A Model History

By Cathy Ingalls, Albany Regional Museum board member

Red Crown Mill, Albany Oregon c.1900's. Albany Regional Museum Collection ID: 2003-129-002

Red Crown Mill, Albany Oregon c.1900's. Albany Regional Museum Collection ID: 2003-129-002

It was April of 1964 when the Red Crown flouring mill on the Willamette River in Albany burned, but that doesn’t mean people can’t see what the mill looked like but only a smaller version.

That’s because in the mid-2000s, then 17-year-old Boy Scout Don Gillham of Jefferson along with friends and other Scouts, built a 44- by 50-inch by 30-inch tall replica of the mill, which is on display at the Albany Regional Museum.

Gillham, the son of Marian and Bill Gillham, now 32, teaches art at Tillamook High School. He donated the miniature version of the mill to the museum for his Eagle Scout project. He also submitted a history of the mill that is on file at the museum.

Gillham said at the time of the donation, that he got the idea to build the miniature after Jerry Brenneman, then president of the museum board, began “bugging” Gillham’s father, an artist, about creating a replica for the museum.

Longtime Albany photographer, the late Bob Potts, shared photos of the mill with the Gillhams, and they consulted old fire maps that provided the footprint of what the building looked like when it was built in 1888 on the east side of Thurston Street and the north side of Water Street.

Don Gillham said in an interview with the Democrat-Herald when he’d finished the project that construction was more difficult than his other creations, a Welsh castle and a model railroad, because the mill had many roofs, which involved having to place shingles on the building one at a time. Workers could do three rows in an hour.

That work was so challenging and time consuming, that the construction team found a faster way to do the job: They attached shingles to an 8-inch segment and then glued that to the roof.

Gillham made the replica of cedar, plaster of Paris, feather dye and pine that had been destroyed by bark beetles. The pine was gray, giving the building a weathered look.

Gillham said it took about 340 hours to build the mill, and workers used about $250 worth of Super Glue.

At the museum, the mill sits on a table of white oak that also was built by the team.

Assisting Gillham were his father and fellow Scouts Sam Hatley, Patrick Hamilton, Tim Williams, Philip Myers, Chris Aaberg and Nathan Lillianstrom and neighbor Beau Belinski.

Gillham explained that there was a need in Albany for flouring mills in the late 1800s because the nearest place to grind flour was Oregon City, a trip that took more than a month. Because of the inconvenience, three flouring mills were built around the same time in Albany.

The Red Crown Mill was constructed by John Isom and John Settle. The pair purchased the nearby Parker and Morris Warehouse and converted it into the mill with several additions.

When Settle left the business, a Mr. Lanning took over from him and the mill became known as the Isom, Lanning & Co. Red Crown Roller Mills. Later, the Portland Flouring Mills Co. purchased the mill.

Gillham said using water power the Red Crown could grind 125 bushels of flour a day, and when the site was electrified that number climbed to 175.

The mill burned after years of neglect and earlier had been used as a free stable and a saddle shop.

To see the mill at 136 Lyon St. N.W. visit the museum between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

For more information about the museum or the exhibits call 541-967-7122 or visit www.armuseum.com.