Preserving our past: An old mill with new hope

Published on November 25, 2016

Letter to the Editor

Chalk one up for historical correctness. The grist mill at Leard’s Pond in Coleman is about to be stabilized at the very spot where it has withstood the passage of time for more than 100 years.

The Board of Directors of the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary, owner of the historic mill, had all but given up hope of restoring the building, which is nestled between Route 14 and Leard’s Pond on one side and the Confederation Trail on the other side.

It’s well worth saving the last mill of its kind. There are history lessons to be had at that mill. Lessons that could not be re-created at a facsimile. Journal Pioneer editorial board

Instead, they had decided to re-create some of the mill’s infrastructure at the museum complex in O’Leary. But that would merely have been a facsimile of the mill’s proud past.

As it turns out, the old mill had two saving graces: generous donors who raised funds to have it stabilized, and a realization that it would have had to be stabilized anyway just so that the historic milling equipment could be removed.

So, with the financial means for stabilization realized, it looks like the old mill now has a future in Coleman.

That’s good.

It’s well worth saving the last mill of its kind. There are history lessons to be had at that mill. Lessons that could not be re-created at a facsimile.

However, the money raised so far will only set the mill on a solid foundation. Much more money will be required to fix up and restore the mill before its doors can reopen to the visiting public.

With approximately $115,000 already raised through private donations to save Leard’s Mill, that certainly shows there is interest in preserving an important piece of Prince Edward Island history. That’s pretty amazing.

There will still be challenges. A grist mill display might get more visitors at the Canadian Potato Museum than at the real thing in Coleman, but there’s really no advantage in that if the visitors were going to the potato museum anyway. In Coleman visitors will get the real experience, location and all. Here is an opportunity to promote the mill, the Leard’s pond natural area and the Confederation Trail all in one package.

To make it economically viable, the Potato Museum might have to treat the mill as its own entity rather than as an extension of its O’Leary museum complex.

Entrepreneurs should be thinking up ways they can make this work, for their benefit and for the benefit of the historic mill. Any ideas that can help make the overall Coleman attraction viable will increase the chances of attracting government funding for the rest of the renovations the mill requires.

It’s already too late to save the other grist mills that once operated in this province; it’s obviously not too late to save the Coleman mill and turn it into a cultural and educational attraction, possibly even one that offers nineteenth century milling capabilities.