By Debbie Adams
The Gish Mill Redevelopment Project has been in the works since 2015 when the Town of Vinton purchased the historic property, which at that time was known as Holdren’s Country Store.
There has been continual speculation about what the renovated property would look like when completed. However, through months spent on planning, design, and applications for historic state and national grants, little work has been visible to passers-by.
Over the past several months, dumpsters have been noticed on site as work began on the interior of the structure, but nothing identifiable as actual renovation or construction has been evident from the outside.
Now that has changed and the project seems more of a reality with the recent dismantling of the eastern (far right) end of the building, leaving a concrete pad.
Vinton Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning Nathan McClung, who is the town’s project manager for Gish Mill, says that, despite appearances, much has been going on inside, including stabilization and repair work.
The Gish Mill stabilization and repair is supported by a grant from the Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund (ESHPF) administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
“Using town funds, we have completely cleaned out the building of all debris, leftover storage items, and even dust/dirt using a local company. It looks incredible inside, almost like stepping into a completely different building.”
The town purchased the property at a cost of $126,000 in October 2015 as Town Council and much of the citizenry wanted to preserve the historic mill, which appears on the Town Seal, and put it back into use. In 2019 the town issued a Request for Proposals.
David Hill of Hill Studio and developer David Trinkle, incorporated as Gish Mill Davii, LLC, and presented their proposal to council for converting the property to mixed-use development and signed a contract of sale with the town in April 2020– contingent upon environmental, structural, and historic assessments of the property, and obtaining funding.
The project includes a restaurant and seasonal market on the first floor, a special event space in the basement, conversion of the original mill structure, concrete silos, and upper floors into lodging or apartments, along with outdoor dining on a deck with patio space. The historic “sluice” will be utilized as an intimate seating area with stairs that cascade down to Glade Creek.
David Hill said that “the eastern wedge is the area most damaged by previous weather events and is in the worst structural condition. It is not habitable. The slab will remain, and the area will become an outdoor plaza that will accommodate the future restaurant and mercantile uses. The space will be used for dining, leisure, and recreation in the area overlooking the creek.”
According to Katie Gutshall with Hill Studio, “The National Register nomination describes it as a ‘post-1955 frame addition’ and it is considered non-historic.”
McClung says, “Based on what I’ve heard from stories, that non-historic portion of the building was previously used as incidental storage to the prior business. I remember hearing about them having forklifts inside that portion of the building which gives credence to that idea.”
The goal of the Gish Mill Redevelopment Project is to return life and prosperity to the founding structure of the Town of Vinton. Gish Mill was built in the 1770s and was in continuous operation in one form or the other since then– until it closed as Holdren’s Country Store in 2015.
Gish Mill has been placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places as a “circa 1846 three-story brick grist mill situated along the south bank of Glade Creek.
Hill expects to complete construction in 2023.