Mill Mountain Zoo’s historic “Old Mill” has been given new life after being out of commission for over a decade. Mill Mountain now has an authentic mill wheel, turned by running water, once again. The mill is centrally located on the Zoo’s grounds and the peaceful sound of its turning wheels can be heard throughout the property.
Mill Mountain got its name honestly: back in the mid-1700s, Mark Evans received 400 acres of land (including what is now Mill Mountain) from a land grant from King George II. Mark’s son, Daniel, built a gristmill at the base of the mountain in 1755 that was powered by Crystal Spring. George Washington is said to have visited the mill in 1756, adding to its historical significance.
When the “Famous Children’s Zoo on Mill Mountain” (as it was once called) opened in July 1952, “Ye Olde Mill” was an exciting feature for its guests. A souvenir guidebook from this early period notes that the mill building was the original Zoo giftshop.
As part of its 70th anniversary celebration beginning in July 2022, the Zoo hopes to reopen the mill building to Zoo guests. For now, it will give guests a glimpse into the Zoo’s past while once again making the mill wheel a part of its present.
Caleb Conner, Mill Mountain Zoo’s Facilities Director, personally repaired the mill. Executive Director Niki Voudren recalled, “When the Old Mill started turning, everything and everyone else stopped. The level of excitement throughout the staff was something to behold.” Voudren added that no one currently on staff can remember when (or if) they had ever seen the Mill in operation.