Old Mill (The)
Historic re-creation of an 1880's water-powered grist mill. It is in the opening scenes of the classic movie "Gone With The Wind." It features sculptures by Senor Dionicio Rodriguez.
A highlight for visitors traveling Arkansas is the Old Mill, a favorite attraction that provides both a glimpse of history and a very beautiful photographic opportunity. (Don't forget to bring your camera!) The Old Mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located in the T.R. Pugh Memorial Park, at the corner of Fairway Avenue and Lakeshore Drive in North Little Rock. The structure is most famous for its part in the opening scenes of Gone With The Wind.
Guided tours, which last approximately 30 minutes, are available for groups of 10 or more people, with advance reservations and are conducted by trained volunteers by calling (501) 758-1424.
In 1931, Justin Matthews, developer of the Lakewood neighborhood of North Little Rock, contracted for the construction of a replica of an old, water-powered grist mill dedicated to the memory of Arkansas's pioneers. Neither the stone mill building, nor the general layout is a reproduction of any particular mill, but is a familiar design of early Arkansas, designed to fit the contour of a rough area.
The Mill, completed in 1933, is intended to appear abandoned - absent of doors and windows due to thieves or decay - just as old mills that were in service in the early 1800s had become by the 1930s. The image is that the old gristmill and driving equipment have fallen away or been disconnected from the water wheel; and the water gate on the flume above, although closed, is leaking enough water to turn the old wheel, which is idling away through the years.
Frank Carmean, a German immigrant, worked for Matthews as a builder/architect and designed the basics of the Old Mill. Carmean went on a tour of southwestern states in search of new architectural styles, at which time he "found" Senòr Dionico Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, a sculptor and artist, was responsible for all the details of each piece of concrete work made to represent wood, iron or stone, as well as the designing of the foot bridges and rustic seats. Rodriguez's secret techniques were so detailed and exacting that you can identify the species of trees in most of his work. Rodriguez worked without any written plans, but there are unwritten stories that describe how Rodriguez envisioned many of his works. "A black locust tree grew in the soft earth on the bank of the little stream. When it reached a certain height it was blown down, but continued to live. A woodsman who wanted to use the trunk of the tree as a footbridge cut off the limbs and..."
During the summer of 1991, Rodriguez's work at the Old Mill was renovated by Carlos Cortes - Rodriguez's great nephew and the son of Rodriguez's assistant Maximo Cortes. The Old Mill, along with other structures located in the Lakewood Property Owners Association Park and Crestwood Park in North Little Rock, were nationally recognized in 1986 by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Old Mill was given to the City of North Little Rock as a gift by the former Justin Matthews Company on May 24, 1976. Justin Matthews has been described as a visionary real estate developer for conceiving the idea of the Old Mill as part of a comprehensive system of recreational lakes and open spaces in the Lakewood residential area.
Matthews, who had been successful in the cottonseed oil business, had a tremendous impact on the shaping of the city's neighborhood character starting with his initial efforts during the 1920s and 1930s in developing the nearby Park Hill addition.
Several of the items found in the Old Mill are actual historic relics including:
* the grist mill itself on the first floor dates back to 1828;
* large mill rocks used for seats bear picking (deepening of furrows on the face to increase their grinding capacity) dates of 1823 and 1840;
* mill rocks on the second floor came from the plantation of Tom Knoble, the grandfather of Tom Pugh, in whose honor the Mill is dedicated;
* two original mile stones moved here from a road laid out more than 150 years ago by Jefferson Davis (who later became President of the Confederacy). Along this road (roughly along the route of present day Arkansas State Highway 22), the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians traveled from the present town of Dardanelle into the Indian territory, now Oklahoma;
* three sections of a wrought iron shaft were cut from the stern wheel of a passenger steamboat which traveled the Arkansas River in the 1800s.
Silver Screen Star:
The Old Mill was filmed in the opening scenes of the famous award-winning movie, Gone With the Wind, which was released in 1939. Although it is not known why David Selznick of Selznick Studios chose the Old Mill, it is believed to be the only remaining structure from the movie.
The Old Mill was honored on the fiftieth anniversary of the movie. It was also the site of the unveiling of the Gone With the Wind commemorative stamp. Through the years, stars from the movie such as Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton) and Ann Rutherford (Carreen O'Hara) have visited the Mill.
Attesting to its popularity, postcards featuring the Old Mill have been circulated all over the world. It is constantly being photographed and has become a popular site for outdoor weddings. Pugh Memorial Park and the Old Mill serve as hosts for over 200 weddings and 100,000 visitors each year. Please join the thousands of visitors who enjoy the vanished era that has gone with the wind.
About the Artist:
Senòr Dionico Rodriguez, a descendent of the artistic Aztec race, was born on April 11, 1891 in Toluca, Mexico, a town about 60 miles from Mexico City. At the age of 16 he had his first experience with what was to become his life's work while employed by an Italian artist, Robles Hill, who specialized in creating imitation rocks, caverns, ruins and ancient buildings.
Apparently as a result of the political situation in Mexico, Rodriguez came to Texas in 1925. In 1932, he was hired to do works of sculpture in several parks including the Old Mill. Rodriguez was secretive about the process by which he produced his work. He would mix products in the trunk of his car, slamming it shut if anyone approached or break the jars and peel the labels so no one could copy his work. Not even his assistants knew all of his secrets.
On December 16, 1955 Rodriguez died in San Antonio and was buried there in the San Fernando Cemetery #2. Among other locations, pieces of his sculptures can be found in the Memorial Gardens in Memphis as well as in seven states.
Friends of the Old Mill Mission and Activities:
Friends of the Old Mill, Inc. (FOM) is a volunteer organization made up of citizens, the NLR Parks Department, the NLR Visitor's Bureau, the NLR History Commission, and the Pulaski County Master Gardeners. FOM is dedicated to improving and maintaining the integrity and beauty of T.R Pugh Memorial Park (commonly known as the Old Mill). T.R Pugh Memorial Park is a small (approximately 3 acres) North Little Rock, AR, city-owned park dedicated to the memory of the Arkansas pioneers. The park contains unique sculptures done by the renowned artist Dionicio Rodriquez and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Site #86003585). Because the park and the structures located on it are so unique and have such a significant place in the memory of all who have visited it, a citizens group dedicated to helping the city maintain this treasure was needed. The FOM activities consist of, but are not limited to, working with the City Parks Department and the Pulaski County Master Gardener Program to:
1. Maintain the historical integrity of the Old Mill site inside a virtual perimeter
2. Provide a park that will attract visitors and residents, and also give the community and students educational opportunities
3. Establish support facilities: restrooms, drinking fountains, tables, benches, amphitheater
4. Remove anachronisms (street lights, picnic tables, trash cans, etc) to outside the perimeter
5. Provide handicapped accessibility as much as is possible given the nature of the site
6. Install interpretive graphics to briefly explain the unique history of the park
7. Create a docent program to help guide tours of the park
8. Repair all original park features using appropriate materials
9. Perform pruning, thinning, and planting of permanent and seasonal landscaping appropriate for the historic setting
10. Address functional problems such as water quality and erosion
11. Generally maintain the beauty of the park
Throughout the year, small groups of FOM volunteers perform work details such as litter pick up, flower bed rejuvenation, vegetation maintenance, wildlife habitat maintenance, structure reconditioning, etc. in and around the park. All of our activities are dedicated to preserving and enhancing the park by going above and beyond what the city is able to do to maintain the park.
While much of FOM's contribution to the Old Mill is volunteer labor, significant working funds are needed for structural improvements, seasonal plantings, and general upkeep. (It isn't easy keeping a 70-year-old "abandoned" mill looking abandoned, but amazingly beautiful!) The City of North Little Rock provides a basic level of funding for the park, but FOM conducts fund-raising activities like Memorial Donations, art sales, individual and corporate solicitations, and other innovative fundraising activities with all funds going toward improvements in the park.
Friends of the Old Mill is strictly a voluntary organization and is always looking for new members who want to help maintain the Old Mill.
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