After 164 years, the oldest and one of the most historic buildings in Sandwich will be honored.
At 3 p.m. July 4, the Sandwich Historical Society, in conjunction with the Illinois State Historical Society, will unveil a plaque outside the Stone Mill Museum at 315 E. Railroad St. in recognition of the building’s historical importance to the community.
The public is invited to attend the free ceremony.
Before the event, the annual Walk Down Memory Lane will feature Dan Knowles, Norma Hough, Steve Kurtz and Woody Carroll, who will recall their Sandwich memories at 1 p.m. at the Sandwich Fire Station, 310 E. Railroad St. Both events are free.
Starting as The Sandwich Steam Grist Mill, and known today as the Stone Mill Museum, the building once was unique to the area as a steam-powered grist mill where up to 100 bags of corn, oats and wheat were ground into flour each day. In 1879, a local newspaper reported flour ground at the mill was being shipped as far away as Glasgow, Scotland.
The three-story building is made of quarried limestone, but its importance is more defined as the literal building blocks for one of Sandwich’s most steady businesses, providing employment where workers could spend their paychecks to support the other downtown merchants.
Situated along what are now the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway’s mainline tracks with loading docks in back and horse-pulled wagon loading docks in front, the Stone Mill Museum still retains its original appearance inside, complete with a working freight elevator, wood floors and unique, large woodwork beams.
In 1852, William Patten returned from the gold fields of California with $2,000 in his pocket. His son Robert, a carpenter, built the grist mill in anticipation of the coming railroad. Sandwich founder Almon Gage donated the land.
The building went by various names as ownership changed hands through the years, including The Sandwich Milling Company, The Eclipse Mill, the Enterprise Mill, The Sandwich Roller Mill and The Eureka Flouring Mill.
The mill closed in 1892, and the machinery was removed. Twice in 1902, someone tried to burn the building, but failed. In 1964, James Knight donated the building to the Sandwich Historical Society for use as a museum, which opened in 1969 and continues to safeguard the legacy and history of Sandwich.
Housed inside the Stone Mill Museum are remnants of home and farm life from the 1800s and the early to mid-1900s. For viewing, there is the stuffed, one-eyed pig, the rare antique red automobile, gas engines made in Sandwich, and local fire department, military, school and Sandwich fair displays. A large, local, regional and national Native American exhibit also is featured.
The museum is open 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. It is at the corner of East Railroad and LaFayette streets in downtown Sandwich, a block north of Route 34. Admission is free.