Tide Mill Institute

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Souther Tide Mill - Quincy, MA

One woman is refusing to let the mill fall quietly into the water, and her unlikely crusade seems to be gaining some momentum.

“I'm not a political activist, I'm just a person who recognizes the value of this place," said Carolyn Marks, 74, who has lived in Quincy since 1939.

In July, she secured a $100,000 grant on behalf of the city through the state Community Preservation Act, a program designed to preserve historic sites and open space.

She is working to resurrect the Friends of the Souther Tide Mill, a defunct organization she headed that worked with the administration of former Mayor James Sheets in the 1990s to renovate the Tide Mill.
Its goal was to restore the mill’s wooden wheel to working order, spruce up the 5-acre property, and create a museum celebrating Quincy's history.

The mill itself is the only remaining tide mill in the United States that still retains both a gristmill and a sawmill. It was partly owned by the Adams family, and was used variously for shipbuilding, granite transportation and lumber production. The Bunker Hill Monument was built with granite that came from the mill.

The preservation effort floundered because of expense, and the cost to the city now would far exceed the $100,000 on hand.
Sheets still believes it can be done. “A hundred thousand dollars is strong capital,” he said. “Always have hope, you have to have hope.”
In addition to obtaining grant money, Marks is searching for support within the community. Why not have vocational-technical students at Quincy High School work on the building, she says. Weymouth High carpentry student volunteers reshingled the Adams Birthplace in 2005, and with students involved, parents are more likely to get involved.
John Goff, a historian who studied the mill extensively in the 1990s, believes it is still a viable renovation project.

“There is no need to lose hope for this property or its future, simply because some of the less ancient parts of the property were damaged by fire,” he said.

The tide mill was built in 1806, and remains standing. The destroyed property consists of a planing mill and a sawmill, added in the late 19th century.

Marks insists that the mill's foundation remains viable, due in large part to work done in 2001 with a $300,000 grant obtained by the Friends group and former Mayor Sheets' special projects manager, Bernice Mader.

The money was used to stabilize the post-and-beam foundation of the mill and replace rotted timbers on the first floor with new handcrafted timber replicas.

Marks recognizes the now-or-never aspect of her crusade, and is frustrated that the grant money, which she says should be used to protect the mill from harsh winter weather and to start to repair fire damage, has not been budgeted for use by city officials, she said.
Mayor-elect Thomas Koch, former head of the city parks department, says he “fully” supports the restoration of the tide mill, though his incoming administration does not yet have an outlined plan.

Reader's Comments:

Joe Chetwynde, who has been a prime mover in the Friends of the Souther Tide Mill group, has provided some comments in regard to the news article in the Patriot Ledger:

I believe that what small fishing fleets there may have been most likely landed fish at either Germantown, or at Quincy Point where shipbuilding later took place . On the whole, there was not much of that kind of activity taking place in Quincy ( prev., Braintree ). There was some short term business in whaling in the 1840's, of course, and that was definitely established at Germantown. Remember, too, that Germantown was also the site of German glassmakers, and the (then) largest ship built in the colonies, the MASSACHUSETTS. There were very active fishing fleets in Hingham and Cohasset, Duxbury and Plymouth at that time, however.

As for the granite destined for the Bunker Hill Monument, that was all shipped by the Quincy Granite Railway and shipped from a specific-built stone dock, with a turn table for the easier un-loading of the large blocks of stone from the rail cars, now all or mostly lost or obscured in the Neponset River marshes due to the construction of the
South-East Expressway in the 1960's. The stone, more likely, was shipped on barges, towed out of the winding creek and river by steam tug. I think, if they also used sailing vessels, then, they too, would need to be towed out into the open water of the river, if not all the way out into Dorchester Bay. I also think that there was a draw bridge at the Neponset - Atlantic /Quincy location at that early time, and certainly at the later time. Remember that the monument was built in stages over some forty plus years.

Quincy granite was also shipped from several other locations in the town.

There was a dock at Bent's Creek which was near the Braintree - Quincy town line. That was later absorbed when the Quincy Fore River Shipyard was established at the turn oif the century. Stone also was shipped at the same Quincy Point ship yard site. Most likely, that was the location where the monolithic columns bound for New York and Savannah, GA were loaded. Then, too, stone was also loaded at the Town River Brackett's Wharf. The 30 ton die block for Daniel Webster's New York monument was brought to that site, later absorbed into John Duane's Wrecking yard.

There was some granite shipped through the Quincy Canal, however. At the head of navigation there were several polishing sheds. The sarcophagus of President Grant and Mrs Grant rest on a large polished slab of Dark Quincy Granite which was produced by the Patterson Granite Compny in the late 1890's.

Article From Patriot Ledger, Nov. 9, 2007

Souther Mill survives blaze:Newer building destroyed but firefighters
save historic mill

The Patriot Ledger
QUINCY - To City Councilor Leo Kelly, historic Souther Tide Mill is ‘‘like
a cat, with nine lives.’’

It just used up another one.

The mill - one of only about half a dozen tide mills left in the nation -
appears to have been spared the brunt of a two-alarm fire during the

‘‘After viewing what happened there, I just have to say, thank God for the fire department,’’ Kelly said after surveying the damage yesterday at the Southern Artery site. ‘‘It’s incredible - they saved the tide mill.’’

Firefighters were able to contain Saturday night’s fire to one of the
three buildings, Fire Lt. John Carroll said. The destroyed building had
been constructed later as part of a lumber yard.

No one was injured, Carroll said.

Police Capt. John Dougan said today that a homeless man told police at the scene that the fire resulted from a campfire that he had started and could not put out.

Dougan said Donald Murray, 44, was arrested and charged with wanton
destruction of real property, breaking and entering, and trespassing.
Dougan said that while the fire was burning Saturday night, a witness told officer Peter Curley that a white man with gray hair and a thin build had walked away from the Tide Mill and toward the nearby CVS pharmacy, and
pointed him out.

Curley arrested Murray. He will be arraigned today in Quincy District Court.

Several homeless people who apparently have been living in the building had been trying to throw bags holding their personal belongings over the barbed-wire fence surrounding the building when firefighters arrived, Carroll said.

Clothing was strewn across a muddy path around the building yesterday; a toothbrush and a soggy Gideon’s Bible opened to a page titled ‘‘Help in Time of Need’’ were in the debris. City officials have been working to save the tide mill since the early 1990s, when it was ranked as one of the state’s 10 most endangered historic sites.

In November, the city agreed to take ownership of the mill and adjacent waterfront property, with the goal of creating a waterfront park with kayak and canoe landings along with dockings for commercial lobster boats.

The fire should have no effect on those plans, Kelly said.

A steady stream of onlookers stopped by the mill site yesterday to check out the damage.

P.J. Foley, an environmentalist who said he has been helping Mayor William Phelan’s administration to come up with plans for the future of the area, agreed with Kelly that without the quick work of firefighters, the mill would have been destroyed.

‘‘They saved the day - there’s no doubt in my mind,’’ Foley said. ‘‘The
fact that Quincy Lumber buildings were lost is not going to set us back.’’

‘‘This is not good, but it may not be a total loss historically,’’ said
Quincy Historical Society Executive Director Ed Fitzgerald, who stopped by after hearing the news.

The tide mill was built by the Souther family in 1806 on Town Brook, off Town River. It used the tidal action of the waterway to power a grist mill to grind grain into flour.

A planing mill and sawmill were added in the late 1800s, and it was
converted into a lumberyard, run by the Quincy Lumber Co. for most of the 20th century.

It is believed to the only combination grist mill and sawmill still
standing in America.

The buildings have been boarded up and abandoned since Quincy Lumber Co. closed in 1983. CVS Corp. bought the property in 1998 and agreed to donate the mill buildings and several acres of adjacent waterfront property for preservation.

The Souther Tide Mill Historic Association controlled the site until it
was turned over to the city. The group spent $300,000 to shore up the
mill, which Kelly credits in part for the mill’s survival in the fire.

‘‘Thank God all that was done, or I think the whole thing would have been in the Town Brook,’’ he said.

Reporter Don Conkey contributed to this report. Diana Schoberg may be reached at dschoberg@ledger.com .

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, January 08, 2007

HABS/HAER photos

Souther Tide Mill Damaged in Fire but Preservation Efforts Renewed

By John Goff

2007 started off with a challenging situation in Quincy, MA, south of Boston. In January, the Patriot Ledger reported ?Souther Mill survives blaze; Newer building destroyed but firefighters save historic mill.? Prior to the 2007 fire, the Souther Tide Mills in Quincy were a joined group of three historic timber framed buildings, commonly called the Grist Mill, Saw Mill and Planing Mill. The oldest parts of the Grist Mill date back to about 1806. Between 1991 and 2000, extensive efforts by the City of Salem and other groups had succeeded in planning for the mill complex?s future use as a museum; putting the property in private non-profit ownership, and securing $300,000 in State and Federal funds that were used to raise the Grist Mill out of harm?s way of rising ocean levels, and to completely rebuild the first floor of the Grist Mill.

Keeping the mill complex free of trespassers, vandals and homeless people has been a chronic challenge. In January, 2007 the Planing Mill (built by the Southers as a tidal water-powered saw mill after the Civil War) was near totally destroyed, accidentally, by a homeless person?s camp fire that was allowed to get out of control. By November, both the Planing Mill and adjacent Saw Mill were removed, exposing an old wharf beneath the Saw Mill that had not seen light of day for many years.

The Grist Mill surviving at the Souther Tide Mill site is now the last remnant of this rare early tide mill that historically was considered the last combined Saw-and-Grist tide mill standing in the United States. A preservation group called Friends of the Souther Tide Mill has recently been reactivated under the leadership of Carolyn Marks. Carolyn Marks also helped the City secure a new $100,000 from the Community Preservation Act, or CPA, that may be used to re-roof, restore, preserve and re-open the mill. Beginning in January 2008, the City of Quincy will have a new Mayor, Thomas Koch. On November 9, 2007, in an article titled ?A Push to Save a Piece of Quincy?s Past?Souther Tide Mill? journalist Evan Allen noted ?Mayor-elect Thomas Koch, former head of the city parks department, says he ?fully? supports the restoration of the tide mill, though his incoming administration does not yet have an outlined plan.? The city of Quincy has recently assumed ownership of the property.