Crane work will help determine path for historic Long Valley Mill
By MARK KITCHIN Staff Writer – Observer Tribune
Jan 19, 2022
WASHINGTON TWP. — Not to worry: There’s no trouble grinding at the historic Obadiah LaTourette Grist and Saw Mill.
The reason a tall crane could be seen at the historic East Mill Ave. building, located in the heart of Long Valley, on the mornings of Tuesday, Jan 11 and Friday, Jan. 14 is actually part of the continued effort to save it.
Machines lifted by the crane drilled down 40 feet behind the mill to capture core soil samples where the historic structure stands. The results will be analyzed and included in construction documents that will determine ultimately the best way to preserve the mill.
All of this activity is being paid for by a $180,000 grant provided by the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust and the New Jersey Historic Trust.
“This grant with the engineering is the most critical aspect of the restoration process,’’ Washington Township Land Trust President Jim Fitterer said. “This is going to determine what our next steps are going to be and what we are going to have to do. It will also determine costs. They will work off of those documents to determine bid specs.’’
To preserve the mill, the Land Trust will be following a process laid out by the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust.
The overall project is being managed by Connolly & Hickey historical architects out of Cranford, a group best known for the recent rehabilitation of the Lake Hopatcong Train Station and, in past years, their work on Acorn Hall in Morristown.
According to Fitterer the project will follow a three-year grant cycle. The first year it is required that the organization does a preservation plan, which it has already completed. Once that paperwork is in place, the next step is to file an application to create a construction plan, the step that the project is in now. This year the Land Trust hopes to have enough information to determine what is needed for the rehabilitation of the mill and how much money will be needed to reach that goal. The third year is used to apply for a grant for funds for the actual construction.
The trust has until April to apply for another construction document grant for engineering and design documents for the superstructure for the wood portion of the mill.
The Obadiah LaTourette Mill is listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places as a contributing property in the German Valley Historic District. It was built around 1750 and became essential to the economy and development of what was then called German Valley and the surrounding agricultural community.
At one time it was the most successful business in the area, grinding grain and producing flour and animal feed for area farms. However, the downtown Long Valley structure fell on hard times after the 1940s.
In March 1991, the town condemned the mill but it was saved when the Land Trust borrowed $20,000 from the Washington Township Historical Society and $10,000 from the Morris County Preservation Trust to save it from demolition. In December of that year, the land trust purchased the mill and the eight acres of river-front property which was once the mill pond.
Shortly thereafter, the trust secured a $5,000 emergency stabilization loan from the New Jersey Historic Trust and embarked upon the restoration of the mill with the aid of volunteers and donated materials. Although a lot of work has been done on the mill, parts of it are still in perilous shape.
In 2018, the Land Trust had to scramble to make emergency repairs to the back of the mill because of the constant erosion to its foundation from the Raritan River.
Those repairs have held up but there are also some parts of the back of the mill that are open to the elements and need to be covered properly. In July 2020, the Land Trust received an additional stabilization grant from both the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust and New Jersey Historic Trust of nearly $30,000. The money will be used to reduce moisture damage to the mill.
“The second grant that we have again involving both organizations is a stabilization grant,’’ Fitterer said. “That is to put leaders and gutters on the building and to wrap the building (with a protective covering), particularly the openings to protect from water damage. We have already sustained water damage. We want to lessen the damage and stabilize it. It is out for bid.’’
Fitterer said he did not know how far down the foundation of the mill goes other than it penetrated the soil in the river. Part of the crane’s work may solve that issue.
Dynamic Earth LLC, Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants of Chester, performed the capture of the core samples with the help of Bruce Koerner Cranes of Rockaway.
“They went on either side, close to the river on the east and the west side,’’ Fitterer said “They drilled down 40 feet and at measured increments took core samples which will go back to their lab. They will be analyzed to determine what the soil structure is.’’
Fitterer said that company also lowered a 3D camera from the top floors of the mill’s turbine bay to the water level to give them a good comprehensive engineering idea of the wooden structure of the mill. That information will also be given to the Land Trust which they will share with their grant partners.
“I have been told, based by my request that this will all be made available to the land trust,’’ Fitterer said. “We like to post it to our website and share it with Morris County Historic Preservation Trust because they have been so good with us and the New Jersey Historic Trust and show them what is happening with their money.’’
There is still a lot of work to do, and the Land Trust is always seeking new members. For more information – or to join – visit www.wtlt.org.
Comments are closed.