Motor Mill Foundation

Contact Us:

Motor Mill Foundation of Clayton County,
29862 Osborne Rd.,
Elkader, Iowa 52043

Motor Mill Foundation Background


  Formation of the Motor Mill Historic Site

In 1983 the Clayton County Conservation Board (CCCB), with help from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, purchased the Motor Mill Historic Site along with 100 acres of land.  The purchase included 40 acres associated with the Motor Mill buildings on the north side of the Turkey River and 60 acres on the south side of the Turkey River.  The buildings consist of five native limestone buildings including a Stable, an Inn, an Icehouse, Cooperage and the 90-foot Motor Mill.

The purchase was made for the purpose of preserving and restoring the buildings, along with interpreting the history of the site.  Starting in 1985, the CCCB sponsored Open Houses at the Motor Mill Site.  This gave county residents and visitors a chance to see inside the buildings and learn more about the history of the site.

The Motor Mill Site was expanded in 1992.  Again, with assistance from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, the CCCB was able to purchase an additional 55 acres adjoining the original 40 acres on the north side of the river.  The most significant part of the purchase included the original town site of Motor platted in 1875.

Today, the Motor Mill Historic Site totals 155 acres; 95 on the north side of the Turkey River and 60 acres on the south side.  The CCCB maintains a hiking trail on each side of the river and a canoe ramp, campground, and picnic area on the north side.

In 2001, the CCCB received a REAP HRDP grant to write a Preservation Plan.  The completed plan outlined the current conditions of the site’s primary structures.  Also included in the plan were short-term and long-term recommendations for preserving the buildings.

The short-term recommendations were completed in the first year.  Windows were repaired to prevent water damage and the buildings were painted and better air ventilation was provided.  Long-term recommendations included major roofing issues.  Many of the roofs on the buildings are in need of replacement.  The plan outlined a time-line and roof type to meet National Register standards.  Current funding sources are being pursued for this project.

The Motor Mill Advisory Committee

In 2002, the CCCB looked to the public for guidance and assistance to develop a long-range plan for the entire Motor Mill Site.  As a result, the Motor Mill Advisory Committee was formed in March of 2002.  The Motor Mill Advisory Committee, made up of a diverse group of volunteers, began to develop a mission statement and set goals.

In the winter of 2003, an afternoon of sharing Motor memories was held at Osborne Park.  Area residents and former residents of Motor met and told personal and family stories of Motor.  The oral history sessions were videotaped as many details and anecdotes were exchanged.

A video about Motor history was made in 2004.  If features historic and modern photos of Motor structures, landscape, colorful personalities and a timeline of project construction, mill operation, decline, changes, current status and future plans for the site.

The Motor Mill Site was open for special occasions in the past as staffing allowed.  In 2005, the CCCB received funding through the AmeriCorps Program.  The AmeriCorps Member worked with Conservation Board staff on research, site promotion, land management projects, administration and worked with volunteers to have Motor Mill open for tours two weekends a month May through September.

The Motor Mill Foundation was Formed

In 2004, the Motor Mill Advisory Committee completed a Motor Mill Feasibility Study.  The study outlined 10 priority items for the future development and direction of the Motor Mill Site.  This became a guiding document for the Foundation.

One item included the creation of a foundation.  As a result, the Motor Mill Advisory Committee evolved into the Motor Mill Foundation of Clayton County in September 2004.  Their mission is “To protect and reserve the architectural integrity, history, natural beauty and serenity of the Motor Mill site and its surroundings and to develop appropriate uses and interpretation as a regional treasure for the benefit of future generations.”

The Motor Mill Foundation began planning the future direction of Motor with the development of a two year business plan.  The plan outlined 10 priority items including historical research, having the mill open for tours, becoming a 501c3 organization, scheduled educational events, Robert Grau Memorial Savanna restoration, investigate replacing roofs, bridge replacement, flood protection, development of a trail system and grant writing and fund raising efforts.

In 2005 Resource, Conservation and Development Board (RC&D) chose Motor Mill as one of their project sites.  As a result of this partnership, the RC&D has helped with long range planning and the pursuit of funding sources.

The Motor Mill Foundation received their 501c3 tax exempt statues from the IRS in September 2006.  The designation allows the Motor Mill Foundation to write grants, hold their own accounts, and offer a tax benefit to donors.

Since this time the Motor Mill Foundation has been moving forward with many projects.  Please visit other areas of this website to locate Yearly Annual Reports, quarterly newsletters and press releases for up to date information and project status.