Since 1744 a mill has stood on the site of today’s Evans-Mumbower Mill. Elements of the structure seen today may date back to those early buildings but it is not possible to say for sure. What is known, however, is that the mill operated until around 1930 and during subsequent decades fell into severe disrepair. The west side of the building was without a roof for nearly 20 years while both weather and vandals took a toll on the building. The result was that by the mid 1980s many of the windows, doors and structural elements of the mill were failing, mill machinery was rotting and the mill was in danger of falling down.
In 1986 with support from Jack and Claire Betz and the JDB Foundation, repairs to the mill began under the supervision of the Towemencin Historical Society. In 1987 the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association assumed ownership of the property, named it Evans-Mumbower Mill, then set out to repair and restore the historic structure. WVWA’s objectives were:
Return the building to a structurally sound condition
Make all structural repairs historically accurate, as much as possible
Interpret the history and significance of the site for the community
There has been a four-prong approach to the restoration of Evans-Mumbower Mill:
1986-1989 Restore stability and structural integrity
The highest restoration priority was to return the building to sound, stable condition. The roof was repaired. Beams, joists and flooring were replaced where needed. Windows and doors were replaced. Interior features such as staircases and walls were rebuilt. Because construction strove to use building materials that matched what was originally there, most materials needed to be custom milled. Even floor joists, originally a full three inches thick, not the 2 5/8 inches of modern lumber, were made to order.
2001 Reconstruction of northern addition
Although most of Evans-Mumbower Mill is constructed of stone, for many years there was a three-story, wooden addition at the northern end of the building. By the time WVWA acquired the mill in 1987 the addition was no longer standing. In 2001 the Watershed Association decided to reconstruct the addition employing mid-19th Century designs and techniques. Using photos of the mill when the addition was still standing, the Association was able to recreate the exterior of the structure almost exactly as it was before. Structurally, the building is a timber frame building with post and beams made from White Oak. Today this part of the mill houses the entrance to the building, a small auditorium and a workshop.
2007-2011 Reconstruction of milling machinery and return to water power
Believing that Evans-Mumbower Mill’s full potential to interest people and inform the community would not be realized until it was actually grinding grain, in 2007 WVWA secured a $300,000 grant from the JDB Foundation and hired millwright, Ben Hassett, to restore the mill’s grinding machinery. Hassett constructed a new, wooden waterwheel, rebuilt shafts and gearing and installed a refurbished set of grind stones. WVWA also added a pump system to continuously recirculate the roughly 1,000 gallons of water per minute needed to operate the mill. In 2012 with water once again flowing over the waterwheel and newly refurbished gears driving the mill stones, Evans-Mumbower Mill returned to water-powered operation for the first time in over eighty years.
1897 to the present, Ongoing restoration
For more than a quarter century WVWA staff and a corps of volunteers have worked constantly to repair equipment, bring equipment back to life and maintain the building. We look forward to other mill equipment such as the cob crusher and elevators being restored and operating again. This phase of restoration is ongoing and likely will never be complete.