Holiday display casts light on grist mill project

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324-year-old structure to undergo restoration

By Liz Premo

Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 28, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

A holiday display lights up the Deacon Tuck Grist Mill in Hampton.
[Rich Hureau photo]

HAMPTON -- Anyone traveling at night past the Old Grist Mill near the east end of High Street may have noticed something very merry and bright about the 324-year-old structure.

Illuminated silhouettes of a giant red candy cane and Santa's sleigh and reindeer are cast against the weathered shingles of the mill building itself. Beribboned ice skates and old-fashioned snowshoes are propped upon the stone steps, and lighted evergreen wreaths decorate the door and the "Old Grist Mill" sign.

This eye-catching holiday light show has been on display throughout this Christmas season, thanks to John Stewart, a musician and lighting specialist.

"He donated the equipment and a lot of time to set this show up for those who drive by," said Candy Stellmach, who is a member of the Hampton Historical Society's Deacon Tuck Grist Mill Committee. "The waterfall under the mill is also lit up, and it is beautiful!"

The display is literally casting some light upon a project that is near and dear to her heart as well the hearts of her fellow members on the 2010-11 Deacon Tuck Grist Mill Committee.

According to Stellmach, the grist mill has been owned by the town of Hampton since 1960. Featured prominently in the town's history, the building will soon be undergoing much-needed and much-desired restoration.

"Studies have been completed by volunteers over the past year in efforts not only to save the 324-year-old site and structure from decay, but to secure the future of Hampton's oldest link to its Colonial era," Stellmach said.

The committee's aim is to have the mill placed on the New Hampshire Registry of Historic Buildings. Doing so, said Stellmach, will gain important opportunities for funding and regional awareness.

"Hampton possesses a gem that any other town would envy, and we need not travel down a dusty woodland road to enjoy it," said Stellmach. "We hope to soon be able to open the doors to students and history lovers, perhaps reveal not only the hand-hewn beams and stories of 17th century agriculture that was so important to the original settlers, but also to display the technology and craftsmanship of that era as it was back in 1686."

In addition to Stellmach and her husband, Jim, the 2010-11 Deacon Tuck Grist Mill Committee includes Dave DeGagne, Kevin and Kim Grondin, Allen "Bud" Palmer, and John and Marie Stewart, as well as selectman representative Rick Griffin.

Assistance for this important project is being provided by the Hampton Heritage Commission and the Hampton Historical Society. The joint effort includes cleaning up the mill, writing reports to the state, and working on future projects to raise funds and repair the mill.

As the committee begins taking steps to apply for grants and coordinate these restoration efforts, they will be enlisting the support of additional volunteers who are "dedicated to preserving Hampton's fortune in having such an historic piece of the past," Stellmach said.

For more information about the Deacon Tuck Grist Mill, restoration efforts or to volunteer, call the Hampton Historical Society at 929-0781.

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