By David Singer
In the darkest days of 2009, with the Solstice just past, the San Juan County Historical Society has been blessed with a burst of financial sunshine, illuminating the preservation of one of southwest Colorado’s most important Landmark heritage sites, the Mayflower Mill otherwise known at the Shenandoah-Dives.
Closing out a very successful year of restoration work, the Historic Society has just landed a grant for $268,400 from the State Historical Fund!
This hard-won funding has now secured a exceptional Congressional appropriation for San Juan County through the National Park Service’s, Preserve America’s Treasure’s Landmark restoration program in the amount of $150,000. This Federal appropriation was obtained with the help of Congressman John Salazar’s office earlier this fall.
Work on the mill will begin in the Spring of 2010 and will focus on three of eleven structures that have been meticulously documented at the site including the Tram Receiving Terminal, the Tunnel Passage connecting the crushing plant and the Conveyor Trestle which transports ore to the top of the Fine Ore Bin.
The scope of work in this first phase of the planned 4-phase rehabilitation of the entire mill complex will also include improvements to surface drainage across the 5-acre site and around foundations, including necessary repairs to several historic stone retaining walls. This first phase of restoration is the next step in a major planning effort that began with two summer field school projects in 2005 and 2006.
Silverton Restoration and SJCHS organized the field schools with the National Park Service’s D.C.-based heritage Documentation team, bringing in professionals from all over the country to offer training in field assessment, geology, industrial archaeology and mining and mill technology specific to the Mayflower operation.
A group of six architects lived at the mill for three months and created a fully 3-dimensional set of drawings of all buildings and equipment housed in the complex, ranging from tram systems to crushing and floatation and filtration machinery. These drawings and the Historic Structures Assessment of the mill, which received awards from the Colorado Historical Society, have been catalogued at the Library of Congress and will guide the restoration project funded by these recent grants.
The announcement of the grant for the project caps off a stellar year for the San Juan County Historical Society which includes: the restoration of the exterior of the 1903 Jail which houses our museum, the installation of connecting tracks to the DSNG at the historic Denver and Rio Grande Engine House in Silverton’s rail yard, taking ownership and operating the Silverton Standard and Miner, Colorado’s oldest newspaper, and undertaking the planning process for a new hydro-electric plant at the Mill site, and the list goes on and on.
The year 2010 will offer many challenges for the SJCHS on this and other projects starting up in the New Year. However, the long-range preservation planning and thoughtful preparations with our partner organizations are the hallmark and the anchor of our success, fostering programs like the Field Schools and rigorous documentation and assessment.
Together with the on-going restoration of the museum, the SJCHS will continue to provide new jobs and economic opportunities to local contractors and suppliers, turning our portion of Silverton’s heritage-based tourist economy into real paychecks and specialized preservation training for our crew members.
Honoring our commitment to preserving the memory of those men and women who carved out our niche in the rugged San Juan and struggled to raise their families and secure their success in our mining and milling heritage is a New Year’s resolution that I am proud to be a part of.
Walking this path with folks like Bev Rich and John Richardson and other super-active members of the Historical Society like Scott Fetchenhier, Zeke Zanoni, Jerry Hoffer and Freda Peterson have been an inspiration.
The restoration of the Shenandoah-Dives Mill will be a landmark event in their decades of accomplishments and I raise a frosty glass of homebrew high in their honor and to the health and prosperity of our home in Baker’s Park!
Happy 150 years Silverton!
David Singer is the owner of Silverton Restoration Consulting and its chief and only grant writer. He is currently managing the restoration of the San Juan County Museum building housed in the 1903 jail and is about to become deeply entrenched in the restoration of the Shenandoa-Dives Mill.