CHILDERSBURG -- Emergency structural repairs have shored up the Kymulga Grist Mill for now, while further work is ongoing.
“When the city took over the mill in 2011, we knew the structure needed help,” said Gene Piatkowski, board member with the Childersburg Historical Preservation Commission.
Piatkowski said the mill was running until about a year-and-a-half ago, when it was examined by engineers who determined it was unstable.
“The original water paddles that turned the stone to grind corn were powered by water, but unlike the vertical water wheels, these were horizontal turbines that turned in Talladega Creek to power the mill,” he said. “Over time, vibrations from the turbines and other factors caused the mill’s foundation to deteriorate. The engineers said the structure could fall into the creek at any time or stand another 20 years, so the city opted to close the building to public access to avoid any safety hazards.”
Board member Ron Smith said the mill was built in 1859 and the construction was completed and the mill put into operation in 1864. The mill operated continuously until 1973.
“We were using the mill to grind corn and grits, which we sell out there, until it closed to the public,” he said.
Piatkowski said the Save the Mill Project is raising money to restore the mill, and a local company designed a steel structure to go under the building for support and to prevent it from falling in the creek.
“We had a storm about a month ago with flood waters,” he said. “The flood waters caused two of the external supports to get washed away. The structure dropped a few inches, but fortunately we had already had plans to fix this problem.”
Piatkowski said the material which was precut and pre-welded offsite was on hand when the storm and flood came through.
“We were fortunate because we were able to put up two external beam replacements and it stabilized the structure temporarily until the rest of the project is finished,” he said. “The stabilizing structure will look similar to a table, with support legs and the top of the table supporting the building.”
Piatkowski said community members volunteered their expertise to work on the structure, with funding for materials provided by the Save the Mill Project.
“We’ve been fortunate to have community support with the project,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to restore the mill and have it functioning again. We still sell stone-ground corn meal and grits, but the corn is ground offsite at this time, while the building is unstable.”
Smith said the Kymulga Grist Mill is the only mill of this type left in existence on the original foundation with original equipment.
“Most of the other mills of this type were repurposed to mills of a different type,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why saving and restoring it is so important. The original equipment still works, so people can see how the mill functioned in 1864.”