If you like historic places off the beaten path like our family does; check out the Historic Motor Mill and bridge by Elkader. Now is the time to go, especially when they have volunteers there giving free tours on special weekends. The tours are this weekend noon until 5 p.m. (August 31, Sept. 1, 2), and continue weekend of the 14, 15, with the last tours of the year held weekend of Sept. 28, and 29. The Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, so you know it is worth the drive.
I am also impressed with the newly built, but historic looking bridge that was completed last December. The quaint replacement bridge looks a bit different than the original wooden structure that was built in 1895. The sturdier replacement bridge made me feel like I've stepped back in time as I wandered over the bridge off the gravel road about six miles out of Elkader as I caught the first glimpse of the stone mill and the Turkey River. I also found out is also a great place to canoe and camp, by the way.
This six story structure stands approximately fifty feet wide, sixty feet long and over ninety feet high with walls that are five feet thick at the bottom, tapering to two feet at the top. The huge limestone blocks were quarried and transported by cable car from the bluffs above the mill. The mill, built by John Thompson, displays the handiwork of four skilled German masons. Each wall was constructed by a different mason who was trying to outdo the other masons. Three sides were laid with carefully chipped rounded stone while the fourth, the intake side, was laid with perfectly square cut stone. No two sides are alike. All beams were pegged in and not one nail was used in construction. The wheels and burrs were imported from Italy. Although the exact date is not certain, it is believed to have been built between 1867 and 1869. The Motor Mill historic site also includes four related stone structures which include an inn, cooperage, icehouse and livery stable. The 155 acre park surrounding the mill gives visitors opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, camping, canoeing and fishing. The active foundation's mission is "To protect and preserve the architectural integrity, history, natural beauty and serenity of the Motor Mill site and its surroundings and to develop appropriate uses and interpretation as a regional treasure for the benefit of future generations" and they have done a fantastic job at doing just that, even winning awards for the historic place and volunteering countless hours to maintain and get the word out about this gem off the beaten path. While you are there, not to faraway is another place that old or young will enjoy called the Osborne Nature Center, another great place to picnic among the prairie flowers and check out their wildlife park. Both places are owned and managed by the Clayton County Conservation Board.