Motor Mill Foundation

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

Our Mission:

To protect and preserve 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 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.


Formation of the Motor Mill Foundation

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 status 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.


Current Members of the Foundation

Chair, Interim Ken Zichal

Vice Chair, Dr. Ken Zichal – A longtime supporter of Motor Mill, Dr. Zichal joined the Motor Mill Foundation in 2016 after he retired from the Central Hospital and Clinic in Elkader in Fall of 2015. He is passionate about art, history, building model tanks, and Motor Mill. He quickly dug in as a volunteer helping with tours and providing fresh ideas. Dr Zichal became Vice Chair of the Motor Mill Foundation in fall of 2021, and in February of 2023 took over duties as its Chair.

Treasurer, Chuck Morine: Chuck has served on the Motor Mill Foundation since 2002. Chuck has his Masters in Science from the University of Illinois and taught vocational agricultural for three years. Chuck also served our country in the Army before returning home to farm in the Lamont area. He and his wife moved to Clayton County near Osborne when Chuck retired from farming in 2001. Chuck began assisting with the Mill when he first saw it in deep disrepair. He made it his duty to get involved and put in as much time and effort as he could to help rehabilitate Motor Mill to its former glory. He and his wife, Syd, are both active volunteers at the mill, helping with reconstruction, tours, and events. When he is not volunteering with the Mill, Chuck enjoys flower gardening and is a Master Gardener.

Secretary, Larry Stone: Larry is a founding member of the Foundation and is on the Clayton County Conservation Board. An avid outdoorsmen, Larry’s love for Motor first bloomed during his many canoe/kayak floats along the Turkey River. Both a freelance photographer/writer and a former outdoor photographer/writer for the Des Moines Register, Larry has captured thousands of wonderful images of the site over the years and written many articles about Motor. He and his family still greatly enjoy their trips down the river today and always regard seeing Motor Mill as a highlight.

Board Members

Jon de Neui: Vice President from 2006-2019, Jon moved here from the Cedar Rapids area after retiring from restoring old barns in the Amana Colonies and as an instructor of construction at Kirkwood Community College. His passion for restoring historic buildings led him to Motor Mill where his vast knowledge of construction and restoration were invaluable to begin restoring the Mill and other buildings. Considered a “visionary” by the foundation members, much of the restoration projects at the site were the result of his amazing visioning, plans, and direction. Two of his biggest achievements were his plan on how to bring the huge gap in the peak of the roof closed and the final realization of a new bridge in 2012.

Lee Lenth: Lee has served on the Motor Mill Foundation as a Board Member since 2006. A veteran of the 101st Airborne Artillery Unit, Lee has lived in Clayton County for over 75 years. After his service, his love of this area brought him back to the family farm in Littleport. His work on the farm and working with the Amish has given Lee an incredible love for carpentry, which is what first drew him to the Motor Mill Foundation. Some notable projects he built at the mill are the viewing platform in the basement and designing the shutters on the windows that he recruited the Amish to replicate and build.

Jane Metcalf: Jane served as vice president beginning Fall 2019-2021 after several years demonstrating dedication to the educational efforts at the Mill. Jane joined the foundation as she retired from working for Central Community School in Elkader. Jane is full of fresh new ideas and has added some great new annual events like the Motor Mill Bridge Lighting and the Art Festival. Jane has a strong connection to Motor Mill because she grew up just over the hill where she developed her passion for the historic site.

David Beck: David has been a board member since 2016. History of the mill and the beauty of the location drew him to be involved with the Foundation. With accessibility to the many historic documents from the mill’s formative years, housed at the Garnavillo Museum, David has been able to add to and expand interpretation of the mill’s history. Giving tours is a particular favorite of his involvement with this group. David is also president of the Clayton County Genealogical Society and board member of the Elkader Historical Society.

Chris Schoen: Christopher Schoen moved to Clayton County in 2015 from Cedar Rapids, where he worked as a professional archaeologist since 1998. His friend, and later wife, brought him to Motor Mill to show him the magnificent buildings and serene setting in 2013. Here he met Lee Lenth and John Nikolai, who invited him to volunteer with restoration activities. After relocating to the county, Chris took Lee up on his offer and began his immersion in all things related to the Motor Mill Historic Site. He is gratified that he can apply his cultural resources background to the development and interpretation of this significant historic place.

Mark Yackel-Juleen

Don Venteicher


  • Margaret Stone
  • Syd Morine
  • Rick Dennler
  • Fred Stroschein
  • Greg Beisker
  • Roger Buchholz
  • Sandy Refle
  • Dean Refle
  • Verna Lenth
  • Bob Bente

Gone but not forgotten:

John Nikolai: 1940 – 2/12/23 – Longtime Foundation President John Nikolai was a founding member of the Motor Mill Advisory committee established in 2002 and the Motor Mill Foundation established in 2004 and was their Chair until he passed February 12, 2023. John and his wife, Mary Fran, moved to Clayton County from the Chicago suburbs in April 1997. Originally from Moline, IL, John had a career in water transportation and became aware of Northeast Iowa while managing a barge terminal and scrapyard in LaCrosse, WI in the 1970’s. John was very influential and tireless concerning the preservation and growth of Motor Mill and will be sorely missed.

Steve Beaumont: – 6/17/22 – Although he was quiet, Steve was an avid conservationist on his farm in Garber, IA and loved history.  Steve was a longtime volunteer at Motor Mill helping out with restoration efforts at the site.  He was ready to pitch in on workday Tuesdays as often as he could and could be called on to help whenever there was a project that needed extra hands.

Les Klink: August 11, 1926 – June 22, 2018 – A dedicated founding member, Les Klink had personal ties to Motor Mill ever since his Grandfather purchased the Mill site in 1903 to use it for farming activities. The Klink family continued to farm the land until 1983 when they sold it to the Clayton County Conservation Board. Les stayed close and lived nearby the site working on his farm in Communia.  Les still spoke fondly of his memories from living by the Mill and helping his dad and grandfather thresh oats and work the farm at Motor.

You can help preserve and protect this special place!