A worthy building deserves careful and sympathetic maintenance to keep
out the weather and to guard against other deteriorating factors. When parts
wear out they should be promptly replaced in kind, thus preserving the architectural
character. But few buildings are so favored. When their design goes out
of fashion and equipment becomes worn or obsolete they usually fall into
a state of neglect or even abandonment. If fortunate, they may be able to
remain standing until the cycle of taste again allows them to be recognized
as assets. When maintenance has failed or some other misfortune has caused
the loss of original parts the process of restoration must be invoked to
recapture the character with which the building was formerly endowed. At
that time it is usually necessary to strengthen the old fabric, and to add
as little of such conveniences as may be needed for modern usage and required
by state and federal guidelines.
The motives governing preservation and restoration are several aesthetic,
archaeological, scientific, historical, and educational. Educational motives
often suggest complete reconstruction, as in their heyday, of vanished,
ruined or remodeled buildings and remains. This is often been regarded as
requiring removal of subsequent additions, and has involved incidental destruction
of much archaeological and historical evidence, as well as of aesthetic
values arising from age and picturesqueness. The demands of scholarship
for the preservation of every vestige of architectural and archaeological
evidence desirable in itself might, if rigidly satisfied, leave the monument
in a condition which gives the public little idea of its major historical
aspect or importance. Anesthetically, the claims of unity or original form
or intention, of variety of style in successive periods of buildings and
remodeling, and of present beauty of texture and weathering may not always
be wholly compatible. Unless documented evidence exists to return a structure
to an original period we should not loose all of the successive periods
of history and changes to a building to recreate the unknown.
In attempting to reconcile these claims and motives, the ultimate guide
must be the informed and experienced judgment of those in charge. Certain
principles and guidelines should, however, be followed.
1. The restoration of historic buildings requires the professional knowledge
of special skill of architects, historians, archaeologists, landscape architects,
museum people, and experienced craftsman.
The restoration of an historical mill structure and machinery requires the
professional knowledge of Millwrights-engineers, milling consultants, molinologists,
and millers. The so-called mill buff, historian, college professor, and
writer, architect, administrator, and individuals remembering the mill being
in operation may in fact know very little about its actual operations, the
idenification of the name of parts, and changes over successive periods.
In other words, they may not have the practical experience to be termed
a "mill expert." However some of these individuals may have the
final say or signature about what is done in the restoration. So build your
bridges rather than burn them.
2. No final decision should be taken as to a course of action before
reasonable efforts have been made to exhaust the archaeological and documentary
evidence as to the form and successive transformations of the monument.
Complete record of such evidence, by drawings, photographs, notes and transcripts
should be kept, and originals or copies made available to students in appropriate
central libraries and where possible also published. In no case should evidence
offered by the monument itself be destroyed or covered up before it has
been fully recorded. Sample specimens of physical evidence should also be
preserved. All changes proposed should also be preserved. All changes proposed
should be studied in drawings and specification form to insure thorough
communication between laymen, architect, and constructor.
Other examples should be found of the same period as the restoration that
have not been restored and are found in their original state. Very few if
any, mills have been restored as they were originally because that evidence
does not exit to do a complete restoration, other machinery even though
of the same period but different style or design has been added in replacement
of the original, or it was just laid out completely wrong.
3. In treating surviving old buildings, generally speaking it is "better
to preserve than repair, better to repair than to restore, better to restore
than to reconstruct." It is also well, before initiating a project,
to consider carefuly the possibility that once started it may lead to "creeping
reconstruction" the tendency for repair to lead to restoration and
for restoration to become, by degrees, total reconstruction.
The problems with mills is if you want an restoration and operation, you
have to remove and replace some of the original fabric, such as the water
wheel, gearing and millstones and other moving parts. You cannot have both.
Water wheels, gearing, millstones and other machinery have life spans and
if you must retain the original then you do not have an operating mill but
a static exhibit. This is where the term is used, "replace in kind,"
just like the millwright and miller would have done when it was a real operating
mill. Replace with new for the sake of operation, safety, production and
4. It is ordinarily better to retain genuine old work of several periods,
rather than arbitrarily to "restore" the whole, by new work, to
its aspect at a single period. This applies to work of periods later than
those now admired, provided it represents a genuine creative effort. or
is a part of the life history of the building. In no case should our own
artistic preferences or prejudices lead us to modify, an aesthetic grounds,
work of a bygone period representing other artistic tastes. Truth is not
only stranger than fiction, but more varied and more interesting. It should
be recognized, however, that sometimes it is essential to remove later work
in order to obtain evidence of the structure pertaining to an earlier and
more important period. No surviving old work should be removed or rebuilt
for structural reasons if any reasonable additional trouble and expense
would suffice to preserve it.
There have been good and bad mill restorations. Sometimes later restorations
were done for the sake of "make do," and done not by so-called
experts and done by in-house workers or volunteers. Before an earlier restoration
is removed all efforts should be explored to find the documentation of how,
why and the reasons why they did what they did. A good example of this is
the 1941 restoration of Upper Mills at Philipsburg Manor by the Fitz Water
Wheel Company, it looks much more like the original mill in drawings and
old photographs than the later restoration that spent at least 10 years
doing archaeological digging to find the original location and dimensions
of the mill and dam. The stuff on the surface now appears to be much different
than before. The money was there and the powers to be, made it happen.
5. Every reasonable additional care and expense is justified to approximate
in new work the materials, methods and quality of old construction, but
new work should be permanently identified and great discretion should be
used in simulating old materials with modern materials. If old materials
from other buildings are used in a restoration their source and use should
be permanently recorded. The use in an appropriate manner of old materials
and details of the period and character is commendable when such materials
are otherwise doomed to loss or destruction and their use in itself is an
act of preservation. n securing materials for restoration work there should
be no demolition or removal of buildings where there is a reasonable prospect
that they will persist intact or as historic ruins on their own site. Where
missing features are to be replaced without sufficient evidence as to their
own original form, careful study should be made of other surviving examples
of the period and region and precedents found for the replacement.
No two mills were ever built alike. Trying to recreate a mill with no evidence
is like trying to recreated a dead person's fingerprints without them ever
had their fingerprints made or an article that they touched remained. Mills
were build for different products and to produce different amounts of material.
No two mill sites are the same the fall and layout of the are different
in each case. Originally a millwright who builds lets say stone mills of
a similar design would make improvements and modifications with each new
successive mill building he constructed.
6. The nature of preservation and restoration work in such that it generally
involves more time than would be expected in new construction and what it
may have taken originally to build in the first place. Many of the most
important problems, are unsuspected until the fabric is opened up.
7. When for educational or preservation purposes it is deemed necessary
to remove a building to a new setting, its restoration should be guided
by sound restoration principles as indicated above. In many cases, if buildings
are moved to a new setting it is recreation more than true restoration.
8. Complete reconstruction for educational purposes should also follow
the same principles that govern restoration. The nature of education and
interpretation is not a true recreation of history because they were done
without the added feature of the visitor or the public into the mesh of
daily operation of the structure.
9. When an historic building survives into modern times, fortunately
in its original use, it is important to retain all its principal features
with only minor modification for modern usage. When an historical building
ceases to be used for its original purpose other uses should be sought in
order to perpetuate its life. Only modern uses should be adopted with are
consistent with preservation of the building's outstanding values. In such
cases, limited compromise with restoration standards may be justified, especially
in the interior, to obtain desired conveniences. Since our needs and capabitiles
are always growing, important or interesting features that cannot be restored
for the moment should be covered over and protected to await future treatment.
Only a limited number of exceptional buildings are important enough to be
preserved solely for exhibition. These buildings must be cared for and restored
with utmost fidelity to the highest restoration standards.
10. Mills make wonderfull mills but perhaps make poor museums and other
types of structures. Mills besides providing a food stuff also inspire romance
and nostalgic for the past. It may be may peoples dream to one day live
in a converted barn or old mill. The problem with old mills is that they
are usually in flood plans, they are hard to insulate without changing their
original fabric, and for years after the milling operations have stopped
bugs and rodents have made the mill their home. Adoptive usage or multiple
usage should only come into play when much of the original fabric and machinery
have been removed, lost or undocumented. Sometimes it is better to secure
a mill structure for another generation to restore than to incorporate it
into a modern usage. Mills were never meant to be the center piece of shopping
malls, or housing developments. With mills always comes the flooding hazard
and the rising and lowering of water levels in a mill pond. Mills also have
dams that it seems the building of and maintenance of has become out of
fashion it this modern era. If you want a building to severe as a store,
home, office, restroom or other use, it may be easier to build a new building
using modern standards and materials that simply looks like a mill than
loosing another the original structure to the modern era of progress.
There are very few millwright engineers in the United States and Canada
who are capable of maintaining an American mill's historical integrity.
The Old Mill at Spring Mill State Park originally built in 1817, Bullitt's
Mill and later known as Hamer's Mill. This was the first restored mill open
to the public in the 1930's, just before Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park,
in Washington, D.C. The mill is part of the pioneer village at Spring Mill
State Park near Mitchell, Indiana. The drawing style looks like it was inspiried
from the drawings found in "Flour for Man's Bread, A History of Milling,"
by John Storck and Walter D. Teague, Minneapolis, University of Minneasota
This is a wonderful drawing, but the interior of this mill has been restored
totally incorrect according to what the drawing shows. Mill gearing was
not layed out using the "erector set" approach. In a water mill,
the water wheel moves near the ground because of that, that is where the
water wheel is located. The shaft comes into the mill and the mill gearing
sends the power upward to the millstones and other machinery on the floors
above. "Never" would the gearing send the power downward and up
again so the millstones could be on the same level as the water wheel shaft.
In the past few years a new mill was constructed in a park elsewhere in
Indiana, that also used the same "erector set" approach to the
mill gearing. They have had nothing but problems with that mill. They totally
misinterpreted the drawings of Oliver Evans in "The Young Mill-Wright
and Miller's Guide," about how the sections of gear faces are layered
together and the size of the materials that should be used. This is one
of the major problems with mill restoration, once something is restored
incorrectly it becomes almost impossible to correct it or change it. The
restore it "in kind," mentality sets it, and it then become difficutlt
to justify changing it to something that is not seen or known.
Why is the above plan of the mill's basement laid out incorrectly? In
a grist mill the millstones should always be on the inside wall that the
water wheel is directly on the outside. The millstones require 60% of the
power that the water wheel generates. For some unknown reason the millstones
were placed on the opposite wall away from the water wheel. An additional
shaft that would not have been in a mill originally was installed. This
mill has had nothing but operational problems since it was constructed and
for the most part does not operate. Too much power is lost before it ever
gets to the millstones with this "erector set" approach to mill
gearing that is totally incorrect. The way the millstones are placed in
the mill, they might as well be located in the mill's attic.
This mill has become a picturesque part of the New England landscape with
its saltbox shaped roof. The breast shot water wheel was the most common
water wheel type used in the United States at the time but they have made
the profile of the wheel into a design. They have added two short arms coming
from every other one of the water wheel's arms outward to the shroud of
the water wheel to create some sort of Pennsylvania Dutch quilt style design
that would not have been down on water wheels.
This mill is getting to the point of becoming an historical structure because
of its historical recreation but that does not mean it is historically correct.
There are a few mill-rights but a lot of mill-wrongs. One of the most common
mill-wrongs in the history of mill restoration, is that a water wheel is
constructed that is barely large enough to run one pair of millstones, let
alone any other additional pairs of millstones at the same time and also
to include the secondary machinery within the mill. Successive water wheels
at both the John P. Cable Mill in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains and
Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D. C., have become smaller over
the years. The Cable Mill went from having two pairs of millstones to just
one pair, while the Peirce Mill went from four to three to just being barely
being able to operate a single pair of millstones. This may be partly do
to the lowering of the available water in the mill streams over the last
100 years, but the mills are being restored for demonstration and interpretation
rather than production.
o Note source material for the text from "Historic Preservation
Today," Seminar on Preservation and Restoration, Williamsburg, Virginia,
September 1963. The National Trust for Historic Preservation & Colonial
Williamsburg, University of Virginia, 1966, and "Black Rock Mill, Restoration
Feasibility Study for the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources,"
by Vosbeck Vosbeck Kendrick Redinger, Architecture Engineering Planning,
Hyattsville, Maryland, 1973.
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Copyright 2000 by T. R. Hazen