Engineering Then and Now

Electric circuits, 3 D printing, airborne flight, building parks, earthquake proof houses, mechanical drawing, blacksmithing, and, naturally, grinding corn featured at the Engineering Then and Now program on May 19, 2024.

Snowy Day - January 20, 2024

The snow turned all white and quiet, but the tea party went on!

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

Colvin Run Mill Park Site Manager Julie Gurnee Awarded 2023 Supervisor of the Year!

Congratulations, Julie. The "Trailblazer" at Colvin Run Mill.

Mingle at the Mill, September 9, 2023

Celebrate Great Falls' second "Mingle at the Mill" gave participants an intimate look at the mill since the torrential rain forced activities inside. The crowd had a great time chatting with friends, listening to music, eating, drinking, bidding at the silent auction, learning about the mill, and staying dry.

Making Music at the Mill

A symphony of movement results when mechanisms on all four floors at the mill are in gear. The operation of the water wheel, hopper boy, shaking sieve, bolting box, slapper, greased gears, grain cups, rolling fan, and shoe are set to music in a extraordinarily delightful video creation by FoCRM Board Member Robert Coblenz. Bravo!

SPOOM Visits Colvin Run

The mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills (SPOOM) met for a half day at Colvin Run, touring the mill and miller's house, listening to interpretation, asking questions, and partaking of corn muffins made from corn meal ground on location. An educational and festive time!

Easter Egg Hunt! What a Delightful Day!

Fair Parks Initiative: Fund Fairfax County Parks!

Budget season for the next fiscal year is in full swing. Your local district supervisory will be putting together a final budget over the next month.

The Friends of Colvin Run Mill have worked with the Fair Parks Initiative composed of other friends groups to advocate for more resources for park personnel and activities. A full copy of the Fair Parks Initiative flyer can be found at "Read me" below.

Read more

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.

Christmas Greetings from FOCRM

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.