Before the Ozark Mill at Finley Farms in Ozark, Mo., reopened in the fall with a farm-to-table riverfront restaurant and general store, its foundation had to be elevated and strengthened to mitigate the risk of flooding, said the site’s developer, Megan Stack. The mill, on a 40-acre property, was built in 1833 and retired in 1992 as Missouri’s last commercially operating water mill. The Bass Pro Shops founder and Ms. Stack’s father, Johnny Morris, spearheaded the project, which also includes a coffee shop, a chapel, an organic farm and a historic truss bridge used for events.
In spite of the challenges, developers are still looking for new opportunities to transform these buildings. Mr. Tufaro now has his eye on a former 1916 flour mill 12 miles west of Baltimore in Ellicott City, Md., that he hopes to begin redeveloping in the first half of next year with 190 apartments, a restaurant overlooking the Patapsco River, a historical museum, shops and possibly a brewery.
As the mills generate more attention, some have become tourist attractions for people interested in their evolution. John Nolan, owner of Greenville History Tours, has been taking six to eight people a week to tour 10 former textile mills that have been converted into loft apartments, arts centers and rock-climbing facilities.
“Textiles were a big industry, so I think there’s a curiosity to know more in depth about what it looked like,” Mr. Nolan said. “It’s part of Americana and something that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Mr. Nolan and others note that the mill workers often lived in houses surrounding the factory, forming tightknit communities. That history inspires people to revive the buildings as a social hub.
That’s certainly the case for the Ozark Mill at Finley Farms. Plans for the site include a brewery, a speakeasy, a self-guided history tour and overnight accommodations.
“The authenticity and the natural beauty of the area and the Finley River will continue to draw people there,” Ms. Stack said. “Longstanding generations of people in the Ozark have memories of the mill.”
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