Fortunately in October 2011, when work began to really happen on the mill, we did not have Superstorm Sandy to contend with!
Our initial challenge was dealing with the mess the flood of 1986 had left in the lowest storey of the mill, which is a sort of ‘walk-out’ basement. The back, eastern end of the building was an ‘extension’ built over the water wheel; originally, water travelled from the huge pond at some distance through a wooden trestle, and then dropped some 30 feet to the wheel below.
In the 1930’s, the wheel was replaced with a massive diesel engine, which was encased in a enormous amount of cement and the eastern end of the basement continued to power the mill until they stopped operations in 1968. People still love coming to see this Russell and Hornby engine, and we looked at various ways to remove it — but as this looks to be an impossible task, barring taking it out piece by piece, we hope one day to have it restored.
The engine takes up a good portion of the north east side of the basement, and perhaps thanks to all the concrete surrounding it, the middle north stone wall remained intact for some portions. The south stone wall was re-pointed and restored in the 1970’s, so it remained in fairly good shape. The street-facing, eastern stone wall, however, had not faired well over the 180 years since it was built. Underneath the front ‘porch’ the stone wall had crumbled away to a significant extent — the local kids would dive through the hole and wiggle through to party in the ruins.
But the big mess was the back extension. In 1986 (according to local legend), there was terrible rain and local flooding. Eventually the berm surrounding the huge mill pond at the back of the property burst, and the resulting torrent ripped out much of the back foundation of the mill, and left the extension literally hanging. With almost no foundations to hold it up, the weight of the two storeys above was being held mainly by the massive timber beams that ran the entire length of the building above. It was a testament to the original builders and engineers, but an incredible hazard to those of us who wanted to deal with mess — twenty-five years later.