Flash flood­ing re­sults in dam­age to Wye Grist Mill

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By KRTISTIAN JAIME Kjaime@ches­pub.com

WYE MILLS — Heavy rains in the area, which prompted flash flood ad­vi­sories, on Thurs­day, Oct. 11, flooded the base­ment of the his­toric Wye Grist Mill, caus­ing thou­sands of dol­lars in dam­ages.

John Nizer, pres­i­dent of Friends of Wye Mill, the own­ers and op­er­a­tors of the his­toric site, was no­ti­fied about 11:30 p.m. of the mill’s ac­ti­vated alarm. About 20 min­utes later, em­ployee Rhonda Corder no­ticed the base­ment was flood­ing as a re­sult of the over­flow­ing mill pond ad­ja­cent to prop­erty.

By the time Nizer ar­rived on the scene, 6 inches of wa­ter had per­me­ated the room and caused ex­ten­sive warp­ing to the wood floor and the wooden door. The place­ment of a sump pump did lit­tle to com­bat the in­com­ing rush of wa­ter, which ef­fec­tively had flooded the out­door pic­nic area and had nearly put the iconic, 8-foot mill wheel un­der wa­ter.

“By the time we left at about a quar­ter af­ter 1 a.m., the wa­ter had risen about 2 more inches,” Nizer said. “This was very sim­i­lar to the flood last year, but we had less wa­ter in the mill. Back then, we had about 18 inches of wa­ter in the mill. The wa­ter re­ceded, and there were de­hu­mid­i­fiers for a week to have the room dry out. We also had to re­place some equip­ment in the fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem.”

The to­tal bill for re­pairs fol­low­ing the Aug. 7, 2017, flood was $4,400, which the or­ga­ni­za­tion barely could af­ford, Nizer said. He said he ex­pects re­pair costs to equal a sim­i­lar amount this time.

While the build­ing has a sprin­kler sys­tem and in­sur­ance on the prop­erty, it doesn’t have flood in­sur­ance. Pur­chas­ing a spe­cific flood pol­icy was cost pro­hib­i­tive, Nizer said.

To date, the mill still raises funds by grind­ing grain the first and third Satur­day of each month from May 1 to mid-Novem­ber.

It also has the dis­tinc­tions of be­ing the old­est wa­ter-pow­ered mill in con­tin­u­ous use in the na­tion and one of the old­est com­mer­cial build­ings still in use in the state.

Dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, the Wye Grist Mill and other mills on the East­ern Shore shipped thou­sands of bar­rels of flour to the Con­ti­nen­tal Army, com­manded by Gen. Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton. His­to­ri­ans dubbed the East­ern Shore “The Bread­bas­ket of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion.”

Prom­i­nent past own­ers of the mill in­clude Richard Ben­nett III, Ed­ward Lloyd III and IV, and Col. Wil­liam Hem­s­ley, com­man­der of the Queen Anne’s County Mili­tia and pro­vi­sioner to the Con­ti­nen­tal Army from 1779 to 1783.

Oliver Evans, “fa­ther of the mod­ern fac­tory” and the first great Amer­i­can in­ven­tor, used the Wye Grist Mill in the 1790s to for­mu­late au­to­ma­tion ideas that rev­o­lu­tion­ized Amer­i­can fac­to­ries.

In 1996, Preser­va­tion Mary­land trans­ferred the own­er­ship of the Wye Grist Mill to the Friends of Wye Mill Inc., which is ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing the Wye Grist Mill is preser ved.

The Friends of Wye Mill hope the pub­lic may want to help re­pair the mill.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate any do­na­tion re­gard­less if its just five or 10 dol­lars. What­ever you can give is greatly ap­pre­ci­ated,” Nizer said.

Do­na­tions to help with the re­pairs of the 335-year-old Wye Grist Mill can be sent to the Friends of Wye Mill Inc. at P.O. Box 277, Wye Mills, MD 21679.

COUR­TESY OF JOHN NIZER

More than 6 inches of wa­ter has flooded the base­ment of the grist mill by 12:30 a.m. Fri­day, Oct. 12.

PHOTO BY KRIS­TIAN JAIME

Dam­age to the wooden floor af­ter wa­ter had re­ceded shows warped floor boards and elec­tri­cal chords from wa­ter pumps.

PHOTO BY KRIS­TIAN JAIME

John Nizer, pres­i­dent of Friends of Wye Mill, shows how high the wa­ter rose on the his­toric build­ing.

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