David Oleksa, president of the Durham Historical Society, told the supervisors at their August meeting Matthew Christopher had asked permission to photograph the mill. The society, which acts as a kind of support group for the township-owned mill, is restoring it with the aid of government grants.
The mill, the centerpiece of the quaint Village of Durham, was built in 1820 on the foundation of the 1727 Durham Iron Works. The mill is not technically abandoned, but it has not been in use since 1967 when it was owned by Floyd Riegel.
Christopher, a respected freelance photographer from Mount Gretna, Lebanon County, is the creator of the Abandoned America series. His first two books are “The Age of Consequences,” and “Dismantling the Dream.” The mill would be one of his subjects in a third book.
Both Supervisor Bartley E. Millett and Richard Johnson said they supported the idea to allow Christopher access to the mill, but with their usual provincial wariness, expressed concerns about the need for a contract and proof of insurance on the part of Christopher.
Dani McClanahan, township secretary, reported on the progress of work at the mill. She said the bathroom at the mill has been completed with the exception of the installation of fixtures.
The township building itself is also undergoing transformation to make it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The front concrete walkway, stairs and ramp have been poured. Paving around the site and installation of railings must still be completed.
Roadmaster Peter Cox reported a portion of Dogwood Lane is again closed to traffic after Tropical Storm Isaias caused further damage to the beleaguered project which has suffered a multitude of weather-related and permit-related problems since it was first washed out by severe rains in August 2017.
This was the first meeting since the inception of COVID-19 fears that residents actually attended. Previous meetings had been conducted via telephone conferencing.
Three residents were present and seated in socially distanced chairs as were the supervisors and township personnel. All were masked with the exception of Supervisor Chairman Kathleen Gentner who presided at the meeting.
The 200-year old Durham Grist Mill’s story and images may wind up in a book if the Durham Township supervisors can reach an agreement with the fine arts photographer/writer/lecturer who is working on his third volume about abandoned buildings.