Backstory and Context
John Young traveled to Ohio in the late eighteenth century with his family. He purchased 15,000 acres of land from the United States Government for approximately $16,000 in 1797. That same year, Young sent Isaac Powers and Phineas Hill to survey his massive property. They came upon a creek and falls and acknowledged that the area had great potential. Both in agreement, they approached Young with the offer to buy the 300 acres surrounding the falls. Young agreed, however, he stated that the only condition was that the two had to build a saw-and gristmill on the site within a year and a half of purchase. The deal was finalized and the two surveyors began construction of the mill.
The first mill was opened in 1799 and built from logs and millstone that were created from materials found surrounding the site. It stopped operating in 1822 and was replaced by a second mill in 1823. The second mill was constructed by Eli Baldwin and operated only as a gristmill until a flood destroyed the structure in 1843. Today, a grinding stone from Baldwin’s mill is still visible along the creekbed.
From 1845-46 German Lanterman and his brother-in-law, Samuel Kimberly, built a third mill near the falls and it’s structure is still used as the framework of Lanterman’s Mill today. This mill also operated as a gristmill that was initially powered by an overshot wheel and then converted to turbine power several years later. Despite the success of Lanterman’s Mill it closed in 1888, and historians believe this is because roller mills became more common and were less expensive to operate.
Years after Lanterman’s Mill closed the structure began to deteriorate. However, in 1892 it was purchased by Mill creek Park and was repaired to serve as a ballroom, concession stand, storage, and bathhouse for swimmers. The mill ran as a park facility until the first floor was transformed into a nature museum in 1933, and then changed again into a history museum 39 years later. In 1976 Lanterman’s Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
In 1982 the renovation of the mill began. The Mill Creek Park Foundation received a $600,000 grant from the Florence and Ward Beecher Foundation to fund the project. In order to mimic how it would have looked and operated in the nineteenth century Dr. John White from Youngstown State University organized an archaeological dig to recover artifacts and prove that an early water wheel had existed. In addition, Lorin Cameron and his sons were hired for their expertise in gristmill renovations. Along with total improvement of the building antique machinery was purchased and installed. Today, visitors can view how Lanterman’s mill became so successful and learn early Ohio history.