Preservation Iowa’s 2012 Most Endangered Buildings: Wapsipinicon Mill Museum (West Independence, Buchanan County)
The Wapsipinicon Mill Museum is located at 100 1st Street West in the business district of Independence, Buchanan County, Iowa. The massive six-story structure sets on the west bank of the Wapsipinicon River keeping watch over the river and the city. Documentation of its historical significance is its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The mill is also a partner site with Iowa Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area. The Wapsipinicon Mill Museum is an architectural icon, built in 1867-1870. The monumental task of building such a massive six-story structure without the use of power tools and lifts remains a secret to visitors. To our knowledge, there are no other mills of comparable size and construction in the Midwest.
The present condition of the Mill is very good except for the roof and the adjacent structural timbers, which have rotted due to the rapid deterioration of the roof. Water damage to the deteriorated timbers is caused by several years of rotting roof. The inside is now being affected by the structural deterioration.
The natural threat to the Mill is water, including rain, snow, and a constant spray from the dam. Lack of financial resources for the enormous roof renovation and restoration project is the human threat. The need is dramatized by the cornice and soffit pieces falling off into the river and the ones left hanging and blowing in the wind until they finally fall off. Those over land pose a danger to people. The rate of roof and cornice deterioration has accelerated dramatically during the summer of 2011. Because of the accelerated roof deterioration, the rafter plates, rafter tails, and sheathing are also deteriorating rapidly.
Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered Property program was started in 1995 and implemented to educate Iowans about the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away from us. Since the initiative’s beginning, Preservation Iowa has designated over 140 of Iowa’s endangered sites, churches, homes, and commercial buildings.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2012 Most Endangered Properties includes: