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History of the Cooperage Mill

Elkader 1852


The land on which this property sits was actually deeded to John Thompson by the US government on November 1844. At that time he along with two others bought 64 acres and started to plan out the town of Elkader.They were very instrumental  in getting the town of Elkader started.

Thompson, Sage  and Davis built several mills in and around Clayton County. 10 years later they went east to build the Motor Mill.

The Riverside Mill & Cooperage was constructed in 1850.

This was the largest mill in the area, farmers came with there's wheat for 50 miles. They enjoyed strong sales & were very prosperous shipping directly to Europe.

Old settlers tell of the homemade safe with 6' brass keys-- the end of each week the trusted employees would pay themselves. but the firm went bankrupt with this system of paying yourself.

In 1874, it was sold to H.B. Carter at a Sheriff sale for $21,562. One year later the Schmidt's who owned a brewery up the street found interest in the Mill and purchased it.

After two extensive fires in the late 1800's it reopened and was going strong again.

Shmidt's actually owned it until 1916 when it was sold to Elkader light and power. That helped generate power for the first time bringing electricity to Elkader. The present dam was built around 1915. Part of the old mill stayed in service for the local farmers. then it wasn't until 194 that part of the building was sold to Dr. hommel a local doctor. Dr. Hommel turned the beautiful old building in to his medical office and a residence for him and his wife.

The present day library is located in a section of the old mill. in 1965 the library leased a room from the Power company. The library eventually bought a have since remodeled that portion of the mill.

The mill was built with native stone and wall are two and a half feet thick.

Dr. Hommel passed away in 1967 but the building stayed in the Hommel family until it was purchased by Mary and Renee Klink in February 2005. We then opened it the next year for business.

The present penthouse survived the three fires that swept the end of the mill in the late 1800's.

Balcony off the kitchen was the loading door for the mill and store room. (present dutch door)

Solid walnut for the stairs was salvaged from the old mill store room.

Walnut stair railing came from a McGregor Drug store.

Mrs. Hommel didn't see the penthouse until it was completed. but she said it had the three things she wanted:

1. Dutch doors

2. Tile bathroom

3. Picture window with a real view.

It was a scenic view, upstream to see and hear the water flowing over the dam.

Across the river the red brick walls and white tower courthouse sits.

looking down stream is the old stone from one of the oldest keystone bridges still in use.

The upper floor of the old mill was one large room with four pillars until Dr. Hommel converted