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Posted June 8, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

New beginning

A kitchen display is part of the Edinburg/Madison District Museum. — Rich Cooley/Daily

Dan Harshman, mayor of Edinburg, arranges a display of vintage clothing inside the mill’s museum. — Rich Cooley/Daily

The Edinburg Mill will have its Grand Opening on Sunday at 1 p.m. — Rich Cooley/Daily

Clyde Beachy, president of the Edinburg Heritage Foundation, stands inside a blacksmith’s shop in the mill, which now houses the Transportation and Edinburg/Madison District Museum. — Rich Cooley/Daily

Edinburg Mill reaches long-awaited grand opening

By Josette Keelor - jkeelor@nvdaily.com

It has been 12 years in coming, but after much labor, numerous fund-raising efforts and needed help from the community, The Edinburg Mill is ready for its grand opening celebration at 1 p.m. Sunday.

On a recent afternoon,Clyde Beachy, Edinburg Heritage Foundation president, Bill Wetzel, vice president, met at the mill with Janet Wagniere, the foundation's secretary, to discuss the mill's journey. Even over the past 12 years, the building - now safely on the list of historical landmarks - has seen a lot of change.

"It's been a miracle to transform," Wetzel said.

A grist mill until the 1970s, the mill later became the location of a string of restaurants before falling vacant in 1998. That's when Edinburg Mayor Dan Harshman stepped in, Beachy said.

The mill was on the auction block, and, with no historical protection under the law, it might have become anything from a storefront to a parking lot, Beachy said.

"He said, we ought to do something," Beachy recalled. "That's how it started." The town of Edinburg purchased the property in 2000 with the intention of turning the mill into a museum.

"It's a collective effort between the town and the Edinburg Heritage Foundation," Beachy said. "It's been a very good working relationship over the past 10 or 12 years."

The mill, which has been open as a museum since January, is almost indistinguishable from the three-floor restaurant it used to be. The first and second floors now house a gift shop and the Transportation and Edinburg /Madison District Museum. In what used to be a second floor dining room, now is a tiered theater where the locally made movie "The Burning," about the burning of the Shenandoah Valley, runs four times a day, Wagniere said.

"We're one of the few mills that survived the burning," she said.

The film is based on the book by John Heatwole, she said. "It still is quite popular, but we also sell it."

Parts of the mill are still unfinished. The foundation has allotted space for retail purposes and there are hopes that a restaurant will move into the basement, which still holds bar tables and booths from the '90s.

The transformation would not have been possible without federal grants and private donations.

"Our initial grant to purchase the property was [from] a transportation equity act for the 21st Century," Wagniere said. The $535,000 T-21 grant stipulated that the foundation turn the mill into a transportation museum, she said. The transportation museum focuses on road, river and the Valley Pike and includes historic items like a Studebaker farm wagon used by Cleffer Hoover to haul up to 6,000 pounds of grain per trip from the mill.

A reconstructed stone fireplace stands next to a bellows once owned by George and Nora McClaneham, which was used to keep the fire going each day for their forging business.

"We get all this stuff from different people in the area," Beachy said

The building also includes the Edinburg/Madison District Museum, which offers a look into the everyday life of area residents who used a rural post office with cubby holes and seats from the old opera house/town hall, now the Theatre Shenandoah.

Original kerosene lamps, a dinner bell from Camp Roosevelt and musical instruments from a time when every town had its own band relate stories from the valley's colorful past.

Entrance to the first floor is free, and a $2 donation is requested for the second and third floors. For the Sunday grand opening, entrance to the museum will be free.

Money from the Housing and Urban Development funded an elevator in what used to be a grain bin.

Every floor now is handicapped accessible, which Beachy explained was not required because of the building's historic landmark status, but is a necessity for the mill to better serve the public. The basement and first three floors also have handicap facilities.

"We had to do all sorts of things that aren't readily available that cost lots of money," Wagniere said.

A $180,000 HUD economic development initiative grant, a donation from Shentel, a federal economic development grant and a $30,000 grant from the Battlefield Foundation also funded the project.

The entire effort cost $1.3 million.

At the entrance of the mill museum, a wall-sized plaque thanks those who, over the last 12 years, have helped make the museum a reality.

The amazing part, Wetzel said, is "the talent and the time that was put in. It was just unbelievable the talent of those people."

Harshman, whose name is listed with others under nearly every category of aid, from painting to marketing, also designed the museum.

On the second floor, part of his contribution is easily visible in the display cases safely closed in behind storefront doors and windows. Artifacts from F.C. Downey M.D. sit behind the bakery doors of the old Edinburg Bakery, and a bedroom display is beside a door from the Hugh Saum Co. Hardware Store, established in 1865 and closed in the 1980s.

"He designed them," Beachy said of Harshman. "He's the architect and the doer."

According to Harshman, "I'm just handy. It's enjoyable. It's a lot of fun."

In an effort to fund the museum effort, The Edinburg Mill is selling bricks for an outdoor patio at $250 a piece.

For more information, call The Edinburg Mill at 984-8400.

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