Porter Gaier is executive director of the Turn the Mill Around Campaign

Porter Gaier is executive director of the Turn the Mill Around Campaign. 

Starting Friday, local residents and travelers along Interstate 66 and U.S. 55 east of The Plains are in for a treat as they pass the Chapman-Beverley Mill in Thoroughfare Gap.

The walls of the historic structure will be lit from sundown to sunrise by red, white and blue LED spotlights, a project undertaken by the Turn the Mill Around Campaign, owners of the mill, as a way to celebrate Independence Day and kick off their 2020 fundraising efforts.

The mill was burned in October 1998, shortly before a foundation took ownership of the historic structure on the Fauquier-Prince William county line to preserve it as a working museum.

At the time it seemed the mill, gutted to its stone walls, would have to be demolished. But the Turn the Mill Around Campaign, a 501(c)(3) corporation made up of local preservationists and history lovers, was quickly organized. Plans were made to preserve what survived. 

Later, the Turn the Mill Around Campaign developed a master plan incorporating visitor trails, interpretive signage and other assets to create an educational site. Recent improvements include the installation of temporary bathrooms, road improvements, parking facilities and ADA-compliant access.

Porter Gaier of Orlean was recently appointed executive director of the Turn the Mill Around Campaign. 

“The structure itself is secure, and now the fun part starts,” she explained. “Things like getting the stones repointed so we can put on a new water wheel, getting the head races back up so we can have water come back up to the building and getting the iconic gables lost in the fire back on.”

Central to making these improvements is developing a partnership with the community. Gaier sees the mill, which dates back to 1742, as an active archeological site that could be used for events, tours, lectures and art classes.

“It’s such a treasure… we want to share it with everybody,” she added, noting that for more than 150 years, the Chapman-Beverley Mill played a significant role in the agricultural, industrial and economic growth of the entire area. 

“I planned the light display to reignite curiosity about the mill and get the community involved, and to reinvigorate our fundraising campaign,” said Gaier. “We’re slowly making improvements, but that is definitely contingent on community involvement.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is hoped that the mill will be reopening soon. 

Those wishing to donate can visit their Website, chapmansmill.org, or send donations to Turn the Mill Around Campaign, P.O. Box 207, Broad Run, Va. 20137

Reach John Toler at jtoler@fauquier.com

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