Maryland grants funds for Jerusalem Mill face lift

February 14, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Standing ankle-deep in mud and slush, Harry J. Sanders couldn't be happier.

At long last, after more than 30 years, the state has agreed to contribute nearly $800,000 out of its capital budget to rebuild the exterior of Jerusalem Mill. Money to rebuild the interior has yet to be appropriated.

"I can't believe this is finally going to happen," Mr. Sanders said yesterday morning, standing outside of what's left of the 1770s mill on Jerusalem Road. About a dozen people, including members of the volunteer group Mr. Sanders formed in 1984 to save the mill, came to hear the official news from state Sen. William H. Amoss, D-35th-Harford.

The mill was one of several county park projects Mr. Amoss toured yesterday with officials from the Department of Natural Resources.

Mr. Sanders said the state had agreed to allocate the money last year in its fiscal 1993 capital budget. "But we hadn't actually got the money, [so] bids couldn't go out until the money was released," he said.

Jerusalem Mill, on the border between Harford and Baltimore counties on Jerusalem Road near Jericho Road, will be carefully dismantled and rebuilt as the 9,660-square-foot headquarters and visitors center for Gunpowder Falls State Park.

The exterior of the building, which inside will have three renovated floors, will look like it did in the 1770s. Slight modifications, such as access for the handicapped, will be added as discreetly as possible, Mr. Sanders said.

Bids will go out at the end of this month and work will start in early June, said Wallace S. North Jr., assistant projects administrator for the Department of General Services. It's uncertain how long the work will take because the project is so complicated, he said.

"Just evaluating the bids is going to take a long time because we will be evaluating each contractor on his qualifications, for example, stone masonry, and experience in working with historic buildings. We want to make sure anyone we hire is going to be able to do the job right," Mr. North said.

The state bought the mill and land surrounding it in 1961 and pledged to restore it at that time. Back then, the Kingsville Rotary Club solicited bids to restore the mill, but the state deemed the estimated $17,000 too costly, Mr. Sanders said.

The estimated cost to restore the building now is $1.7 million. The state is expected to contribute about $1.6 million: the $797,000 it released yesterday plus an additional $797,000 to be used for the interior of the building. The second-half of the money is now before the General Assembly, Mr. Amoss said. Harford and Baltimore counties have agreed to contribute about $100,000 each, he said.

"The only reason this project got funding is because of the tremendous amount of volunteer support from the community," Mr. Amoss said. "The old way of doing things, with the state picking up the entire tab, just doesn't work anymore. We've got to have community support."

Surrounded by a padlocked chain-link fence, the mill is kept standing only because of heavy beams and cables installed by the state in the late 1980s. Inside, the giant mill stones remain and so do the wooden chutes used to funnel the different grains into bins. The uneven wooden floor is worn through in places, and melting snow drips threw the rotting roof, two floors above. In one corner, the electric motor, used to modernize the mill in the 1930s, has rusted until it is nearly unrecognizable. Debris is strewn over the floor.

But scoot under a couple of waist-high support beams, and far below, the remains of the original wheel housing and mill stone can be seen. A stone arch, through which water once flowed, is also visible. Visitors will be able to see this, from a viewing platform in the basement, once renovation is complete.

Mr. Sanders said he suggested that the state Department of Natural Resources use the building as park headquarters when it began looking for a site about eight years ago. Using the mill also will save the state money, as it had planned on spending about $3 million for a park office along Harford Road. The main office of Gunpowder Falls State Park, which employs about 20 zTC park rangers plus support staff, is now crowded into a small house on Harford Road, said assistant park manager Mike Browning.

Jerusalem Mill was built in early 1772 by David Lee, a Pennsylvania Quaker. The mill was part of a prosperous community along Jerusalem Road, which was a major thoroughfare 200 years ago, Mr. Sanders said.

There are seven structures in the area, including a restored covered bridge, that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Once the mill is rebuilt, there will be space for displays, along with public restrooms and vending machines, Mr. Sanders said.

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