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Motor Mill Historic Site

bridge

A short drive down a windy gravel road southeast of Elkader, you’ll find a living monument to Northeast Iowa’s agricultural heritage. Nestled within the Turkey River Valley, a six-story tall limestone grist mill has towered over the nearby countryside for nearly 150 years. Serving as the centerpiece to what was once the town of Motor, the site also includes an ice house, inn, cooperage and stable.  Having stood the test of time, today the site tells the story of the struggles and triumphs faced by those involved in flour milling and wheat production at the mill.

Listed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1977, the site is part of 155 acres managed by the Clayton County Conservation Board. Since the conservation board obtained Motor Mill in 1983, they have been active in preservation of the historic site. Following the floods of 2008, Silos & Smokestacks brought in representatives from Trillium Dell Timberworks to provide consultation to Motor Mill and the other mills of the Heritage Area regarding structural issues. Through the help of the Motor Mill Foundation and countless dedicated volunteers, the site has completed a long list of preservation work; including reroofing all structures, replacing broken or rotten flooring, installing historically accurate windows and restoring an oak savanna.

The most recent preservation project was the reconstruction of the site’s original pin and truss bridge, which had been destroyed during the floods of 1991 and 2008. The community’s support for the bridge restoration helped Motor Mill to win the Silos & Smokestacks’ 2013 Golden Silo Award for People’s Choice “Site of the Year” and the cover of the 2013 Iowa Travel Guide. To celebrate the recent completion of the bridge restoration and honor the dedication of volunteers who helped make it a reality, Motor Mill will be holding a Gala on Saturday, May 4 from 11:00AM-2:00 PM

The conservation board has not only been active in preservation
of this important icon to Iommillwa’s past, but also in ensuring that the Motor Mill’s important story is shared. In 2002, Motor Mill was designated as a Heritage Area Partner Site and has since begun interpretive tours of the site to tell the interconnected story of the people, the land, the river and the mill. In 2010, the mill completed an Interpretive Visioning Report through the support of a grant from SSNHA.  The report serves as a guide for better telling the Mill’s story now and into the future. To honor the Mill’s vision and hard work, the site was also recognized at this year’s Golden Silo Awards with the award for Outstanding Preservation in Agriculture.

For more information or to schedule a tour, visit www.motormill.org or call 563-245-1516.

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