OZARK, Mo. -- The historic Ozark Mill is becoming a site for on-lookers even before it re-opens as the tourist attraction it will no doubt be.
The grain mill was built in the 1830s, and right now, work is underway to lift and completely move the mill-- all 160-thousand tons of it.
Crews are preparing to move it off its old foundation, so they can build a new, flood-proof foundation underneath, then set it back down.
Two grown men could probably stand on each other's shoulders underneath it, as it is, that is how high it has been lifted off the ground.
Much of this project is still somewhat a mystery. A lot of people wondering what in the world this is eventually going to look like-- but the city says, no doubt, it will be a tourist destination.
"I don't see what they could have done that would have been much cooler than this," said Ozark resident Jim Mikulin.
Onlookers come from near, for now. But soon, they will likely come from very far away as well.
"I was nearby this morning and the sun was up, and I went yeah, I'll snap a couple pics and see what happens," Mikulin said.
"It's really something that is going to be so special," said Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers.
The Ozark Water Mill is nearly 200 years old. The plan is to return it to its heyday.
Bass Pro owner Johnny Morris has been a lover of the old mill since his childhood. His vision for this, we're told, is to create something to honor the heritage of the mill. It was once an economic hub, a community gathering place, somewhere to host events, meetings, etc. It will soon open-up as some sort of special venue once again.
"There's a lot of mystique, and a lot of culture and a lot of history that is associated with the Mill, obviously that is gonna be the main focal point," Childers said.
Movers are raising it up in one piece, which is an incredible feat. Then they'll rebuild the foundation below to prevent flooding from the Finley.
Then, they'll move it back to it's original spot where it's been for generations.
"To be able to do something productive with it, they probably had to do this... I don't think it was an option," Mikulin said. He spent decades teaching architecture and engineering, but has never seen something quite like this.
"There would be a field trip over here if I were still teaching."
"Anything that Johnny Morris and Bass Pro does is just amazing. They always go to the highest level of quality," Childers said. "We know that this is something that is going to bring back this history of Ozark, something that has been so important for us. It truly will be a tourist destination."
Bass Pro says there is no timetable yet as to when the project will be complete. The city says it's anyone's guess.
Here is some information that Johnny Morris released ahead of the Mill's current construction:
Noted conservationist and Ozarks native Johnny Morris has begun efforts to restore the historic Ozark Mill, a working grain mill that dates back to 1833, with plans to one day open the Mill to the public.
Located on the banks of the Finley River near charming downtown Ozark, Missouri, the mill will undergo extensive preventative maintenance to restore its foundation and prevent further flood
damage. As part of the effort, the entire structure will be lifted and temporarily moved to allow crews the ability to completely rebuild its foundation.
“Our intention is to protect and restore the building to honor its remarkable heritage,” said Johnny Morris, who was partly inspired by his own family history. His grandfather owned and operated a mill in nearby Willard, Missouri. “We intend to eventually open this historic facility to the public and create a very special venue that celebrates our region’s unique history, ingenuity and culture. We are grateful to the City of Ozark, and particularly neighbors of the mill, for their
support in this process while this important work takes place.”
The Mill’s rich history and location on the beautiful Finley River makes it a fitting addition to Morris’ other nature-based attractions in the Ozarks including Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, which also features an iconic working gristmill as part of its welcome center for visitors. Nearby,
Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve is home to the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, an exhilarating two-and-a-half-mile trail journey that immerses visitors in the breathtaking natural beauty of the Ozarks including a massive cave. Top of the Rock also features the
Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, home to the largest private collection of Native American art and artifacts in the world.
Significant restoration efforts are expected to begin in February 2018.
Additional details about future plans for Ozark Mill will be announced as they are finalized in the coming months.