News

Yates Mill is open!

Our shiny new forebay

Our shiny new forebay

If you visited Historic Yates Mill County Park at any time since the holidays, you certainly noticed some out-of-the-ordinary scenes — particularly very low pond levels, fencing all around the mill yard, siphons over the dam, and a lot of heavy equipment.

All these were necessary while we replaced the forebay or flume — the “box” that channels water from Yates Mill Pond to the mill’s waterwheel.

We’re delighted to say the project has been successfully finished, the mill yard is open, and tours are about to resume! Regular weekend tours will begin on Saturday, June 7, and our first corn-grinding weekend will take place on June 21-22. Visit our Tours page for details on times and ticket prices.

First stage of the project: We cut holes in the old forebay to empty it and start lowering the pond level.

First stage of the project: We cut holes in the old forebay to empty it and start lowering the pond level. Click the photo to see a larger version.

Though we’re proud to work with Wake County and N.C. State University to keep Yates Mill open to you, Yates Mill Associates is solely responsible for financing all the repairs — big and small — that this historic treasure requires. Mill tour fees are a big part of our funding, but we also rely on your support through gifts and membership fees. Please help us keep the wheel turning by making a gift to Yates Mill Associates.

The forebay replacement is the biggest repair job we’ve taken on since restoring Yates Mill and opening it and the park to visitors in 2006. We’ve replaced the roof and repaired the Hurst frame (the heavy timbers beneath the mill that hold up the machinery) in recent years, too. While those projects also required us to close off the mill yard, they didn’t take as long or have the same park-wide impact as the forebay repair.

Two 12-inch siphons, plus a pair of smaller siphons, were needed to get the pond low enough. Board member Larry Hancock reviews the work site from the top of the old forebay with William Robbins and Donnie Evans.

Two 12-inch siphons, plus a pair of smaller siphons, were needed to get the pond low enough. Click image to see a larger version.

The forebay sits in a ¬†notch in the dam to keep it below the level of the pond’s surface, so water can easily flow into the forebay. Since our head miller, William Robbins, and his helper, Donnie Evans, needed to use power tools to remove and then rebuild the forebay, the water level had to be kept safely and reliably below the forebay’s floor.

Wake County officials used a siphon system to bring the water level down but it was a challenge. Rainy weather stymied their efforts in the winter, and the siphon method itself involved some trial-and-error since it had never been done before. Inadequate drainage would leave an unsafe work area, but too much would cause the pond’s wildlife to suffer.

Forebay frames on-site, waiting to be put in place.

Forebay frames on-site, waiting to be put in place.

It took a few months to figure out the right balance and then get the level down. During that time, William and Donnie built the forebay’s framework off-site. Once the water level came down, on-site work moved at a swift pace and was finished in early May, the week of our annual meeting.

Framework in place, now awaiting side boards, gates and other parts. Click to see larger version.

Framework in place, now awaiting side boards, gates and other parts. Click to see larger version.

YMA and the county needed a couple more weeks to repair some stonework on the dam and around the mill, clean up the work sites, and then allow the pond to refill. Mother Nature has taken her sweet time with the last part, but the mill yard is open and we can resume tours even if we don’t have enough water to run the waterwheel.

YMA would like to thank the many people who worked on this project, including William and Donnie, our repair committee and officers who oversaw the project, and our partners at Historic Yates Mill County Park and the county government. We’re very happy with the work — and happy it’s done, as we expect you are, too! ¬†Come out soon and see us!

All done!

All done!

 

 

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