. They served the community with the people who built them.

Eric Sloane in some of his writings tried to maintain the myth that the first mills built in America was constructed after the Pilgrims came on the Mayflower. Mr. Sloane also claimed that it was the New England scientists who developed the overshot water wheel. The overshot water wheel had been in limited use in Europe before the coming of the New World but really did not come into popular usage until after the American Civil War. After the Civil War they became like the twentieth century idea of buying a motorcycle, if you are going to buy a bike you have to buy a chopper. If you are going to build a mill, you are going to have to install an overshot water wheel. Having an overshot water wheel became the ideal. There are some people who maintain the ideal that if you are going to have a mill, it should have both modern water turbine and an overshot water wheel. The only rationale that I have ever been able to figure out is that the turbine is for modern efficiency, and the overshot is used for nostalgic beauty. I have known people who have spent years searching to purchase this ideal mill. It is a "mind set" that some people have and they cannot explain the reasons why they old hold this belief as an ideal without knowing why. If you are going to read the books of anyone for academic study and research then read the books of Marion Nicholl Rawson (1878-1956) and Harry Bischoff Weiss (1883-1972).

The French built a water powered mill in Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, in 1599. The Spanish also built mills in the New world that were wind and water powered. The first English mill built in the New World was constructed at Flowerdew Hundred Plantation in 1621. The first French millstones were imported to America for this English constructed windmill.

Historic mills are threatened by many factors. The first threat comes from themselves with new more modern technology. The popularity of modern Minneapolis style white flour has closed down many an old mill. The smaller rural mill could not compete with the modern mills production, and the distribution of products. Over the years the wheat growing and milling centers have shifted because of new wheats being grown in the Midwest. The old mills were seen as slow, obsolete and not able to compete with their larger cousins. The introduction of modern health standards, and the annual per capital consumption of flour has declined since World War Two. In today's modern world bread is no longer classified as a staple of life. Flour is in more products today than ever before, but at one time bread main course in any meal. When people went hunting they did not always return with something, and at times of the year fresh fruits and vegetables were not always available. The one thing that you could count on for your meal was grains, and mills became very important part of your life.

Mills are often seen only as obsolete and in decay, as land is removed from active agricultural use, mills were no longer needed. Unlike barns which is often dismantled for lumber, their beams and barn siding sold for reuse in living rooms. Mills mainly have their machinery removed for other mills operation and construction, even before the days of mill restoration this was the norm. For many years the internal machinery of mills was removed, rehabilitated and shipped off to third world countries for mills there. In todays world, these once countries, considered part of the third world have the money to purchase only the most modern technologically advanced milling machinery, and no longer want our used junk. Mills suffered during world wars for scrap metal drives with their roller mills, metal shafting and gears removed for the war effort. Today these metal parts are no longer worth the price of scrap metal. A Mill once the machinery is removed, they remain for the most part, to return to nature rather than their wood and timber being used in other buildings. For one reason their structure often suffers from the decay from being close to the water. A second reason is that they are much more inhabited with insects and rodents than barn structures. Then finally, wood fabric of mills is often much more chopped up with holes and openings for the machinery. Mills also suffer from the declining rural populations with modern development, and the loss of their water shed and hydraulic systems. Barns suffer mainly from snow collapsing the roofs while mills suffer from the damages of flood waters. Many mills have had a series of a half a dozen dams over their years of operation, but all it takes is one devastating flood at the wrong economic time to end it all.

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Barnitz Mill, circa 1880, Mount Holly Springs, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

Traditional Mill Construction

Traditional mill construction at least in early America into the 1700's was perhaps mainly like the mills found in Europe. Many early small mills were constructed out of logs much like the other structures the first settlers build. These mills were small and often very temporary. They often were replaced by larger mills with more elaborate machinery. A common log mill construction was that of the tub mill. Tub mills could only grind at a very slow rate and only could supply the needs of an isolate population. When more settlers moved into an area a standard or regular water mill had to be constructed that could only supply the needs of a growing population.

Traditional materials used in mill construction depended upon the area in which the mill was constructed. There are many regions of the country were the typical mill is constructed out of some type of local quarried stone. Spread out across the country are a number of mills constructed out of brick. Other parts of the country timber framed mills were common, and then later balloon framing was sometimes found in later mill construction. There are some regions of the country around the Great Lakes because of the heavy winter snows and generally wet climate at other times of the year wooden structures do not survive. Were I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, this was the case and the common stone in the area is shale. So stone buildings are very uncommon in my part of the state while in other parts of Pennsylvania, a stone building especially mills are the norm.

There is a reconstructed paper mill in New York State, the Gomez Mill, Marlboro, Orange County, New York, which is made out of waddle and mud construction with a thatch roof. The traditional mill construction was often dictated by where the settlers lived. The first mills in many areas were often wind mills and tidal powered mills. After all, the settlers were living along the coastal areas. Windmills were often easier to construct because you only had to construct the mill building, and because you did not have to construct a mill dam and water system like that of a tidal mill or a mill along a stream. The early wind and water mills along the tide water areas were more practical and easier to move from place to place by water. Farmers took their grain to the mill by boat because there was not a developed inland road system. The grain came to the wind and the tidal mills and went back home by the same means small boats. Because wind and tidal mills are built along coastal areas they suffer from season storms and hurricanes.

As the settlers were able to push back into the interior then mills along streams become popular. Many early stream powered mills were small Norse or Greek Mills. The early settlers placed the horizontal wheel into an open tub or barrel, that was open on the top and the bottom. Horizontal water wheels of this type are terribly inefficient and wasteful of the water. So in an effort to make them more efficient they were placed in open tubs and became known as tub wheels or tub mills. In the early 1840's the French picked up upon this this American improvement and developed the modern water turbine. A tub mill could be constructed using a small log building often no larger than 10 by 10 feet square, with several logs across a small stream to create a dam, carrying water to the wheel in hollowed out logs for a sluice box. You need a pair of millstones but for the most part everything was constructed out of wood or logs. So when this type of milling operation was no longer needed they would remove the pair of millstones and in time no evidence would remain that a mill ever existed upon these sites.

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Historic Mill Types

Wind mills:
Windmills were found along coastal and tide water areas of America. There were large concentrations of windmills on Cape Cod, Long Island, and the tidewater areas of Maryland and Virginia. The Dutch had windmills in New Amsterdam, and in other selected areas of the country. Wind powered mills go back three thousand years and were invented by the Persians. The Crusaders brought the idea of the windmill to Europe. Windmills were constructed in American in the same types as those found in England and Europe, being the post mill, tower mill and the smock mill. Windmills in America installed the milling improvements of the late 1700's and early 1800's. Then at the time when they became more technologically advanced they grew out of fashion.

Tidal Mills: There were some 200 tidal powered mills located from Newfoundland to Georgia. Of this number some 28 tidal powered mills were around the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay has a tidal range of any where from six inches to two and one half feet. By English standards this would not be enough to construct and operate a tidal powered mill, but there were tidal mills that were specially designed to operate on low heads. These mills were quite successful in their operation. Actually tidal powered mills are better than stream or water powered mills. They operate with saline water so they don't have the freezing problems with ice in the winter that a stream powered mill has. They are not located along streams so they don't have flooding events or low water periods where they have problems operating. They are operated by the tides and you can make a tide chart, and then tell someone that they can come back on a certain day and time, and the mill should be operating. You cannot predict from day to day when a wind or water mill could be operated. The only thing that prevents tide mills from operating is a strong enough wind blowing out to sea long enough will prevent the tide from coming back which rarely happens. The problems with tide mills is, that tide time changes and you may be operating at four in the morning because that is when the tides is working for you. There still are a number of tidal powered mills operating in Portugal making commercial flour. I have seen photographs of one mill that has eight pairs of millstones powered by eight water wheels. Portugal is a member of the European Common Market, and most of their flour is still made by using water power.

Plantation or Estate Mills: This type of mill usually is a mixture of both a custom mill and a merchant mill. They are operated as a custom or feudal milling operation for those living on or working on the plantation or estate. These mills collect a toll for the grinding of grain for those living on the plantation and like the feudal system the owner receives a portion of that income. They also operate a merchant trade flour milling business and the barrels may be produced by individuals living on the estate or plantation. If they use cloth flour sacks they are woven also by people living on the estate or plantation. These mills also usually does a merchant milling operation for the export of white wheat flour. These mills grind grain grown on the estate or plantations and from others neighboring estates that may not have a milling facility. Since they are operated on the old feudal system of milling the mill owner is not the builder and he employs a miller or millers to operate the mill. Housing, livestock and a food allowance is often provided. The mills usually have two pairs of millstones. A domestic pair of millstones for grinding grain for those individuals living and working on the estate or plantation. Another pair of millstones is usually a French millstones used for grinding wheat and producing white flour, and only flour making machinery. These mills were often build in the tidewater areas or close to transportation. In size and character they more closely resemble feudal mills of Europe but may be larger buildings depending how important the exporting of flour is to the owner occupation.

Custom Mills: The man who builds the mill usually operates the mill and makes repairs to it himself. The mill owner's house is also the miller's house. The miller does not have a costume or clothing separate from his normal clothing. The clothes he wears to work the farm or his other trade is also the same that he wears working in the mill without changing them in between. The mill operates seasonally usually only at harvest time. The miller-mill owner has another trade or several of them that he practices other times of the year. The miller also usually dresses his own millstones. Usually the miller's apprentices or helpers are his children. What the miller knows about his trade he learned form others and has little time to read about his trade from books or trade journals. The miller may or may not keep a record of his business operation and customers. Often the miller uses the fabric of the mill to record his tally or customers. A custom mill usually has only one or two pair of millstones, usually never more than two. The mill if they have two pairs of millstones has one for corn and one for wheat. Usually these millstones are domestic and not imported French millstones. The mill usually does not have complicated machinery. Often it does not have the machinery to clean before it is ground or sift the grain after it is ground. The corn and wheat leave the mill most of the time unbolted. The farmer brings the grain to the mill in a sack and once it is ground the miller places it back into other same sack. The mill is operated on a barter system of the miller collecting a toll for payment of grinding grain. The mill does batch grinding for farmers and local individuals on a first come, first serve basis. The mill does not clean up in between each batch of grinding grain. Sometimes the mill only grinds corn, but may also grind animal feeds. In lowlands and tidal areas they produce grits and in the mountain area they produce buckwheat or pancake flour. The Piedmont they may produce both, or one or the other. Often it only cleans and dresses the millstones when it is seasonally closed.The mill grains grain relatively slowly and has a small output. Custom mills are usually small and are not permanent buildings made out of stone or brick. The miller may have a horse and wagon but depends upon his customers for transportation of the raw grain and final product. The mills are build in rural and isolated areas.

Merchant Mills: The man who builds the mill for the owner is a millwright. The owner is not usually the same person who constructed mill. The mill owner employs millers to operate the mill and at times housing is provided for in a "miller's house." The mill operates years round, it is larger and has more complicated machinery. The mill has a complicated system of storing grain, cleaning it and sifting it once if is ground. The mill usually has three or more pairs of millstones. The mill has a hires or employees millstone dressers who job it is dress millstones. Usually every week one of the pairs of millstones need to be dressed, so usually once a month every pair of millstones is dressed. If the mill has apprentices or helpers they often live with the miller in the miller's house as if they were his own children. The mill employs specialized labor force, millers, millwrights, millstone dressers, cleaners and oilers, warehouse and packers. The miller wears a costume (which is often white) and clothing separate than his street clothes. Usually in the late 19th century the miller would go to school to learn his trade and read milling books and trade journals, rather than solely learning his trade though apprenticeship. The mill keeps complete records of grain purchased, grains ground, products made, waste and lost, and other business records. Some times in larger merchant mills the miller's office is in a separate building and employs secretaries and office personal. The mill uses imported French millstones for the production of white flour. The mill only grinds white flour for profit and export. The mill operates on a system of profit or loss. The mill buys grain from farmers and grain dealers. The mill packages its products in commercially manufactured barrels and sacks often with its own logo or brand name on it. The mill operates on or close to a 24 hour a day, 6 day a week basis. The mill has a large daily output and is measured in how many barrels or sacks it can produce in a 24 hour period. The mill building are larger often built of stone or brick often with separate additional grain storage units. The mill often has separate warehouse and granary buildings. The mill has its own system of transportation (wagons, dock, canal, trucks, or rail siding) for bringing raw grain to the mill and delivery of the final product to the market. The mills are build close to the grain supply areas and export markets.

Combination Mill: This type of mill usually is a mixture of both a custom mill and a merchant mill. This type of mill often began its operation as a traditional custom mill, but for various reason has taken on also the merchant milling operation. One reason is that it may be trying to compete with the modern white flour industry in Minneapolis. Another reason is that is may be just outside of large centers of urban population, and merchant milling offers a regular source of income for the mill owner and the miller. This type of mill often may have a domestic pair of millstones and a pair of French Millstones, or it may have added the modern system of roller milling to the mill so it can manufacture Minneapolis style white flour. Often the mill owner will employ a miller of the operation of the mill may be a sole function of one of the mill owners children while other children operate other parts of the owners business ventures.

Mills in America passed through at least four major eras of technology:

1. The traditional pre-settlement European technology ("Low Milling," "Flat Milling," or "American Milling" technology).
2. The Oliver Evans "Automated Milling System" of 1782-3.
3. The "New Process Milling System" of the 1850's and 1860's ("Half-High Milling" technology) which involves regrinding middlings on smaller diameter millstones.
4. The Roller Mill system of the 1870's ("High Grinding," or "Gradual Reduction" technology), which incorporated the New Process milling system and the use of the "Roller Process." This process of "Wheat Saw Milling" was developed by Hungarian engineers in the mid-century.
Feed Mills: Basically a feed mill operations is a relative new type of mill. Mills traditionally tossed their waste or offals into the mill stream. Millers knew if they gave their horses too much wheat bran in their diet they would develop rickets. The term red dog (which ship's biscuit was made out of) came from a New England miller who made a deal with a local Indian leader, by the name of Red Dog, that the tribe would be willing to take all of the coarsely ground waste that the mill could freely supply them with.Converting a flour or meal mill into a feed mill operation was in many cases a means by which the mill could continue to operate into the modern era because of changes in the milling industry that gradually made small mills obsolete. This was caused by a the decline rural populations making once active agricultural land use to go into a state of decay. Often much of the original flour making machinery may remain within the mill, they added feed mixers, feed milling machinery such as hammer mills, and attrition mills, and molasses tanks are installed to fix the final feed products.

Restored Mills: The idea of restoration of old mills did not become popular until the 1930's with the restoration of Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C., and Hamer's Mill, located in Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana. Hamer's Mill was the first restored mill open to the public in the 1930's, just before Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park. For many years the only active company to do mill restoration was the Fitz Water Wheel Company, Hanover, Pennsylvania. In their modern mill work and installation, they would remove mill machinery from different historical periods and store them in a building at their Hanover plant. They had always constructed wooden water wheels and traditional mill machinery besides their modern steel water wheels and other product lines. The Fitz Water Wheel Company employed skilled millwrights, engineers and mill consultants to work on various mill restorations across the country. From the 1930 until the company closed in the mid 1960's they were the only active company to do historical mill restoration in America. Many of their original restorations have now seen second and third generation restorations.

The first book written about mill restoration is, "John Goffe's Mill." this is a book about a man who inherited a derelict grist mill and meticulously restored it. John Goffe's Mill written by George Woodbury, and is the story of this young man, and the restoration of his family's old stone grinding flour mill.

In 1744 John "Hunter" Goffe built the original water powered saw and grist mill with his son, Colonel John Goffe and his grandson, Major John Goffe. The mill was owned and operated for more than two centuries by his descendants. In 1845, when Theodore "Ody" Goffe (great grandson of John Goffe) owned the mill, it burned to the ground. He rebuilt it the following year installing new and improved mechanical devices, the most notable being an iron turbine that replaced the wooden wheel. A unusually heavy flood in the spring of 1909 caused the old mill dam to collapse. The mill was then abandoned and the buildings on the land were leased for farming.

Twenty years later Dr. George Woodbury, one of the descendants of John Goffe, returned to his ancestral home in Bedford, New Hampshire. The site consisted of a wooded lot, a vacated house and the crumbling ruins of the old mill on Bowman's Brook. Dr. Woodbury then went about to carefully restored the mill. He operated it throughout the 1940's and 1950's turning out stone ground flour and pine wood furniture, specializing in a milking stool which became a popular as a television viewing seat. Dr. Woodbury later wrote two books about the Goffe Family and the mill.

Heritage Mills: These are mills that have continuous historical operation into the modern era. These are commercial mills that have not undergone the so-called historical restoration. They have seen in many cases changes and additions to the structure, and have continued to operate. There are a number of these mills around the country that are grinding organically grown stone ground flours and meals. Some of them are making a six figure profit annually. Many of these mills are water powered either water wheel or water turbine, in an historic building with old machinery, and have added newer machinery to increase commercial production. Some of these mills popularity is that in the local customer base for their unique products within the community.

New Mills: New mills would include commemorative mills, mills constructed to represent mills of an historic time period, or common folk ideal. They also include mills that are build to grind grains in tourist areas, in amusement and historical theme parks, mills that are constructed to grind organically grown stone grown flour and meals. The latter mills are often located in modern warehouse buildings. One of the problems with modern mills (and this would include these grinding organically grown stone flour and meals) is that in reality behind the scenes they use a hammer mill instead of using actual millstones to grind the grains. A hammer mill is a piece of feed milling equipment and with fine enough screens they can grind products to the texture of millstones but in much larger quantities. This method was started by the larger merchant mills that would retain several pairs of their old millstones to produce mainly stone ground corn meal. They would separate the millstones so far apart that they were simply passing grain between the millstones with no grinding effect upon the stones. Then they would actually do the grinding with the modern roller system. But because the grain passed through the millstones in part of the milling process (even tough it was not actually ground by the millstones) they could legally label it as stone ground. Many people would purchase a product because it is labeled as "stone ground." This is the same with other products such as whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is not "whole," and by law the bran has to be separated out. It is labeled as being "whole," because in the milling process they began by using "whole wheat." The bread industry is another culprit in the mislabeling of products.

Abandoned Mills: I have included this category because there has always been abandoned mills, and they are not just a relic that have survived into the modern era. Many of them are awaiting mill restoration, historical relics, and mills that have been restored for other purpose. So an abandoned mill can be one that has been restored for multiple usage or converted to other use. The common terms that is used to describe these shells of their former selves is "preserved," and "preservation," rather than "restored," and "restoration." Not all mills can or should be restored but this does not mean that they all should be converted to a non-historical use. I think that as many mills should be restored back as they originally were constructed to grind grains for human use.

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Historical Evaluation and Damage Assessment

Historical evaluation and damage assessment is important to the historical record, and to document the structure. Historical evaluation would include a physical description, describing the present and original (if known) physical appearance of the mill. The historical significance which would include the historical time periods of construction and alteration. How it was important in the larger scheme of things, such as historical events and historical persons, agriculture, commerce, and architectural, etc. Finally the historical evaluation would include such information like, this is the last example found in this county, state, region, country or the world, and if this is an unique and rare example (one of a kind). The mill may not be the first to have been constructed in an area, but the last remaining mill gives it its own historical significance. The damage assessment of old mills can be separated into different categories as follows:

1. The hydraulic system which includes the mill dam, mill race, sluice box and tail race. Wooden water wheels decay, metal water wheels rust and also decay. Mill dams are breached by nature, abutment walls collapse, and mill races gradually become filled in time, and sluice boxes collapse. Just getting the water to turn the wheel is the most expensive item in any new mill construction (today and yesterday), more so than the building with its milling machinery.

2. The mill building, that would include walls, windows and doors, foundations, interior flooring, and the roof.

3. The milling machinery including the water wheel (if it is located with side of the mill).

4. The other mill buildings and separate milling operations located in other buildings other than the main mill. This can be separate grain cleaning operations, feed mill buildings.

5. The additional supportive buildings, this would include the miller's house, storage buildings, grain silos, barns, and other buildings such as blacksmith shops, saw mill etc.

6. The damage by the changing of ownership. When a mill changes hands, there is a greater increase in the lost or destruction of the historical record of a mill. Important historical documents contain within a mill are often cleaned out and lost for ever these would include: Miller's logs, log books, diaries, operation records, catalogs, milling books and journals, sales and operation records and even things like an historical miller's desk.

7. The damage caused by abandonment which would include vandalism by local children, and items stolen by so-called mill buffs and family members. Then there are the effects of time and weather upon the mill structure because of lack of maintenance. Kids knock out all of the windows, and doors, water gets in and decay begins to happen. Sometimes the insects and rodents run out of residue of grain and flour products and go into eating the fabric of the structure. Abandoned mills are often flooded as they were in operation but since they are no longer used they go uncleaned after each event. Loose items are often carried away in floods and are lost forever.

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Preservation of Historic Mills

Step One:
Understanding Mills and Their History

Historic mills are preserved for a number of reasons. Some are so well built that they remain useful even after a hundred years or more. Many others are intimately connected with the families who built them and the surrounding communities. Others reflect developments in milling science or regional centers for wheat growing and flour milling.

Before restoring a historic mill or rehabilitating it for a new use, an owner should study the building thoroughly. This process involves finding out when the mill was built, who built it, and why. "Why" is it so important? To learn what the mill was constructed for and to produce what products. One example is that many mills in the buckwheat growing regions of the United States were only ever built and constructed to grind buckwheat.

It also means to develop an understanding how the building was changed through the years. It means assessing the condition of the mill, and understanding its components. This process has as its end in appreciation of the building's historic character, that is, the sense of time and place associated with it. It is this physical presence of the past that gives historic buildings their significance.

To assess the historic character of a mill, an owner should study old photographs, family records, deeds, maps, insurance papers, and other documents that might reveal the building's appearance and history. Neighbors and former owners are often important sources of information. Local libraries, historical societies and preservation organizations are additional sources of help. However, some of these sources often have limited information about mills and their operation.

Step Two: Making an Overall Evaluation

As part of this overall evaluation, the following elements should be assessed for their contributions to the property. They are the principal tangible aspects of a mill's historic character, and should be respected in any work done on it:

Setting. Setting is one of the primary factors contributing to the historic character of a mill. Millers and millwrights built mills in order to help them supply food for the families in the area. Mills belong to the community where they can be seen in relation to the surrounding water system, and other structures that may be in the mill complex. A mill being crowded by suburbs is not a mill in the same sense as is a mill clustered with other related buildings, or standing alone against a backdrop of the mill dam and stream. Hence, the preservation of mills should not be divorced from the preservation of their setting: mills and mill dam, mill races, sluice box, mill ponds, the miller's house, the mill streams and country roads.

Other important elements of setting include head gates, stone walls, roads, paths, overflows, trash racks, and ancillary structures such as the miller's house or other trade buildings (saw mill, blacksmith shop, distillery, store, etc.) and silos or granaries. (Granaries, storage elevators and silos, indeed, have become so closely associated with mills as nearly to have lost their "separate" identities.) These features help place the building in the larger agricultural context, relating it to its purpose in the overall rural setting.

Form. The shape of mill, as with other buildings, is of great importance in conveying their character. (the size and, the shape is the defining feature of the milling type such as custom or merchant mill) Often the form of a mill is visible from a distance. Often, too, more than one side can be seen at the same time, and from several different approaches. The rear and sides of a mill are differentiated from the front, and the rear. The front has the doors and loading dock area connected to the road, while the rear has either the external or internal water wheel.

The roof is among the most important elements of building form. Mills are no exception. Having a good roof keeps the rot and decay out of a building especially when it is awaiting restoration. The gable roof of the "typical" or most common mill roof are among the most prominent features on these buildings with its classical hooded sack hoist extension. A mill can also have a series of dormers to let in light an allow warm air to escape the building. A mill roof can often be seen from a distance, and for this reason must be considered a major feature. With many roller mills they would place the name of the mill in different colored slate roof patterns on one side of the room from the common approach.

Materials. Among the major impressions given by well maintained historic mill are those of the passage of time, strength, solidity and permanence. These impressions largely result from the durability and ruggedness of the materials used in them. Weathered wood siding, irregularly shaped stones, or roughhewn logs on the exterior; dressed beams, posts compacted by years of use, scalloped step treads, and plank flooring polished smooth on the interior all contribute to the special character of mills.

Openings. Unlike historic industrial and commercial buildings, mills generally can have a great number of openings for windows and doors. Yet the openings found in mills are important both to their functioning and to their appearance. Typically, large Dutch doors and openings to the attic are among the most striking features on mills. Mills can have sliding doors that side open on the inside or outside of the building. Not as prominent as these large openings, but important from a functional perspective, are the exhaust ducts found on many mills. The one reason for the overall impression of massiveness and solidity conveyed by many historic mills, and that they stand upon several basement levels above the mill stream.

Interior Spaces. The impression received upon stepping into many historic mills is that of a crowed space. Not infrequently, each floor level of the building appears as a single large space. To enter these buildings the first thing many experience the sense of smell. A flour or feed mill smells much different than other farm buildings. Even when wheel and gear pit areas "consume" part of the building, they often do not keep the full expanse of the interior from being seen. Mills have areas that are poorly lighted, very dark, and are often very damp.

In large mills, this can be an imposing sight. More commonly, the mill is a combination of confined spaces on the lower floor separating the gear pit from the rest of the basement. The main floor has the grinding machinery, the miller's office, and at times a flour room and other storage areas in additions. There may not be a sense of large open space above on the upper floors because they are full of bins, machinery and chutes. A common mistake in mill restoration is the removal of too much machinery for the movement of groups and tours through the building, but in the process the character of what makes a mill is lost.

Structural Framework. The exposed structural framework is a major component of the character of most historic mills. Typically, mills were built for strictly utilitarian purposes. Accordingly, mill builders or millwrights made no effort to conceal the structural system. Yet for that very reason, mills achieve an authenticity that accounts for much of their appeal.

In some mills, the load-bearing members are of enormous dimensions, and the complex system of beams, braces, posts, rafters and other elements of the revealed framework create an imposing sight. In the mortise joints with their pins are very evident along with the independent foundation of the millstone support timber frame work. Yet even in small mills, the structural system can be an important feature, helping to determine the historic character of the building. In mills of stone or brick construction the floor joist and main support bears are what is termed, "burnout beams." This means that they are not fitted fully into the square wall pocket or socket in case of fire. They have tapered ends or are cut on a diagonal so in the event of a fire they will drop out of wall without damaging the wall so the building can be rebuilt.

Decorative Features. Historic mills, like modern ones, are structures built for use and as a rule have very few architectural embellishments. Nevertheless, decorative elements are not lacking on mills. Foremost among these is color (red or white being most common) for painting the siding and another color for the windows and trim. Grist mills traditionally sported distinctively shaped with their hooded sack hoist and underneath on each level is a Dutch door on the front of the building. On many stone and brick mill buildings are the standard metal curved crafted "S" or star shaped bracket that supports an interior rod support system. The Eling Tide Mill in Totten, England, these "S" braces are detailed to resemble eels.

In addition to these elements, extended sack hoods, patterned slate roofs of many roller mills, fanciful cupolas, weather vanes, lightning rods can be found on historic mills. Finally, individual millers and mill builders sometimes added personal touches, as when they carved or painted their names on anchor beams, or painted their names and the date over the entrance. Many mills often have a use a wall or door surface for posters, to hold blackboards, and signs.

The elements discussed here are major components of historic mills. Yet no list can convey the full historic character of an individual building because no two mills were ever built alike. It is very important, therefore, to study each structure carefully before undertaking any project to restore it or to adapt it to new uses.

Maintenance. If a building is to be kept in good repair, periodic maintenance is essential. Mills are like houses, when they feel unloved and unwanted they often go downhill very quickly. Mills should be routinely inspected for signs of damage and decay, and problems corrected as soon as possible. Water is the single greatest cause of building materials deterioration. The problem that water creates was a normal part of the daily operation of a water powered industry. The repair of roof leaks is therefore of foremost importance. Broken or missing panes of glass in windows or cupolas are also sources of moisture penetration, vandalism by throwing burning objects into the building, and should be replaced, as should broken ventilation louvers. Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned once or twice a year if they are found on the mill. Proper drainage and grading should be ensured, particularly in low spots around the foundation where water can collect and freeze.

Moisture is one major threat to historic buildings. Insects, especially termites, carpenter ants and powder post beetles, are another grain related insects. Regular examinations for infestations are essential. If a mill stops operation it is essential that all remnants of the grain, and corn cobs be removed. Chemical bleaching agents once used to make bleached flour and insecticide poisons should be dispensed of as toxic waste.

Additional periodic maintenance measures include repair or replacement of loose or missing clapboards, and inspections of foundations for cracks and settlements. Because of the vibration of the machinery often the foundations contain large cracks. Vegetation growing on the mill should be removed, and shrubs or trees near it should be cleared if they obstruct access, or, more serious, if roots and other growths threaten the foundation. They also increase the possibility of insect and rodent infestations. Soil and corncob buildups against the foundation should be removed. Such buildups hold water and snow against wooden elements, and promote rot. They also promote insect infestations. Door hardware should be checked for proper fitting and lubricated yearly. Lightning rods should be kept in proper working order, or added, if missing.

Repair. Many historic mills require more serious repairs than those normally classed as "routine maintenance". Damaged or deteriorated features should be repaired rather than replaced wherever possible. If replacement is necessary, the new material should match the historic material in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, material. The design of replacements for missing features (for example, cupolas and dormers) should be based on historic, physical, or pictorial evidence.

Many mill owners today have have no experience in the care or operation of these milling structures. Where expertise is lacking, it will be necessary to consult structural engineers, millwrights, milling consultants, millers, stone masons, carpenters, and architects, as may be necessary.

Structural Repairs. Ensuring the structural soundness of a historic mill is vital both to its continued usefulness and to the safety of its occupants. The following signs of structural settlements may require the services of a structural engineer to evaluate: major cracks in masonry walls, visible bowing, leaning and misalignment of walls, sagging windows and doors, separation of the members in structural frames, trusses pulling away from seating points at support walls, sagging joists and rafters, and noticeable dips in the roof between rafters.

To correct these problems, masonry foundations may have to be reset or partially rebuilt. Sills and plates may need to be repaired or replaced. Walls may have to be straightened and tied into the structural system more securely. Individual structural members may need bracing or splicing.

Roofing. Moisture can damage historic materials severely, and, in extreme cases, jeopardize the structural integrity of a building. Every effort must be made to secure a weather tight roof. This may require merely patching a few missing shingles on a roof that is otherwise sound. In more severe cases, it may require repairing or replacing failing rafters and damaged sheathing. Such extreme intervention, however, is not usual. More typical is the need to furnish "a new roof," that is, to replace the wooden shingles, asphalt shingles, slate shingles or metal covering the roof. Replacing one type of roofing with another can produce a drastic change in the appearance of historic buildings. Great care should be taken, therefore, to assess the contribution of the roof to the appearance and character of the mill before replacing one type of roofing material with another. While some substitute materials (such as synthetic slate shingles) can be considered, the highest priority should be to replace in-kind, and to match the visual qualities of the historic roof. Gutters and downspouts should be replaced if damaged or missing. Finally, dormers, cupolas, metal ventilators and other rooftop "ornaments" provide needed ventilation, and should be repaired if necessary.

Exterior. In addition to the roof and the foundation, other exterior elements may need repair, including siding, brick and stonework, dormers and cupolas, windows and doors. Security window coverings may be falling off, doors may need to be rehung, and missing glass and hardware replaced. The exterior may need repainting. (unpainted brick or stone mills, however, should never be painted.) In the case of masonry mills, repointing may be necessary. If so, mortar that is compatible in appearance and composition with the historic mortar must be used. Using mortar high in portland cement can damage historic brick or stone. Masonry cleaning should be undertaken only when necessary to halt deterioration or to remove heavy dirt, and using the gentlest means possible. Sandblasting and other physical or chemical treatments that damage historic materials should not be used. Likewise, power washing under high pressure can also damage building material. There should be no plants or vegetation within three feet of the structure to prevent rodent and insect infestation.

Interior. Typical interior repairs may include removing and replacing rotten floorboards, and repair or replacement of partitions, storage bins, stairs and hand railings. Concrete floors may be cracked and in need of repair. Wiring and plumbing may need major overhaul to update it to code or modern standards. The fireplace or chimney should also be inspected for leakage and absence or damage to the liner.

Interior levels, Floor by Floor. This would include a list or inventory of what machinery is found on each floor or level in the mill. Besides an inventory list a floor plan of each floor should be made.

The mill's basement is often the same level in which the water wheel is located, either in the basement itself, attached to the outside, or in a building attached to the outside of the mill. The basement is the power transfer floor or level which powers the grinding machinery on the floor above, and contains the bottoms of the elevators that run through all levels in the mill. The first floor is usually the grinding level containing the primary machinery of the mill which is the grinding machinery. It may be millstone and or roller mills. This is the level in which the grain comes in, it gets ground, and the final product is packaged and it leaves the mill. The upper levels contain the secondary machinery of the mill. The second floor often contains storage bins for grain, and flour bolting machinery. The attic contains the tops of the elevators and the grain cleaning machinery.

Step Three: Decision Time, Rehabilitation versus Restoration, and Replace In-Kind

Some mills have served the same use for generations, and when a mill is still in operation it may need only periodic repairs and routine maintenance. Others have become obsolete, and need extensive repairs. Similarly, mills that can no longer be used for producing a food product at all normally require changes to adapt them for commercial, office, or residential use. In such cases mills need more extensive work than the maintenance and repair treatments outlined above. However, when rehabilitating a historic mill for a new milling operation, public restoration, or a new use entirely, care must be taken to preserve its historic character while making needed changes to accommodate the requirements to allow for visitor access to the structure.

A successful rehabilitation project is best guaranteed when a work plan is drawn up by someone familiar with the evaluation of historic structures, and when it is carried out by contractors and workmen experienced with the building type and committed to the goal of retaining the historic character of the property. Help in formulating rehabilitation plans and in locating experienced professionals is normally available from the State Historic Preservation Office and local preservation groups.

The Wye Mill, Wye Mills, Maryland.

In 1671 a grist mill was built on the Wye River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The mill was used as a boundary marker between counties in 1706 and supplied the Continental Army with flour. It switched between many different private owners throughout its history. Wye Mill was bought by the state in 1953, and deeded to The Society for the Preservation of Maryland in 1956.

A drawing by T. R. Hazen, 1988, for the benefit of Preservation Maryland's recent restoration.

"A Very Short System Mill" in a letter to the Editor of American Miller, J.F.T. Brown the owner of the Wye Mill in 1889, describes this 1 1/2 story building that is 37 by 25 feet. "I have recently remodeled my mill to the roller system. I expect to have the shortest system you ever heard of. I hardly know whether to call it a one or two-break mill. It has one pair of smooth rolls to grind all the middlings. I have three Silver Creek Flour Bolts, one single and one double scalper, one purifier, one Excelsior Bran Duster, one Eureka and one Hercules Wheat Cleaner, these are machines I have in the mill. The two-break mills are 9 X 15, manufactured by John T. Noye Mfg. Co., Buffalo, N. Y. I send all the tails over from the bolts and scalpers, such as bran and ship stuff, to the bran duster, and it gets all the flour out of it. The flour that comes from the bran duster, I sent to number 3 bolt, clothed with number 12 cloth; about one-half of this bolt is cut off and sent to the purifier, which makes very good middlings. I am making a straight grade equal to patent flour, and have a capacity of thirty barrels in twenty-four hours. I am running my mill with water power and have sufficient water all the year to drive it. I engineer the mill myself, and it suits me in every respect."

They had removed one pair of the mill's "old burr" stones to install this very short roller system. At this time the mill was powered by two Little Giant Water Turbines. Later the turbines were replaced by a single Fitz Water Wheel and the roller mill system replaced by a Midget Marvel Mill. The turbines and millstones are now on display outside of the mill.

"A Very Short System Mill," American Miller, 17 (May 1, 1889): page 340.
"Good Bye Old Burr: The Roller Mill Revolution in Maryland, 1882," by John W. McGrain, Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 77, Number 2, Summer 1982, page 162 of pages 154-171.

The one major problem is that there are no guidelines or standards set for historical mill restoration. Generally the various elements are restored the way they would be in other historic structures. Often the person in charge of the projects has the ultimate say in what is done if it is historically accurate or not. The following approaches should be observed when carrying out rehabilitation projects on historic mills:

1. Preserve the historic setting of the mill as much as possible. One of the most important feature of a mill is the water hydraulic system, the mill dam, head race, tail race and overflows. Some mills sites contain other historic elements typical to the rural historic scene. These may include a secondary mill operation, covered bridge, and other outbuildings. Yet such features, together with roads, woods, ponds, and other aspects of the mill setting can be important to the character of historic mills. The functional relationship between the mill and local community is significant and should also be maintained.

2. Repair and repaint historic siding rather than cover the mills with artificial siding. The only side of the mill often covered with artificial siding or tin should be behind the water wheel. Modern siding applied over the entire surface of a building can give it an entirely different appearance, obscure craft details, and mask ongoing deterioration of historic materials underneath. The resurfacing of historic mill buildings with any new material that does not duplicate the historic material is never a recommended treatment.

Never paint interior walls that were never painted, the wood and stone needs to breathe. Do not use the old system which involved painting the walls with white wash and what you want the visitors to see paint brown. The exterior of wood mill machinery should no be painted if at all possible and the interior of bins, millstone furniture, chutes, elevators, conveyors, or anything that the grain and flour comes in contact with should never be painted for health consideration and regulations.

3. Repair rather than replace historic windows whenever possible, and avoid "blocking them down" or covering them up. Avoid the insertion of numerous new window openings and the use of modern window glass. They can give a building a domestic appearance, and radically altering a mill's character. However, if additional lighting is needed, add new windows carefully, respecting the size and scale of existing window openings.

4. Avoid changing the size of door openings whenever possible. Increasing the height of door openings to accommodate new mill machinery can dramatically alter the historic character of a mill. If larger doors are needed, minimize the visual change. Use real functioning Dutch doors rather than modern metal doors, which give an industrial appearance incompatible with most historic mills. If the mill has wood siding, the new doors should match it. If historic doors are no longer needed, fix them shut instead of removing them and filling in the openings. Security systems and exterior night lighting in essential, but do not make security systems the main focus of what visitors would see when they come to open up the mill door. Motion detectors may work fine in other historic buildings but may cause problems because of cats and rodents when the site is closed.

5. Consider a new exterior addition only if it is essential to the continued use of a historic mill. A new addition can damage or destroy historic features and materials and alter the overall form of the historic building. If an addition is required, it should be built in a way that minimizes damage to external walls and internal plan. It should also be compatible with the historic mill, but sufficiently differentiated from it so that the new work is not confused with what is genuinely part of the past.

6. Retain interior spaces and features as much as possible. The internal space of a mill is often a major character defining feature, and the insertion of new floors, partitions, and structures for exhibits and museum space, sales and information desk area within the mill can drastically impair the overall character of the space. Similarly, interior features should also be retained to the extent possible. This also means to don't open up the interior space to accommodate tour groups by removing machinery, the miller's office, bins, elevators and chutes.

7. Retain as much of the historic internal structural system as possible. Even in cases where it is impractical to keep all of the exposed structural system, it may be possible to keep sufficiently extensive portions of it to convey a strong sense of the interior character. Wholesale replacement of the historic structural system with a different system should be avoided. Do not break up the floor levels just to create stages or platforms for the demonstration of milling operations.

8. A method not to be sued to do mill restoration, is to come in and remove the interior machinery, elevators, bins and chutes in an effort to stabilize the building or replace the flooring without recording what was located there and where. All the locations of the chutes, patches, elevator legs, belt and shaft openings, along with bearing hangers should be recorded on floor and reflected ceiling plans. If this information is removed, not recorded and lost, it is like trying to recreate a dead person's fingerprints who was never fingerprinted while they were living.

9. One of the problems with mill restoration, is that mills are often restored on a local level using individuals who have no idea what they are doing. These homegrown restorations are done with good intentions. Sometimes they have no idea that there any mill experts, millwrights, or qualified milling consultants outside of their local area. They must look in their local phone book, check with libraries, and historical societies, and if they can't find anyone or information, then some how they get the feeling that the rest of the country must mirror their own situation. Most people who own mills or have an interest in old mills do not have a computer or access to the internet. More damage can be cause by so-called mill experts who claim they know more than what they actually know. If a mill is restored incorrectly or not in a manner like it was in an historical period of its history, it them becomes increasingly difficult to change things and make them historically accurate. Don't make the contemporary restorations the standard for historical accuracy. They may be completely different for a long list of reasons.

10. If your mill was operated by water power don't think you can operate it now with a system of pumped water. It is like trying to defeat the laws of energy, you can't do it, and you cannot win. You can idle a water wheel, which is not a good idea for a number of reasons. When it comes to operating it under a load, you would need the bilge pump system similar to that of a battleship. It is cheaper in the long term to restore the mill's hydraulic system than to depend upon electricity, pumps, city water and recirculated water. Don't let the tax payers pay to operate a system that nature would provide the energy for free. An artificial system will easily become clogged with mud and silt from flood events, were as a natural system with keep itself flushed out because of its volumes of water it requires to operate.

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Preserving Mill Buildings in Their Historic Settings

A mill or a grist mill was a vital necessity in any early settlement such as in many areas. An operating mill would greatly enhance the visitor experience of any park or historical site. A mill would increase the technical and agricultural awareness for visitors of a certain time period. The industrial revolution of milling technology occurred in America with the improvements of Oliver Evans and these would be reflected in a mill of this time period. There is no other operating mill found in a park setting in this area to attract visitors which interprets milling technology and regularly operates and produces flour and meal.

In recognition of its historical significance and importance as an educational resource, a grist mill is being considered to be relocated and restored. Other things that need to be done are to collect the mill's history along with evaluating other components that once may have existed besides a typical grist mill. They may include a miller's home, a dam, a pond, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a cooperage, plus a number of farm related buildings adjacent to the mill. The restoration work will be performed by the staff of the park whose goal is the development of a fully operational water powered grist mill depicting the era of the stated time period.

The staff should be dedicated to the preservation of our rural heritage through the authentic restoration of a grist mill as a functioning water powered structure within an historic setting.

1. Goals:
In pursuit of overall mission, we shall.........

1. Develop a site master plan within the site's system.
2. Restore and develop this site, all work on this project shall be completed by the present staff.
3. Provide an authentic mill with equipment and fixtures to demonstrate an operating mill circa period, and add to the site's informational base.
4. Reconstruct an authentic water reservoir system to serve as a power source for the mill.
5. Develop and operate an instructional program for educational institutions and the general public, and in turn add to the site's informational base.
6. Develop interpretive materials, displays, and activities.
7. Restore and utilize other adjacent buildings near the mill.
8. Add historical structures and exhibits in keeping with the mill environs.
9. Preserve the adjacent lands around the mill site.
10. Seek funding from appropriate sources, and promote a more active, paid family membership to the site.
2. Operation. Upon completion, the mill will be open to the public and for school field trips during the regular hours, and operated with the assistance of full time, part-time, and trained volunteer staff under the direction of the site.

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The Public and Special Concerns

The conversion of mills to public access is not new, but has become increasingly popular in recent years. Yet the changes involved in converting most mills to allow the public to enter are so great that such conversions rarely preserve the historic character of the resource. The interior volume of machinery is often greatly reduced, exhibits, lighting, hand railings, restrooms, drinking fountains, fire extinguishers, and other fixtures normally lacking in mills are added, and site changes, such as close in parking, flag poles, and residential type landscaping are made, giving the building a greatly altered site. Many other mills are "converted" to houses or other uses by basically dismantling them, discarding the exterior machinery, and reusing the internal structural system in a new building. The beams are saved, but the mill is lost. In cases where the conversion from commercial mills to restored has been successful, the positive outcome results in large measure benefits from the careful choice of the mill. Historical buildings do not by law have to be made handicap accessible, but such considerations often made.

Mills have to have added security for night to prevent vandalism and fire. The water system needs to be secured to prevent drownings. Often then mill races has to be fenced off or the site entirely closed to the public at night. The water system gates have to have locking devices for daily operation and for when the site is closed. The water wheel needs to be locked to prevent turning if someone climbs on the wheel or inside of it. The building needs modern electrical systems, including three phase current, phones, security systems, locking windows that one time historical perhaps were never locked. There needs to be a flood evaluation plan to remove artifacts and for cleanup. Signs should be at a minimum and not detract from the historic or visual quality of the site.

Mills should be restored with the same methods of construction and style that went into their construction originally. Do not restore a mill using the same craftsmanship that went into building a church or institutional building. These methods may be good for winning preservation and restoration awards but the original character of who the mill was constructed is sacrificed. Mills and mill repairs were often made very quickly because a mill in not making any money when it is not in operation or broken down. Mills have the craftsmanship that the millwright would have put into them but don't make it look like a fine cabinetmaker just got finished constructing them. Sometimes one should forget about the notion of restoration and preservation and just replace in-kind. Never make any of the machinery braces or supports lighter, smaller or compromise their structural and engineering integrity to save money or for other reasons. Millwrights built things the way they did for a reason and when you change that you may risk damaging the machinery or the loss of human life.

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Grist Mill, Falco, Florida. A photograph taken in June of 1942.
This mill had been grinding corn for eighty years at the time of the photograph.
If this mill was restored and open to the public, what changes need would occur?
Would these changes destroy the historical integrity of the mill?


Historic mills form a vital part of our Nation's heritage. Not every historic mill can be saved from encroaching development, or easily brought back into productive use. Yet thousands of such structures can be repaired or rehabilitated for continued agricultural use or for new functions without destroying the very qualities that make them worth saving. By carefully examining the historic significance of each structure, owners of historic mills can draw up plans that preserve and reuse these historic structures while maintaining their historic character.

Mills are artifacts which are as important as any museum can be. Show the visitor by going through an actual mill and convey its history, its changes, and its people. All are important for a better understanding of ourselves.

It was a building built for manufacturing. In saving, moving and restoring a mill, the grist mill should: (1) be irresistible, (2) show the agricultural theme, (3) demonstrate its American history as a center of our towns, (4) make it a physical and emotional experience. A good recreation makes it easier to get money and to maintain the mill's operation. Show that technology is easy for everyone to understand.

Mills are links to the past. They are the stuff of the past, a testament to a moment in history, the communities they sustained, and those who operated them.

Water power endured well after the industrial revolution in America. Both wind and water power are not predictable, only tidal power is. It was the millwright's job to adapt his skill to each mill site so that during low periods and floods a mill would survive.

I could quote a great deal about the height of the head and fall of various mills, and about the revolutions per minute of water wheels and millstones, which would only delight the most dedicated "molinosopher" with enthusiasm. Flour milling encompasses several periods of technology. The process of flour manufacture has changed through the phases of grindings, cooling, regrinding, and bolting. However, the product has always remained the same, it is just the process that has changed.

Unless one visits an operating mill and feels the vibrations along with its laboring turning machinery and breathes in the dust particles, the technology and history of it may be only so many lifeless words on a page. The flour milling phase of American history is where the visitor would enjoy being an active participant, unlike the history of battles, bloodshed, and war.

The enthusiasm for any mill restoration project should go beyond just the idea of restoration of a grist mill, to an understanding that there is more than just the planning, design and construction process. There are mill wrongs and mill rights, there is more to milling technology than the average person would think. A great deal of thought and knowledge goes into proper mill restoration: doing it right from the beginning.

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Examples of Restoration Planning

Preservation of old mills can include a long list of things that need to be done. The following examples are taken from: Grist Mill Restoration and Site Feasibility Study for Virginia's Explore Park," by Theodore R. Hazen, Virginia's Explore Park, Roanoke, Virginia, December 1996

Step One: Long Range Planning

1. Establish specific goals for each element of the project.
2. Determine estimated dates of completion for the various project steps.
3. Assign estimated cost figures for each step.
4. Assign work leaders and staff for the completion of the various project steps.
5. Develop plans for funding the restoration as well as for future operational and maintenance needs.
6. Determine which mill and site will be used.
7. Determine which type of mill dam and material for lining the mill race should be constructed.
Step Two: Suggested Project Stages

Project 1-Restoration of a Grist Mill: This project will be completed once a mill structure has been identified and purchased for moving and reconstruction. Also see: Work Schedule for Major Work Projects for steps in completing this project. 1. Pour new foundations for mill structure.
2. Pour basement floor.
3. Replace siding on building.
4. Replace roof with wood shingles.
5. Replace rotten beams and rafters.
6. Connect electrical service and wire building.
7. Install new stairways or rebuild old one.
8. Build new windows and doors.
9. Build new windows and doors, including porch.
10. Lay new foundations for water wheel pit, floor and walls.
11. Provide handicap accessibility.
12. Construct new chimney.
13. Backfill and landscape.
Project 2- Mill Equipment Restoration: This project will and may include the restoration or authentic replacement of the following items: 1. Water wheel.
2. Controls.
3. Gearing.
4. Pulleys.
5. Belts.
6. Bearings.
7. Couplings.
8. Millstones.
9. Millstone covers.
10. Millstone crane (for lifting the stones).
11. Chutes.
12. Elevators.
13. Storage bins.
14. Bolting equipment.
15. Sifting equipment.
16. Fanning mill, and cleaning machinery.
17. Corn sheller.
18. Scales.
19. Main power drive train.
20. Auxiliary power drive train.
Project 3- Restoration of a Mill Dam and Pond: In the interest of authenticity, the recreation of the dam and the pond is of vital importance. This will greatly enhance the site's potential as an educational resource and would significantly increase its value as a visitor attraction. Environmentally, a pond would foster plant growth and provide an ideal wildlife habitat. In addition, it would offer an ideal setting for hiking, fishing, canoeing, ice skating, and observing wildlife. Also see: Work Schedule for Major Work Projects for steps in completing this project. 1. Cut a mill race channel to bypass the dam.
2. Remove debris from dam site.
3. Build a dam.
4. Landscape banks.
5. Stock pond with fish (optional).
6. Provide fishing areas, and possible fishing piers (optional).
7. Construct fish ladders and bypasses.
Project 4- Other Structures Under Possible Consideration: The potential for the recreation of a rural historic community is very high. Other projects adjacent to the mill may include: 1. Restoration of a Miller's House.
2. Ice house or barn.
3. General store.
4. Cooper's shop.
5. Post office.
6. Barns and other farm buildings.
7. Tavern.
8. Saw mill.
9. Steam engine and shed.
Project 5- Education: Education and interpretation will be of the highest priority in the completed grist mill and the surrounding areas. The major goal is to make this site available for educational institutions, and visitors to site.

Possible Static Elements: 1. Photographic displays of mill's history.
2. Photographic displays of restoration project.
3. History of milling in the area.
4. Display of grains in whole form.
5. Display of processed flours and meals.
6. Display of flour and meal uses.
7. Display of mill tools (including millstone dressing tools).
8. Display of mill artifacts (including scoops, paddles, and wooden shovels).
9. Display of mill record books, historic miller's office.
10. Display of flour barrels, branding irons and stencils.
11. Display of flour sacks.
12. Schematic drawing of the mill's machinery.
13. Schematic drawing of the Oliver Evans' improvements.
14. Schematic drawing of the water supply system which operates the mill.
15. Diorama of mill historic community and the settlements.
16. Scale model of mill.
Possible Active Elements: 1. Tour of mill structure.
2. Video of non-accessible mill areas.
3. Live demonstration of milling operations.
4. Video presentation of milling operations.
5. Seasonal events on mill grounds.
Other Possible Elements: 1. Photographic display of ice harvesting.
2. Traveling educational exhibit and out reach program.
3. Sale of educational books, pamphlets, etc., which are milling technology related.
4. Design flour bag logo and have cloth flour sacks printed. Contact: Millhiser Incorporated, Post Office Box 24099, Richmond, Virginia 23224-0099. For pricing and samples, call 1-800-446-2247.
5. Sale of grist mill products.
6. Sale of baked grist mill products.
7. Transportation exhibit.
Project 6- Grist Mill Site Development: Upon completion of the project to operate the mill for visitors, educational institutions, etc., the following must also be completed: 1. Install visitor protection such as hand rails, fencing, possible lighting.
2. Install an underground electrical system.
3. Install pump system and underground water pipe to supply mill pond. Also see: Work Schedule for Major Work Projects for steps in completing this project.
4. Install electrical system in mill for such uses as lighting for cleaning and maintenance, vacuum cleaners, freezers for grain products in the grist mill and sales area.
5. Install plumbing system (a sink with hot & cold water) in the mill for cleaning and to meet health standards.
Project 7 - Other Projects Under Consideration: Moving a grist mill and the restoration of other structures adjacent to the mill area may bring about future projects under consideration which may include: 1. Possible security lighting.
2. Expansion of parking facilities.
3. Construction of picnic shelter.
4. Additional picnic tables, grills, etc.
5. Improved and expanded rest room facilities.
6. Drinking water system improvements.
7. Nature trail expansion.
8. Open area for special events.

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Examples of Work Schedule for Major Work Projects

The following is a list of the major work to be accomplished on the mill structure, its contents, mill dam, head and tail races, and the immediate area surrounding the mill. For reference purposes and to provide a general chronological order, the tasks are listed numerically. The list does not include additional important and time consuming work such as consulting, planning, preparing drawings, evaluating, locating material and making arrangements on how the work will be accomplished. The reconstruction of the mill and construction of the mill dam and races, along with the pump system may begin at the same time but are listed as separate items for simplification and understanding.

The Mill:

1. Valuable items removed and stored in a safe place.
2. Approval of the Architect.
3. Archeological and Historical search begun and artifacts preserved.
4. Plans of mill and machinery made.
5. Mill, equipment, and environs photographed.
6. Mill equipment removed and placed in storage.
7. Water wheel shaft and accompanying drive shafts removed.
7. Mill raised off foundations and dissembled.
8. Deteriorated foundations removed.
9. Brush and trees removed from new mill site.
10. Survey work of mill site performed.
11. A benchmark plate set in concrete.
12. Soil borings completed.
13. Temporary fencing installed around mill area.
14. Pumps installed for water supply.
15. Excavation for mill footings completed.
16. Forms for footings and walls completed.
17. New footings and walls poured.
18. Construction of stone walls begun.
19. Lumber for water wheel, sills and framing acquired.
20. Concrete wheel pit and stone walls constructed.
21. Mill machinery restored.
22. New sill beams constructed and installed.
23. Rotted studs replaced.
24. Mill lowered onto new foundation, reconstruct mill.
25. Footings poured for basement additions support posts if needed.
26. New support beams constructed and installed.
27. First floor leveled.
28. Sub-basement floor and gear pit floor leveled.
29. Drainage pipes installed in sub-basement floor and gear pit.
30. Forms constructed for access to sub-basement.
31. Gear pit floor and sub-basement concrete floor poured.
32. Roof rafters, millstone platform, and sifters repaired or rebuilt.
33. New wood single roof installed.
34. Additional period mill machinery acquired.
35. Building aligned and reinforced with tie rods if needed.
36. Scaffolding built and to install mill siding.
37. Electrical service, wiring, plumbing, etc., installed.
38. Replacement windows made.
39. Installation of new windows begun.
40. New siding purchased or made, and stored in the mill or other area.
41. Sub-basement access door and miller's office door opening framed.
42. Sub-basement door constructed, miller's office door, front door and side door hatch repaired and reinstalled, including porch.
43. Foundation walls and wheel pit walls backfilled.
44. Addition to mill framing completed.
45. Addition enclosed with siding.
46. Stairway and landing constructed.
47. Additional metal covering exterior siding installed on water wheel side of mill.
48. Construct wooden parts for water wheel.
49. Dress millstones, balance, level, and true millstone spindles.
50. Locate a regular source for clean grains.
The Mill Dam and Mill Races: 1. Grade and level mill head race.
2. Clean mill pond area to be flooded.
3. Insure banks surrounding mill pond area are stable.
4. Clean and level mill dam foundation area.
5. Install mill dam pilings, footings apron, and drainage pipe.
6. Excavation for mill head race and install race wall footings completed.
7. Pour head race floor place stones in concrete for appearance.
8. Construct mill head race walls and face with stone, allow for spill way, and gate slots in walls.
9. Install head gate, and raceway gates.
10. Construct mill dam.
11. Lay footings for sluice box piers.
12. Construct sluice box sills and sluice box.
13. Install water box and control gate.
14. install trash racks.
15. Back fill mill race walls and grade surface, plant ground cover.
16. Construct tail race and rip rap area,
17. Insure banks surrounding mill tail race area are stable, and grade surface, plant
ground cover.
18. Install rip rap below mill dam, insure banks surrounding mill abutment areas are stable and grade surface, plant ground cover.
Pump System: 1. Survey work of mill pump system performed.
2. Install a temporary coffer dam around pump in the Roanoke River.
3. Pump river water from pump pit area.
4. Remove material and level pump pit area.
5. Install footings for pump pit walls.
6. Excavate pit to hold pumps and install concrete pipe.
7. Pour floor of concrete pipe and floor of pump pit.
8. Construct pump pit walls (allowing for water pipe which carries water from pumps) and water proof.
9. Install concrete slab and man hole cover.
10. Install head gates and trash rack.
11. Excavate water line trench and area for dousing chamber.
12. Lay bedding for water line in trench.
13. Install water line and pumps.
14. Construct dousing chamber over end of water line, lay footings, and pour concrete floor.
15. Construct walls of dousing chamber and cover with slab and man hole opening.
16. Install electrical wiring and pump control system.
17. Install trash rack on dousing chamber, face dousing chamber with field stone.
18. Remove temporary coffer dam.
19. Back fill pump water line trench with loose material and grade surface, plant ground cover.
20. Test pump system and fill mill pond.
21. Open head gates and test operate grist mill.

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Selected Reading:

Frank Briscoe, "Wood-Destroying Insects." The Old-House Journal. Vol. XIX, Number 2 March April 1991, pp. 3439.

A. Harold Castonguay, "Two Men on a Mill, the Story of the Restoration of Baxter's Mill," Wayside Studio, South Yarmouth, Cape Cod, 1962.

David Craik, millwright, "The Practiced American Millwright and Miller: Comprising the Elementary Principles of Mechanics, Mechanism, and Motive-Power, hydraulics and hydraulic motors, mill-dams, saw-mills, grist-mills, the oat-meal-mill, the barley-mill, wool-carding and cloth-fulling and dressing, wind-mills, steam-power, etc.," Henry Carey Baird, Industrial Publisher, Philadelphia, 1870.

Evans, Oliver, "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide," Philadelphia, Lea & Blanchard, 1850 edition 13th, Philadelphia, Oliver Evans, 1795, first edition. 1795, to the 15th edition published in 1860, reprint first edition - 1795 by Oliver Evans Press, Wallingford, Pennsylvania, 1990 (available from SPOOM above), reprint of 13th edition, Arno Press, New York, New York, 1972, reprinted 13th edition, Ayer Co. Salem, New Hampshire, 1984.

Hollis, Jay S., "Gristmills: One Man's View (architecture of grist mills)," Historic Preservation: January-March 1977, Preservation of Washington, DC, 1977.

Anders Jesperson, "Mills and Their Preservation," Copenhagen, 1963.

Larkin, David, "Mill, The History and Future of Naturally Powered Buildings," Universe Publishing, New York, 2000.

Philip L. Lord, "Mills on the Tsatsawassa: Techniques for Documenting Early 19th Century Water-Power Industry in Rural New York," Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns, New York, 1983.

William. Merrill, "Wood Deterioration: Causes, Detection and Prevention." American Association for State and Local History Technical Leaflet 77, History News, Volume 29, No. 8, August, 1974.

Marion Nicholl Rawson, illustrated by the author, "Little Old Mills," E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1935 first edition, reprinted Johnson Reprint Corp. 1970.

Samuel N. Stokes, "Saving America's Countryside, A Guide to Rural Conservation," Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1989.

Norman Thelwell, illustrated by Norman Thelwell, "A Millstone Round My Neck, The Restoration of a Cornish Water Mill," Methuen London Limited, London, 1983.

Harry B. Weiss, and Robert J. Sim, "The Early Grist and Flouring Mills of New Jersey," New Jersey Agricultural Society, Trenton, New Jersey, 1956.

Vosbeck, Vosbeck, Kendrick, and Redinger, "Black Rock Mill, Restoration Feasibility Study for the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources," Architecture Engineering Planning, Hyattsville, Maryland, 1973.

George Woodbury, illustrations by Arthur Conrad, "John Goffe's Mill," 1948.

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Copyright 2001 by T.R. Hazen.