The Millstone Project
Over the years, the Park District has been fortunate to acquire four millstones that date back to the 1800s. Two were acquired years ago, one was received from Historic Southwest Ohio (which operates Heritage Village Museum in Sharon Woods) and the other is from the old “Mount Healthy Flour Mill” that was located in Mount Healthy. Once used to grind grains into flour, these pieces of local history have sat unassembled next to a warehouse in Winton Woods…until recently. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a Park District volunteer, these stones are coming back to life with what is being called “The Millstone Project.”
All of the millstones are equally interesting and historically important, but the stone from the “Mount Healthy Flour Mill” is what makes this project so interesting. Thanks to extensive work and research done by Park District Operations Superintendent Dan Shaw, and discovered documentation written by the Mid-Atlantic Region National Park Service (1986), information has been pieced together to help understand the historical connection that the Park District has to the Mill.
History of the Mount Healthy Flour Mill
The Mount Healthy Flour Mill was built around 1820-1830 as a saw mill that operated for nearly 100 years. It was converted to a grist (flour) mill around 1887, when timber became scarce. In 1911, Ralph Groff bought the mill and operated it until the 1950s. Around that time the property was purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for construction and operation of the West Fork Lake flood control project, which resulted in the creation of Winton Lake. The Corps removed all of the milling equipment out of the structures and the Park District leased the mill and nearby pole buildings as storage areas.
The U.S Army Corps of Engineers planned to demolish the site in the 1980s, and at one time, the Park District took an interest in restoring the mill. Unfortunately, before any restoration could have started, the structure was destroyed by arson in 1981. The case was never solved, and the only remaining structure on the site is a two-story wooden barn.
Memories of the Mill Live On
Although the mill itself is gone, it’s historical imprint remains. In anticipation of renovating the Winton Woods Golf Course and clubhouse in 1993, a great deal of thought was given to renaming the course with a flour mill-theme. This resulted in the new names The Mill Course and Mill Race Lodge.
Many of the interior and exterior design elements for the Mill Race Lodge were chosen to look like an old mill, including a moving mill wheel featured as an exterior design element. This was also used for the clubhouse at Meadow Links and Golf Academy in Winton Woods. Care and attention was given to reproducing and displaying items that would have been found at the mill, including framed replicas of the milled flour bags used by former owners, the Groff family.
The Mill Course and Mill Race Lodge are shining examples of the historical connection that Winton Woods has to the old mill, and to have to actual millstone from the facility, makes that connection that much more sentimental.
Grinding the Millstone
In 2009, the Hamilton County Park District obtained the original Mounty Healthy Flour Mill millstone from the yard of the “Covered Bridge House”, which is located next to the former mill site. The millstone, along with the other stones, was all apart in separated segments, fairly aged and in need of some TLC.
Fortunately for the Park District, Volunteer Greg Voorhies has graciously taken on the large task of reassembling these historic pieces of local history. He is reconstructing the pieces by hand under supervision of the Park District Operations Department. Three of the millstones he is working with are the French Buhr stone type, which is composed of many individual, interlocking pieces of quartz and bound together into a circle by an iron strap. The fourth is from a single, monumental stone still attached to a metal pulley.
Greg is pressure washing the individual pieces and has begun assembly by defining the striations on the face of the stones that would have directed the ground wheat to the outer edge. After removing excess material from the reverse side of some of the stones, Greg has a very good start on arranging the pieces. The next steps will be to fabricate replacements for any missing stones, create a reinforced concrete base for the stones to be set into with a temporary band, infill the spaces between the stones with tinted mortar, then make a permanent steel band. When Greg’s work is completed, the millstones will be displayed as landscape elements at The Mill Course, Mill Race Lodge/ and the Meadow Links and Golf Academy clubhouse. Many thanks to Greg Voorhies for his hard work and dedication in piecing together these great historical artifacts.
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