The Hill Country Science Mill is housed in a community landmark in the heart of Johnson City, Texas. The feed mill built in 1880 as a steam grist mill and cotton gin featured unique mechanical innovations that were used to process, sort and distribute grain to its rural community. The original steam mill was converted to a flour mill in 1901 and later was converted to electrical power and evolved into a feed mill in the 1930’s. The mill ceased operation in the 1980’s and was converted into a restaurant and entertainment complex. While a majority of the site and the mill have been dormant for the past 20 years, the mill has inspired photographers, muralists, and curious travelers who have been captivated by its romantic and iconic presence.
When I was en route to Enchanted Rock, the mill caught my eye. I stopped by and took an inspection what was in store. It looked promising so I would plan to come back after my camping nights at Enchanted Rock. A couple of days later, sure enough I had to stop and get a sneak into some treasures waiting for….
What I saw….
a lot of shoes hanging on the building wall, old school houses, school bus in the shed, horse in the pool, ok, ahem, with the propeller along with, a space cadet in the ceiling, weird, toilet seat, all right, no privacy, a kind of superman up one of the mills, a torn -down horse carousel and many more.
History of the Feed Mill:
Johnson City truly is a step back in time, where neighbors share smiles and the warmth of a small town. A town full of dreams with the will to keep the history of Texas. you will find yourselves wanting more than a day in this setting, and on thing for sure you will never be the same. The Mill demonstrates the dynamic agricultural roots that are the heritage and the pride of Texas heartland. According to Blanco County History, the Crofts’ Mill was built as a steam grist mill and cotton gin in 1880 for James Polk Johnson.
In 1901, they used stones from a rock fence surrounding the Johnson Settlement (adjacent to the property) to build a flour mill. George Crofts, an acknowledged genius of mechanical gadgets, converted the Mill in the late 1930’s to produce agricultural feed. The Mill operated until the 1980’s and still contains the rather innovative and unique equipment designed by Crofts. Within the historic setting of the Old Crofts’ Mill a unique restaurant evolved. One that will delight the young and the old, a place full of fun, laughter, and down home hospitality. The Feed Mill Cafe was the brainchild of Tommy Thompson of Lubbock, TX and the first name was “Tommy’s Fried Green Tomatoes”.
Charles Trois, an artist, entrepreneur, inventor ad musician bought the abandoned Crofts’ Mill around 1992, with no real plans in mind for its development he just wanted to preserve the past. Trois got to work with a few friends, Tommy Thompson, Nancy Coplin, Linda Wiles and Joanie Thompson cleaning the complex, removing old equipment, salvaging what they could and rebuilding the rest. You just haven’t see anything like it before. From its “tail trompe” old tower with its faux workmanship, created by Austin artist Nathan Jenson, leaning out over traffic whizzing by on US Highway 290, to the restroom walls, painted by Joanie Thompson, that have given new meaning to the term “hand painted”. It is truly a must for memories to tell the family and friends about. In 1998 Mbandi Inc. of Branson, Missouri purchased the Feed Mill Complex.
On April 1, 2001 Jon & Sandi Seaux took over the management of the complex, and Fletcher Johnson returned to become General Manager/Chef of the Feed Mill Cafe.
(copied from http://www.hillcountryportal.com)
Two years passing by…I drove through the city several times but I hadn’t stopped to see how things were progressing for the restoration.
Until today, the Hill Country Science Mill recycles a historic community landmark into a gathering place for the community and a forum for science exploration. The design was conceived not as a contrast between new and old, but as the dynamic evolution of the mill from a place of industrial production to a place that can produce science leaders for the new generation. Unfortunately, it was closed when I re-visited the mill. I was surprised how it turned out but I’m glad the new science center breathes new life into the old grist mill and cotton gin.
See how things are changin’…..
There are over 35 exhibits in which the entire family can participate, enjoy and learn. All signage is in English and Spanish, encouraging Spanish speakers, as well as English speakers, to feel welcomed to visit. And, if you have little ones, there’s a toddler area designated just for them to play and explore. You could easily spend an entire day at the Science Mill, especially with the Lady Bird Lane Cafe, a small farm-to-table restaurant, on site. It’s the perfect place to grab a healthy lunch. Or, you can bring your own lunch to enjoy a picnic in the outdoor area.
I will be stopping for a short visit to see the inside of the center and be a little kid for a while. 🙂
It’s located at 101 South Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City, Texas, 78636. Stop by and visit.