Small but Mighty
For more than a century, the tiny town of Roann (pop. 479) in northeast Indiana has sponsored an annual festival attracting thousands of visitors who explore its signature landmarks.
Just one mile outside of town, the Stockdale Mill presents a charming image of nineteenth-century Indiana. Built in 1855 from hand-hewn hardwoods, the mill produced flour, wheat, and animal feed for local farmers who hauled their crops in wagons from surrounding fields. The mill remained in business until 1964, eschewing conversion to steam or electricity in favor of its original water-powered milling equipment. When in operation, the machinery is a Willie Wonka-esque display of whirling belts, pulleys, transfer rods, and grinding stones spinning in fine-tuned synchronicity. The landmark stood vacant for more 30 years until volunteers formed the Stockdale Mill Foundation in 2001 to restore and reopen it as an operating mill and museum.
Experts estimate that more than 2,000 water-powered gristmills once operated in Indiana. Today, less than 20 remain standing, and only about a dozen — Stockdale included — are still grinding grain. Visitors can buy fresh-ground cornmeal while they learn about the area’s milling history.
Just upstream, the Roann Covered Bridge has come to symbolize the town’s community pride. The bridge represented the very latest in engineering and design in 1876, when the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, built it using a unique system of steel tension rods with turnbuckles to eliminate sagging across the 212-foot span. The walls and roof, built to protect oak deck timbers against rot, give the covered bridge its picturesque appearance.
When an arson fire in 1990 left half of the bridge a charred skeleton, a full third of Roann’s citizens actively supported restoration. Within 21 months the Roann Covered Bridge stood intact once more.
Today the span is the centerpiece of the annual Roann Covered Bridge Festival. Each September, the four-day event draws visitors for tours, a parade, live entertainment, food, crafts, and more. In addition to the mill and bridge, visitors can explore Roann’s National Register-listed downtown, a charming village with antique shops, cafes, an authentic pioneer log cabin, and a quaint Carnegie Library.
The 2018 festival runs Thursday, September 5 through Sunday, September 8. For a detailed schedule of events, visit roanncoveredbridgefestival.com.
For more information, contact Paul Hayden, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Northeast Field Office, 260-563-7094, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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