Fairfax County Park Authority's miller for the site, Stephen Golobic; FoCRM member Dan Dyke; FoCRM Treasurer Kitty O'Hara; and FoCRM President James Wallar accept a donation check for $5,000 from Celebrate Great Falls Foundation Executive Director Piper Ryan.

Mingle at Mill Funds Raised for Garden

Results are in from the  Celebrate Great Falls Foundation Mingle at the Mill fundraiser. Proceeds will be used to help fund our latest project: reviving the informal garden on the south side of the miller's house. Refreshed beds have been planted with shrubs and native perennials that should make their colorful appearance this spring!

Santa at the Mill, December  10 & 11

Mingling at the Mill

Celebrate Great Falls held their annual fall gathering at the mill on September 17th.  An adult only event, tasty treats including grits from the mill (with shrimp) accompanied wine, beer, and music. The water wheel was free-wheeling, and friends provided explanations and kept the lanterns lit until the last visitor departed.  A silent auction topped off the delightful evening in which even the weather cooperated.

New or Noteworthy

Hot Grits

Whenever there is something we just can wait to share with all of our friends or think it is too precious to keep to ourselves, we will post an entry here. Our Facebook page keeps track of on-going activities and the newsletter - Grist from the Mill - provides an excellent summary of past events. 

Grist from the Mill

Dressing the Stone

A recurring task at the mill is dressing the mill stones. Any high spots on the flat surfaces of the mill stone, called the lands, must be removed. The high spots are found by “staffing the stone.” A straight metal or wooden staff covered on one side with red, food-safe pigment is drawn across the stone. The red pigment colors any high points to be chiseled away. The furrows are the grooves in the mill stone. They are refreshed or sharpened using the stone pick so they are about 1/8 inch deep near the center of the stone and taper in depth so they are nearly nonexistent near the edge.

Christmas Greetings from FOCRM

Wonderful to see Santa back at the mill on December 11th, a delight for young and old.

New Site Manager
Julie Gurnee Keeps Things Spinning at Colvin Run

Julie Gurnee has taken the wheel at Colvin Run Mill. The new site manager shared some of her thoughts about the job with the Friends of Colvin Run Mill (FOCRM) in their Fall-Winter newsletter. Gurnee wrote, “This will be a great transition for me. Most of my career has centered around Natural History and Interpretation, and I am looking forward to the challenge of managing an Historic Site, especially one with such amazing cultural resources.”

Park Services Division Director Cindy Walsh says “Julie will bring fresh, new ideas to one of the Park Authority’s oldest signature parks. She is creative, collaborative, engaged and resourceful…all the skillsets to keep this site moving forward. I’m looking forward to seeing this great historic resource moving forward under her leadership.”

Gurnee has worked at FCPA since 2012

as a Senior Interpreter at Riverbend Park and then Visitor Services Manager. “Being so close to Colvin, I was able to partner with Colvin staff over the years for various events and programs,” she wrote to the friends group. “I am committed to protecting the amazing resources at Colvin Run Mill while finding ways to increase education, programming, and community involvement, while keeping the mission of the park as my guide.”

FOCRM is “thrilled” to welcome Gurnee to Colvin Run. Mike Henry, the former site manager and a current member of FOCRM, says, “I’ve known Julie for years, and in all that time she has consistently demonstrated the passion and drive so necessary to take Colvin Run Mill into the future.” Henry notes, “One of the biggest challenges on the horizon is the new Rt. 7 tunnel connecting the two halves of the park. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect the natural and cultural sides of the park to tell a broader, more encompassing story. Julie is uniquely qualified to lead the site into that vision. And to top it off, she’s just a real fun person to be around, too!”

FOCRM Receives Eakin Philanthropy Award

The Friends of Colvin Run Mill are the 2021 recipients of the Friends Group/Park Volunteer Team Eakin Philanthropy Award. Colvin Run Mill is the sole surviving operational 19th century water-powered mill in the metropolitan area. The Friends of Colvin Run Mill solidified their support of the park by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with FCPA in 2019.

A very active group of volunteers who help to maintain and enhance the Mill and fund programs and activities, the Friends have documented impact of more than $110,000, including a $60,000 donation for capital improvements. They also have donated white oak tree plantings through the Park Foundation. Other contributions over the years include significant in-kind gifts of furnishings and educational training. Additionally, the Friends assisted with the Partners in Preservation Social Media Contest sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The contest resulted in the Fairfax County Park Foundation winning a $75,000 grant to restore Colvin Run Mill to a fully operational gristmill.

New Wheel Ribbon Cutting

On May 2 a crowd of young and old gathered for the cutting of the ribbon to inaugurate the operation of and the first grinding powered by the new water wheel feed by the new flume. Speakers included Tim Hackman, the Dranesville District Park Authority Board member, Jane Edmondson, representing Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, Sara Baldwin, Acting Director of the Park Authority, and our own Dan Dyke, President of Friends of Colvin Run Mill.

Channel 16 Excellent Report on New Wheel and First Grinding


Click on Link to See Report

Waterwheel and Flume Replacement

After many years of wear, tear, and the elements, it is time to replace the waterwheel and flume. Operations, funded by the Fairfax County Park Authority, are nearly completed. This is not your ordinary home or mill repair. Care is required to maintain the integrity of this historical treasure. Below are a few "before" and "after" pictures, courtesy of FOCRM Robert Coblenz and Dan Dyke. For more action, from beginning to nearly the end, watch the videos below.

As of March 19, the installation of a new flume and waterwheel have been substantially completed. Watch interviews by temporary Colvin Run Mill site manager Sarah Oberther and by one of America's few and certainly one of its best millwrights, Ben Hassett, for more background about this unique renovation project.

Removal of Waterwheel

Simple Machines at the Mill

You all know about simple machines, right? As a reminder, they are: lever, wedge, screw, inclined plane, pulley, and wheel and axle. Simple. Dani, an outstanding educator at Colvin Run Mill, shows how simple machines make work easier at the mill.

Award Winning "STEM in 30!" of the National Air and Space Museum shows how simple tools at the mill are use to solve complex problems today. Not outer space: down to earth.

The STEM in 30! team was amazed at the mill; you will be too.

FOCRM President's virtual presentation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors 2020 Budget Hearing

FOCRM likes to show support for our favorite historic park.

The Story of Colvin Run Mill Restoration 1968-1972

You really will enjoy this outstanding compilation of pictures and music assembled by Robert Coblenz, member of the Board of Directors, FOCRM

Miller Opens Head Gate and Engages Gears

And the big water wheel starts turning

Sifting the Grind

The Rolling Sieve in the bolting box separates the ground grain into batches of different fineness. The sieve frame is a cylinder covered with coarsely woven silk at the one end and finely woven silk at the other. As the grain moves through the inside of the cylinder, fine flour falls through at one end and course at the other end.

Getting Ready to Grind

The runner stone is balanced on top of the bed stone, then encircled with a wooden hoop. The hoop is topped with the shoe, the damsel, the chair and the hopper.

Complete Milling Process: High Tech 1794

Grain is first weighed then travels up the elevator to be cleaned. It then travels down to the mill stones for grinding, back up to the hopper boy for drying and then off to be sifted and packed in barrels.

Did you know?

Colvin Run Mill is a Mechanical Engineering Landmark

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has designated Colvin Run Mill a landmark and a "good example of a typical early 19th-century (US) water-powered, Evans-type flour mill, restored into operating condition." This is quite a distinction!

The ASME "Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmarks are existing artifacts or systems representing a significant mechanical engineering technology. They generally are the oldest extant, last surviving examples typical of a period, or they are machines with some unusual distinction.

Landmarks, sites and collections of historic importance to mechanical engineering are designated by ASME through its History and Heritage Landmarks Program. Landmark status indicates that the artifact, site or collection represents a significant step forward in the evolution of mechanical engineering and is the best known example of its kind. A plaque is presented for display, a commemorative brochure is prepared, and a roster is kept to promote long-term recognition and preservation efforts."

The link below takes you to the ASME's write up.