Springfield Mills Restoration Team Recognized by University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has awarded Morris Arboretum’s Springfield Mills Restoration Team a Models of Excellence Honorable Mention for 2016. The award was presented at the University of Pennsylvania on April 21, 2016.

In the past year Mill volunteers contributed nearly 1,500 hours in historic preservation and education. Mill volunteers restored several belt-driven machines, adding to the demonstration of 19th & early 20th century grist mill operations. The west wall of the mill was restored; the tail gate, turbine vane controls and cob crusher were all added to demonstrations. Corn is now being grown, shelled, and ground, and cornmeal is being sifted, bagged, and even baked into muffins. Mill speed increased 12%, allowing for finer grinding and sifting.

By building and leveraging exemplary relationships with community volunteers and businesses, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania maximized limited staff and financial resources in order to preserve, restore, operate and interpret one of the University of Pennsylvania’s most unique structures – Springfield Mill at Morris Arboretum – a Grist Mill with over 250 years of history.  The Mill’s 1854 building envelope and all interior machinery (circa 1860-1920) were restored to working order and opened for school groups and public demonstrations, telling a story of commitment to sustainability and education with community impact.

Morris Arboretum staff members Robert Gutowski and Thomas Wilson, and retired staff member, Robert Anderson were instrumental in leading the Mill Restoration Team. Robert Gutowski, Director of Education and Visitor Experience, championed the Springfield Mill Restoration Project since its inception in 2006 along with then Director of Facilities, Robert Anderson.  Gutowski directed the coordination of staff, volunteer and community engagement activity, education and public programing, historic research, archival and photographic documentation, as well as supporting fundraising efforts. Robert Anderson, now retired, served as the Arboretum’s Director of Facilities for twenty five years. Anderson championed the restoration of Springfield Mills during his career and established a group of engaged volunteers known as the Run of the Millers. He continues to actively volunteer for this group today. Two especially dedicated Run of the Millers, Craig San Pietro and Ted Bell spent hundreds of volunteer hours as highly skilled engineers and craftsmen to refurbish all of the equipment in the Mill and restore Springfield Mills to its current operating condition.  With very little money and lots of ingenuity, their work was critical to the restoration.

Thomas Wilson, Morris Arboretum’s current Director of Physical Facilities, also advocated on behalf of the Springfield Mill Restoration Project.  He directed the physical restoration, advised and supported restoration volunteers, leveraged in-kind support from contractors, oversaw contracted work, and supervised worker and visitor safety in coordination with University of Pennsylvania regulations. The Springfield Mill is a significant contributing structure in the Arboretum’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Bloomfield Farm complex which includes the Platinum LEED-certified Horticulture Center.

More than 1,000 individuals visited the mill last year on six public demonstration days, and in 12 scheduled group and school tours. The grist mill’s history, which dates back to 1761, illustrates the role of technology in making food from plants available to the community, and humans’ dependence on plants and science for survival.

The University of Pennsylvania’s  Models of Excellence program was introduced to encourage excellence, provide inspiring role models, and recognize innovative staff accomplishments. The Models of Excellence program is an important reminder of the remarkable contributions that Penn’s staff  make to its success every day.  Since 1999 the program has honored more than 850 staff members for their outstanding achievements.

Springfield Mills Restoration Team 1

Photo caption: Morris Arboretum Springfield Mills restoration team, Thomas Wilson and Robert Gutowski, shown at University of Pennsylvania’s Models of Excellence Awards ceremony where they received an Honorable Mention for their work on Springfield Mills. Wilson and Gutowski led a volunteer group of dedicated and highly skilled engineers and craftsmen to bring the 18th century mill back to working condition. Grist Mill Demonstration days are now open to the public on the third Sunday of each month (May-October) at Bloomfield Farm, across the street from Morris Arboretum’s entrance on Northwestern Avenue.

The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is located at 100 East Northwestern Avenue in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.  The 92-acre horticulture display garden features a spectacular collection of mature trees in a beautiful and colorful landscape. The Arboretum includes numerous picturesque spots such as a formal rose garden, historic water features, a swan pond, and the only remaining freestanding fernery in North America. The Arboretum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also the official arboretum of Pennsylvania. A permanent nationally award-winning exhibit, Out on a Limb – a Tree Adventure Exhibit adds to Morris Arboretum’s allure by transporting visitors 50 feet up into the treetops on a canopy walk that requires no climbing.  Open weekdays 10am-4pmand weekends 10am-5pm (Apr-Oct).  Open late on Wednesdays in June, July, and August until8:00pm.  For more information, visit www.morrisarboretum.org.