Since 1854, Benedictines from Saint Vincent Archabbey have operated a Gristmill, grinding grains for the sustenance of the monks at the Archabbey, for students at Saint Vincent College and Seminary, and even for local farmers. They have always sold flour there, and at one time Saint Vincent Bread was famous throughout the region. Now the monks are expanding their efforts and their product lines with the grand opening on April 6 to 8 of the Gristmill General Store and Museum.
The grand opening of the general store and museum will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 6, and Saturday, April 7, and from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 8.The Gristmill is located on the northern end of the Saint Vincent campus, along Beatty Road.
The Gristmill Museum will feature a viewing area where visitors can witness the monks operating the grindstones to make flour, as well as various exhibits involving the mill and some of the early agricultural history of Saint Vincent.
The General Store will feature the Gristmill products, including flour and bran, as well as specialty gourmet items, including Saint Vincent Bread Mix, coffees and teas. There will also be candy, canisters, scented soaps and candles, greeting cards, basketry, honey and syrup products, stoneware and hand-woven items such as placemats. Videotapes and cookbooks from the popular cable television cooking show, “Breaking Bread with Fr. Dominic,” will be available at the store.
Also available is a 100-page history book on the Gristmill and Brewery by Omer U. Kline, O.S.B., published in 2000. The book includes a 16-page color section inside with photos of the historic milling equipment, and a fold-out color schematic illustration showing how the mill works.
“The Gristmill was part of the vision of Saint Vincent founder Boniface Wimmer, who laid the groundwork for its construction shortly after his arrival at Saint Vincent in 1846,” said Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B. “It played an important role in Saint Vincent’s history and it was also an integral part of the local agricultural community.”
“Boniface Wimmer’s plan to build Saint Vincent involved self-sufficiency,” said Father Omer. “His objective was to set in operation a Benedictine monastery that would be modeled very closely upon the monasteries of his native Bavaria. But, in order to establish such a foundation, Wimmer knew that he would have to have a school, primarily for educating candidates for the priesthood. He also knew that he would be expected, not only to minister to the parishioners of Saint Vincent Parish, but also to expand missionary evangelization to an ever growing area and population. But, first and foremost, Wimmer realized that he must build on ‘Mount Saint Vincent’ a sturdy physical plant which would serve as the headquarters for the life of prayer and work that he envisioned for his monastic foundation.”
The Gristmill’s future was in doubt in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when repairs to the structure were badly needed, but no funding was available. The Gristmill Committee was able to secure a number of grants and private donations towards the installation of a new roof, new windows and new siding. More recently, restroom facilities were installed to enable the mill to be open for tourism, and a ramp was constructed to provide access to the physically challenged. Funding has been provided by The Allegheny Foundation of Pittsburgh, The Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation of Latrobe, The Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program under the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. A jump-start to the second phase of this restoration was given in 1998-1999 by a grant of HUD through the Independent Agencies Appropriations Act of the U.S. Congress with the assistance of U.S. Congressman John Murtha.
The Gristmill is also playing host to an Environmental Education Center, tied into the Monastery Run wetlands project and aimed at hosting local, regional and national audiences, including elementary, secondary and college students, civic organizations, and private groups. The Education Center and the Museum/Visitor Center will educate the public about milling, mining, monks, wetlands, environmental issues, industrial heritage, and local history.
The Museum and General store will be open Mondays through Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 724-537-0304.