Motor Mill: Stories in Stone

The limestone walls of Motor Mill have towered 90 feet above the river since 1869. The Mill, with four associated buildings, has witnessed the growth of the state of Iowa, challenges of Mother Nature and human nature, and the series of changes that shaped the agricultural economy. Native Americans also used the site for centuries before that.<br><br>Now, more than 140 years later, the nonprofit Motor Mill Foundation has launched a $500,000 drive to raise matching funds for $1.5 million in state, federal and private grants that they’ve received to help restore the buildings, rebuild the bridge, and to construct a multi-use trail along the Turkey River between Elkader and Motor Mill. Work is expected to begin on these projects in 2012.
history, natural beauty and serenity of the Motor Mill site and its surroundings, and to develop appropriate uses and interpretations as a regional treasure for the benefit of future generations.”

Since then, the Foundation has assisted the Conservation Board with several projects. Some include:
More than 9,100 volunteer hours of work;
Repairing roofs and chimneys on the Mill and the Inn;
Replacing floor joists and flooring in the Mill;
Replacing windows in the Mill and adding shutters on the first floor;
Repairing support beams for the millstone floor;
Managing the Robert Grau Memorial Savanna and prairie restorations; Revamping the campground and canoe ramp;
Improving the well and water system;
Leading tours at Motor from May through September;
Approving long-range development and educational plans for the site;
Developing a website;
Creating a Facebook page;

Work to date has cost more than $208,000, which came from private donors and state and federal grants.

Future plans call for repairing roofs on the Stable, Icehouse, and Cooperage, excavation of silt in the Mill basement, and flood protection for the Inn, Stable and Icehouse.

The Motor Mill Foundation has begun a fund drive to raise another $500,000 to complete those projects.

For updates, go to, or call the Clayton County Conservation Board, 563-245-1516.