"It’s the occasional triumph like this that makes me feel really good. And that feeling is what pushes me to come back day after day to work towards the next little victory in the ongoing effort to preserve Thompson’s Mills."
—Tom Parsons, Park Ranger
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Spring 2015 Page
Spring 2014 Page
It’s the Little Things
Everyone who comes to the mill sees something different. Artists may see the shapes and colors of the mill or landscape. Local old timers see the mill today through the lens of what the scene used to look like. Kids see the giant apple and rose logos on the silos… but then notice the poultry and get distracted. Historic preservationists see a challenge. A big one.
Of the three water powered mills on the entire West Coast, Thompson’s Mill is the only one that is largely original. Occasional bits and pieces of the largest water- powered mill west of the Mississippi have been replaced, but almost everywhere you go in the mill, anything you see is historic, not a replacement or a substitute. It’s the real thing, often put there by an Oregon Trail Pioneer. On tours of the mill, we often use this fact to connect visitors to history. “Reach over and put your hand on that beam,” we’ll say. “It was installed when Abraham Lincoln was president.”
Today’s Oregonians are fortunate that for well over a century the mill was properly maintained. Basic upkeep, painting, window glazing, and other tasks that preserve a wooden building in a wet climate were a priority for the owners, so the siding they installed is the siding you still see today. Their efforts made basic economic sense; inexpensive maintenance prevented the need for costly repairs. And while they didn’t realize it, they were laying the groundwork for a future State Heritage Site. Their time and effort and materials they had to gather or create themselves became a lasting legacy for future generations of Oregonians to appreciate.
And so, with that background in mind, I’m proud to report that, this summer, we came close to completing one particular small maintenance project. On the third floor, the mill’s original north wall meets two other additions to create a small pocket of walls I lovingly call “The Nook.” It’s a dark and (formerly) damp area where mold and algae have thrived for years, but thanks to the quality of the original old growth wood, the siding had only just begun to rot and is 99% intact. A few years ago Park Ranger Assistant Matt Moritz and I slowly but surely prepped the area for preservation. This summer P.R.A. Thonni Morikawa continued the project with me. We scraped, primed, painted, and installed much needed gutters to stop the constant splatter of water from roofs above. Though a few more small pieces of trim remain to be replaced, I am confident that we caught the decay before it crept into the framing of the area. Had the decay progressed, a costly and complicated repair would have resulted.
I know it’s hard to imagine that such a small victory, especially one in an area that the public will likely never see, could be the topic for an annual article, but let me tell you, I am excited. My training in the area of Historic Preservation has been minimal, but I know enough to be proud. My training in economics is even weaker, but I know enough to be very proud. This little victory will likely never make it into the newspapers nor be appreciated by more than a few of us, but we see the value in the extra effort it takes to achieve such a hidden goal. It’s the occasional triumph like this that makes me feel really good. And that feeling is what pushes me to come back day after day to work towards the next little victory in the ongoing effort to preserve Thompson’s Mills.
Kind regards to all,
Ranger Tom Parsons