85 Sawmill Rd
Boyertown, PA 19512
Lisa Reber, Past President
Bahr's Mill is a stone mill building built in 1897 to house Jacob Bahr's (pronounced Bear) woodworking and grist mill business. It is part of a farm complex in the village of Gabelsville, Berks County, Pennsylvania, 1 mile north and west of the center of Boyertown. The site was home to a linseed oil mill from before 1828 until the 1890's, and woodworking machinery was installed in the early 1870's. The machinery, which includes a duplicating lathe, a polishing machine (belt sander) and a spoke-tenoning machine, has 1870 and 1871 patent dates. There are also two standard lathes, both over 10 feet long
The mill was water-powered by the overshot wheel until severe flooding in 1938, when the dam washed out. Also, in 1945, the Bahr Family won a contract from the Boyertown Burial Casket Company for the sawmill (across the street), requiring more hours of operation than the millponds could provide. At that time, the woodworking business was largely ignored until Lawrence Bahr closed the sawmill in 1967.
Today the mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is being restored inside and out. We are cleaning and oiling the machinery, and have finally built a bathroom. Since 1998, our first year of being open as a museum we have had over 3000 visitors! The mill is open summer weekends from 11 - 4, and other times by appointment.
Long-term goals include paving the parking areas and the ramp from the building down to the handicapped parking space. Then we need to add a ramp from there to the ground floor, which is where the water wheel can be seen, and where the bathroom is located. As an associated project, we will be setting up the linseed oil stones near the two ramps.
Inside we still need to do more work in the water wheel room (the wheel pit). Thankfully, the Boy Scouts came out and cleared away the mud from around the wheel, so it will be easier to work in the wheel pit. It also should slow down the rot that is affecting the water wheel. To fully finish that project requires the installation of a sump pump and lights to illuminate the water wheel.
Some future day, we will be adding general interior lighting for those days when it's overcast. The mill was originally lit only by natural light and probably some kerosene lanterns. Knob and tube electric service was added ca. 1915 to supply power to a total of four light bulbs in the whole building.
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