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Go Against the Grain: Historic Gristmill for Sale in Vermont

Go Against the Grain: Historic Gristmill for Sale in Vermont

Built in 1880, the Kingsley Grist Mill is still standing.

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In 1880, a New England bridge builder constructed a gristmill on the stony bank of a river in Clarendon, VT. While it was one of several mills built along this stretch of water in central Vermont, it’s the only one still standing.

Not only is it standing, but this 500,000-pound, 5,000-square-foot wooden mill has also been converted into a cozy three-bedroom house. You can have it—and several other properties on this 2.1-acre plot—for an even $ 1 million.

It’s in great condition now, but the Kingsley Grist Mill was dilapidated when Ron Evans and his wife bought it in 1980.

“It took all of 35 years. It was originally intended to be a 12-year project, and we only planned on fixing up the Colonial house,” says Evans, referring to what used to be the only actual house on the property. After fixing up the house, the couple now rent it out, while they live in the mill. They also rent out two other buildings on the property: the converted granary and the barn.

The Colonial-style house, now used as a rental

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The colonial house, now used a rental.

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The Colonial-style house, now used as a rental

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As for the mill, it’s a mammoth 94-foot-tall structure built entirely out of hemlock wood, from the clapboard siding on the outside to the massive beams on the inside, all of which are still intact. It cantilevers over the river, which flows vigorously alongside the property.

The Kingsley Grist Mill’s kitchen

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The Kingsley Grist Mill's kitchen

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The Kingsley Grist Mill’s kitchen

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“Imagine [Frank Lloyd Wright’s] Fallingwater multiplied by 10, 20, 50 times,” says Evans.

The mill’s staying power is due to the way the builder, Nicholas Montgomery Powers, designed the mill’s upper stories over a century ago. While the mill’s main foundation is built on solid rock, the upper levels rely on a separate hemlock foundation.

Evans and his wife found out the hard way after Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, causing a river surge that ripped away part of the bottom foundation while leaving the top level intact. Part of the 60-foot chimney washed away, but “the rest of it was in the air,” says Evans. “It basically doesn’t matter what happens to the first floor.”

135-year-old hemlock wood beams make up the mill’s interior.

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Beams of 135-year-old hemlock make up the mill's interior.

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135-year-old hemlock wood beams make up the mill’s interior.

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“We had engineers over to look at it, and they were basically looking at it with their mouths wide open—they were dumbfounded.”

While possible flooding is a downside, those in Rutland County know the mill’s location is special. It used to be a popular swimming spot, until it became too troublesome to manage and the couple decided to deny public access. The contentious issue resulted in at least one encounter with an angry local wielding a weapon, Evans says.

A new structure designed for entertaining

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A new structure, designed for entertaining by the Mill River.

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A new structure designed for entertaining

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Because there’s no public access, the new buyers will have their own private swimming spot.

Evans also added two new structures to the property—a one-room entertainment shack by the river and a garage—for a total of six buildings. Evans, who rents out three of them, says the rental income is substantial.

That said, the mill property will need a special buyer. Listing agent Jeremy Foster-Fell says, “less than 1% of buyers are interested in properties of this sort.”

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The property’s commercial appeal is obvious, Foster-Fell says. “It could be used as a bed-and-breakfast” for an additional revenue stream.

And a buyer could return the mill to its original structure and remove the living quarters. Evans put in walls without affecting the structure of the national historic landmark, so the additions could be taken out and the historical structure restored.

While it’s time to move on, he’s hoping a new buyer will appreciate and take care of the place like he and his wife have.

“Linda and I are just passing through. We need to downsize. It’s time to pass the baton to someone with deeper pockets,” says Evans.

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