Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reviving a Southern Appalachian Icon, Chapter 8: A final note

There's good news for those who follow the ups and downs of the Blue Ridge Parkway's iconic Mabry Mill near Meadows of Dan, VA:  It's back in business.  Here's how it looked today when I returned from several weeks out of the state:
All photos by Jack Betts, Rocky Knob Writery LLC

 When last I wrote about the rebuilding of the waterwheel, dredging of the millpond and other restoration efforts, there was one important bit of unfinished business: The old wooden flumes that collect the water from several sources on the hillside were in need of repair. So was the race, the final run of wooden trough that carries the water over the wheel and drops it in a steady, powerful gush that falls into the waterwheel buckets, forces the 16-foot wheel downward and powers a number of machines in the mill itself -- grist wheels, sawmill, lathe, sash saw, router and other gizmos that represent the state of the industrial arts in an earlier time.  The only water available was coming through a smallish PVC pipe laid in the race. It was just enough to get the wheel moving but didn't appear to be nearly enough to power the mill. That has changed, thanks to dedicated work from Parkway employees and help from a private foundation.

The restoration of the wheel itself was supported by a $65,000 grant from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the official fund-raising partner of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The foundation also gets important help from individuals who can donate generally, or by specific project. There's more information available at its website at

It's mighty good to see the stone-and-concrete waterways that feed the flumes and raceway brimming with water again, and the wheel creaking merrily away. Here are few shots from around midday today that show how the wheel is back in its revolutionary business:


  1. We're taking a trip down the Parkway in the fall and look forward to seeing Mabry Mill again, especially with your thorough explanations of the repairs.

  2. Please come by and visit with us and stay a day or so. We're right off the Parkway a few miles. Would be mighty good to see you two again.