All Hands on Deck at the Francis Mill: A Call for Preservation Work Crew Members

March 31, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Travel News
Waynesville, North Carolina Three years ago, the historic Francis Mill in Waynesville, North Carolina, was on the verge of collapse. An innovative partnership between Heritage Conservation Network and the Francis Mill Preservation Society generated hundreds of volunteer hours at the mill during week-long hands-on building conservation workshops in 2004 and 2005. The two organizations will begin their third series of workshops on June 18, 2006, and would like to invite mill aficionados, preservation enthusiasts, and anyone else who would like to contribute to the effort to come to Waynesville and work on the mill.

Today, the mill, built in 1887, stands fully enclosed and weather tight, the timber framing repaired. "We're well on track to complete restoration and make the mill operational once again," says Tanna Timbes, president of the Francis Mill Preservation Society. The group's intent is to open the restored mill to school groups and others interested in learning about their mountain heritage.

The workshops have proven a very cost-effective means of preservation, with the FMPS able to do with volunteers what would have cost thousands of dollars. Not only that, but the value of the volunteer labor has been used to match grants awarded for the purchase of building materials and supplies and the services of a preservation specialist to guide the work.

The workshops are open to all interested parties. No experience is necessary, just an appreciation for history and a willingness to work hard. The workshop is scheduled from June 18-July 1, 2006. For work planning purposes, pre-registration is required; participants may sign up for one or two weeks. A workshop fee covers the cost of lodging, lunches and insurance. Donations to the project are also welcome, as there are additional expenses not covered by workshop fees.

The Francis Mill operated for nearly 90 years and still contains much of its original equipment including overhead belts and pulleys, wooden gears and a variety of grinders. The building itself is a charming, well-crafted vernacular structure with carved battens that give it a Carpenter Gothic appearance. The quality of craftsmanship has undoubtedly contributed to the building's ability to withstand time. Damage to the building had been confined primarily to that caused by water from the waterwheel splashing on the building. That damage has now been repaired.

Now some big ticket items are coming up, such as restoration of the waterwheel and dressing the mill stones, but there's still plenty of work volunteers can do. This summer's workshops will focus on finishing all the structural repairs and, provided enough people join in, on beginning reconstruction of the flume.

Complete workshop details and registration information can be found at HCN's website,, or by contacting Heritage Conservation Network at 303 444 0128.

Heritage Conservation Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of architectural heritage around the world. HCN produces an annual series of hands-on building conservation workshops in association with local preservation partners in order to further the sites' preservation and provide an educational experience for participants.