For some 40 years, the Thorp Mill stood unused and slowly deteriorating. While its value was recognized by its owner, local artists, historians, and many in the community, restoration would be expensive and there seemed no hope of obtaining the necessary funds. That is until a request for community centennial projects raised the hopes of a few former Thorp high school students.
These former students decided preserving the old gristmill located near the edge of town was the perfect centennial project and the Thorp Mill Historical Preservation Society was born. Project research uncovered that the mill’s history embodied many of the best ideals of the American spirit:
The restless independence that drove the cattle-running Thorps and Splawns into the wild country of the Kittitas Valley.
The pioneering spirit that brought J.S. Mills over the mountains from Puget Sound.
The ingenuity that linked two mills, a log pond, an ice pond, and eventually even an electric power plant into one integrated system.
Research also revealed that although local mills were once the center of most small communities, nearly all of them are gone—destroyed by fire or dismantled during the Second World War. In addition, the North Star Mill’s unique combination of functions and its early production of electricity drew the interest of industrial historians nationwide. The Thorp Mill it turned out, was not not just a local landmark, but a national treasure, nearly the last of its kind—a reminder of an American spirit that is all too often forgotten.
This knowledge laid a two-fold responsibility on the Historical Society:
To preserve the mill for the benefit of the local community.
Make it available for the benefit of all Americans seeking to understand their culture and history.
After several years of fundraising and hard work, the mill was opened as a museum in 1993 and now serves as both an interpretive historical site and as a gathering place for community activities.
This effort helps to maintain both a close sense of community and the enterprising spirit that is Thorp’s heritage.
1977 - Thorp Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1987 - A public meeting to discuss the mill’s restoration drew many supporters. The mill board began organizing fundraisers, like the annual auction and dinner to raise funds for repairs. Successful early fundraising for the restoration was instrumental in receiving financial support from Kittitas County, Washington State Legislature, Washington State Office of Historic Preservation, and the Lorene M. Petrie Trust in the following years.
1993 - Thorp Mill Museum opens to the public
2016 - Starting in the open season of 2016, the mill started providing seasonal children's activities on a monthly basis.
2016 - Awarded $6,000 from the Valerie Sivinski grant to make structural repairs to the basement.
2018 - Complete overhaul of the exhibits in the main exhibit room
2018 - Awarded $10,000 grant from the Suncadia Community Enhancement Fund to build a storage unit on the ice pond property.
Are you interested in joining the Historical Society? We are always looking for new faces to join our group. If you have a passion for preserving history and a love for the Kittitas County area, we are sure you’ll enjoy being a part of our group. Please complete the form below and submit a check for $25 (PO Box 7 Thorp, WA 98946). If you’d like to join with a check, click on the JOIN US button, if you’d like to pay with PayPal, click on Historical Society Annual Membership button below.
Are you interested in joining the Historical Society? We are always looking for new faces to join our group. If you have a passion for preserving history and a love for the Kittitas County area, we are sure you’ll enjoy being a part of our group.