Its products have sustained many generations of monks at Saint Vincent and at one time members of the local community, too. Now, the Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program and two regional foundations have provided grants totalling $250,000 to help sustain it.
The Saint Vincent Gristmill, listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1978, will receive a face-lift and repairs thanks to grants of $100,000 each from the Allegheny Foundation of Pittsburgh and the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation of Latrobe. A third grant of $50,000 was recently awarded by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor Project, from the Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program under the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“We are grateful to these organizations for the opportunity to help us preserve the historic Saint Vincent Gristmill,” said Father Paul Taylor, O.S.B., who heads the Benedictine committee which oversees its operation.
Although its 1997 production levels are not as high as they were in the more agrarian days of the campus, the gristmill has been in continuous operation since its construction in 1854, just eight years after Boniface Wimmer established the Monastery, College and Seminary at Saint Vincent.
Once used to grind the wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats and buckwheat that the monks raised, the gristmill is still operated by Saint Vincent Benedictines, and still provides flour for the famous Saint Vincent Bread, once popular throughout the region. The production of bread for residents outside of the monastery was discontinued in 1963, after fire destroyed several buildings on campus, including the one in which the bakery was located.
The grants will fund Phase I of the renovations. That phase will include new cedar clapboard siding, new windows, a new metal roof and an electrical upgrade. Many windows are broken, the siding is torn and peeling off, and electrical rewiring is sorely necessary, according to Brother Joseph Adams, O.S.B., the current miller. He said the repairs are necessary to help preserve the building.
Phase I renovations are expected to begin soon. A completion date has not been set.
Phase II of the renovations will include making the gristmill visitor-ready by constructing a welcome center, installing restrooms, and installing a heating system. No tours are currently given because of the renovations. These projects are dependent on additional funding.
The architect for the project is Tasso Katselas, whose firm has provided architectural designs for structures at Saint Vincent since 1963.
The Gristmill Committee, chaired by Father Paul, has for a number of years been planning these renovations and seeking to fund them.
Other committee members include Father Warren Murrman, O.S.B.; Father Kurt Belsole, O.S.B.; Father Thomas More Sikora, O.S.B.; Brother Philip Kanfush, O.S.B.; Brother Matthew Laffey, O.S.B.; Brother Joseph Adams, O.S.B. and Brother Paul-Alexander Shutt, O.S.B.