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Monday, August 7, 2017

The "Historic Nolt's Mill: A Lancaster County Historical Preservation Trust Landmark" Story

Nolt's Mill in Bird-In-Hand, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
It was an ordinary day.  Just pulled in the driveway of a beautiful sandstone former grist mill located at 2549 Old Philadelphia Pike in Bird-In-Hand, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  A remarkable building which at one time was an operating mill that produced a variety of different flours.  I parked the car, grabbed my DSLR Sony and headed to the main door of what is now the John Stevens Gallery at Nolt's Mill.  The gallery recently opened and features John's original watercolors as well as Sarah Gilligan's Folk Art.  
The main entrance at the rear of the mill.
I walked in the door at the rear of the building and back in history!  The old renovated mill is remarkable.  John's paintings are displayed throughout the gallery with soft lighting that brings out the realistic watercolor paintings he has created.  His work is noted for its uncommon attention to detail and his ability to draw the viewer into the painting.  Sarah's work also is located in the main gallery and features her painted folk art pieces which reminds one of Pennsylvania Dutch traditional artwork.  The artwork of both artists is beautiful, but for me the real beauty in front of me is 16th century grist mill that surrounds me.  The mill was built in 1770 by James and Deborah Gibbons and is located along Mill Creek which is a tributary of the Conestoga River.  
Water from a nearby creek is diverted
into the mill to power the mill.
It was originally a 1 1/2 story stone building, but was enlarged a story in 1812.  The mill operated from 1770 until 2006 when it closed.  It produced flour from a variety of different grains during the years of operation.  The property that John and Sarah purchased includes the 3000 square foot stone grist mill, a barn that was built in 1907 and a restored 1870 Miller's house which now serves as their home.  The water still flows through the structure by means of a waterway diverted from the nearby creek.  The water was used to power equipment for grinding the grain into flour.  The original mill had an office inside the door to the right with a corner fireplace and all other essential items needed to run the mill.   The office was eventually moved to the opposite side of the building sometime around the Civil War to allow for more room.  
The artwork of John is displayed on the walls of the mill.
Hanging on a post by the office was the original rack that held the time cards of the employees.  When the mill first began it was operated by using round millstones that would grind the grain between them.  The millstones were turned by the power of the water running through the mill.  Then in 1904 the mill installed Midget Marvel Mills which were self-contained metal roller mills that used water turbines.  
The original office, but is now display space.
Instead of using the heavy stone wheels to grind the grain, metal rollers where used which were more easily turned by the water turbines.  Eventually electricity was installed in the mill in the 1940s so when the water level was reduced by dry weather, electricity could turn the mills and make the process more reliable.  The mill went through a series of owners during its lifetime and at one time the Nolt family owned the mill.  
The office as it appears now.
The Nolt name was given to the mill at that time.  As John and I walked throughout the mill he explained to me what all the remaining mechanical parts were used for in the operation of making flour.  He showed me photos of the Midget Marvel Mills being removed from the property after he purchased it.  The renovation of the mill is now complete and the gallery is open for business.  
This was the miller's home and now serves as the home
of the owners.  It sets to the right of the mill.
If you can make a journey to the gallery you will be impressed with not only the artwork of these two special artists, but with the historic mill which at one time produced the food that more than likely fed some of America's statesmen and heroes.  Many famous people passed through Lancaster County, and the Old Philadelphia Pike, where the mill is located, was the main passageway to the west.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - click on photographs to enlarge them.

Cornerstone on the house telling when it was built.
Weathervane is a quill pen.
On one of the silos is this beautiful window with flowers.
Lancaster County marker near the Mill Creek. 
This is the rear of the building which is where the entrance to the art gallery is located.
The historical plaque on the building.
This is an opening in the floor inside the gallery.  Through it you can see the gears that powered the grist mill.  Running water can be seen running underneath the gears.
This device would turn as the water passed the rod that went from it to the device.  When the water slowed or ran too fast, the device would tell the operator by means of a rotating bells so they could adjust the water intake.
This photo shows where people placed their initials and the date.  Great way to tell whom might have owned the mill or perhaps worked there at any specific date.
A photo of the Midget Marvel Mill being removed during the renovation of the mill into a gallery. 
A photo of a worker actually running the Midget Marvel Mill when the plant was in action.
This mechanical device still stands where bags were filled with flour.
Plaque near the entrance telling of the date when the mill was built.
A 1907 barn at the rear of the mill.  The three vehicles, all VWs, are still in use.  One is for transporting artwork to shows throughout the region.


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