Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

COUNTY HIGHWAY V JUST W OF STATE HIGHWAY 27, 3 M N OF AUGUSTA

Architecture and History Inventory
COUNTY HIGHWAY V JUST W OF STATE HIGHWAY 27, 3 M N OF AUGUSTA | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:Dells Mill
Other Name:
Contributing:
Reference Number:16146
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):COUNTY HIGHWAY V JUST W OF STATE HIGHWAY 27, 3 M N OF AUGUSTA
County:Eau Claire
City:
Township/Village:Bridge Creek
Unincorporated Community:
Town:26
Range:6
Direction:W
Section:9
Quarter Section:NE
Quarter/Quarter Section:NE
PROPERTY FEATURES
Year Built:1867
Additions: 1904 1940 1968
Survey Date:1975
Historic Use:mill
Architectural Style:Front Gabled
Structural System:Timber Frame
Wall Material:Clapboard
Architect:
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished?:No
Demolished Date:
DESIGNATIONS
National/State Register Listing Name: Dells Mill
National Register Listing Date:12/24/1974 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
NOTES
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation.

One of the most photographed sights in Wisconsin, the Dells Mill is a picturesque relic of days gone by. Too picturesque, perhaps: its overshot water wheel, which so charms visitors, is neither functional nor original. It was added in 1968 to make the mill look the way a mill “should.”

Nonetheless, this structure is one of the few nineteenth-century Wisconsin gristmills to survive with its workings intact. Instead of a vertical water wheel, a horizontal turbine, hidden beneath the structure, powered the mill. When the miller opened the sluice gate, water would spill out of the millpond and push against the turbine vanes, rotating the turbine and drive shaft. The shaft ran up into the mill, where a wooden cog distributed its turning power to gears, belts, and pulleys, running machinery for grinding, cleaning, sorting, and sifting grain. The original turbine, replaced in the 1920s, is on display in this working-mill museum; its successor is housed in a concrete block under the lean-to power shed on the mill’s upstream side.

The mill building itself came in stages. The original portion, built in the mid-1860s, is a five-level, front-gabled structure, framed with hand-hewn maple timbers, joined mostly with wooden pegs, and clad in clapboard. Today it perches beside the milldam atop more recent concrete stilts. The two-story wing on the north (downstream) side dates from 1904, whereas the twin single-story lean-tos on the south side date from 1940.

When the Dells Mill opened in 1867, wheat cultivation was spreading to northwestern Wisconsin, and gristmills were springing up everywhere to grind local farmers’ yields. But over the next few decades, soil depletion, insects, blight, and competition from farmers farther west dramatically reduced Wisconsin’s wheat acreage. During World War I, however, increased demand induced the state’s wheat growers to mount a brief comeback. At that time, the Dells Mill’s owners replaced their original buhrstone with a more efficient “Midget Marvel” roller mill. Ironically, the invention of the roller mill in 1877 had helped undermine Wisconsin wheat farming by making it easier to grind the hard winter wheat grown in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Underwent restoration in 1978.

Covenant/Easement: From 10/30/1979 to 10/30/1984. A 'covenant file' exists for this property. It may contain additional information such as photos, drawings and correspondence. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, State Historic Preservation Office.
Bibliographic References:Buildings of Wisconsin manuscript.
RECORD LOCATION
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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