State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) recently filed legislation inspired by local residents who united to defend a DuPage County historical staple, Graue Mill.
The Graue Mill on Salt Creek in Oak Brook was a water-powered grist mill built in 1852. It is now part of a museum campus that includes the original Frederick Graue House, the Mill and the dam on Salt Creek, all owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and operated by a nonprofit preservationist group. Recently efforts have been revived to remove the Graue Mill dam, which is essential to the portrayal of the history of the Mill.
According to Bonnie Sartore, President of the Graue Mill & Museum board, the group licensed to operate the Mill & Museum on behalf of the Forest Preserve District, the “Mill is an Illinois Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, honored as such in 1981 by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.” They recognized that Graue Mill uniquely represents “original engineering features of the mill in the mid-19th century.” The then water-powered mill mechanism introduced the modern industrial era to this part of the country. Sartore explained that the “water impounded by the dam is what provided the power for those early settlers to operate their mill.”
Mazzochi reiterated that when it comes to preserving the area’s history, “the dam and accompanying waterfall is a vital part of the history we are striving to preserve; the local history we are eager to teach our children.” Mazzochi emphasized that the “Mill is one of just three authenticated stops on the Underground Railroad. The roar of the water overtopping the dam is an important part of the annual theatrical production re-enacted on the Mill grounds each year. It is an incredible way for our residents, young and old alike, to learn about that important part of our history.”
Mazzochi’s legislation, House Bill 5836, seeks to continue the work of preserving the mill and all of its surrounding grounds and historical components. The legislation was prepared in response to proposals before the Forest Preserve to destroy the existing dam. The legislation forbids the reduction, demolition, or removal of any structures associated with the mill and the dam without the approval of an oversight board that includes representation from the surrounding towns and historical society.
“With their recent petition, the community has made it clear they want the mill preserved as it is,” Mazzochi continued. “It should be left as it is for future generations to enjoy it, and learn from it as we have. And if any changes need to be made, any solution needs to account for all of our neighborhood stakeholders, because altering this history can have irrevocable downstream consequences.”
Residents who wish to see the dam preserved can visit change.org/p/oak-brook-save-the-graue-mill-dam to sign the petition.