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No small undertaking: Local couple talks ongoing restoration of Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill

By Tabitha Johnston, The Shepherdstown Chronicle

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — “Pardon our mess and please watch your step as we deal with the never-ending surprises of old mill living,” stood a sign by the side of the Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill on Sunday afternoon. Signs like this one have proven to be a necessary precaution, whenever members of the public come to visit the mill for events, such as the “A View to a Mill” art exhibit on April 12-14 and the Shenandoah-Potomac Garden Council’s 66th Annual House and Garden Tour this past weekend.

The mill, which dates back to 1738 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, has been fully renovated over the past four years by Adam and Shannon Thomas. Unfortunately, its 40-foot-tall Fitz Steel Overshot Water Wheel and related structural fortifications still need a lot of work, which the couple is hoping will soon be completed, with the help of grant funding and donations from the local community.

“We purchased it in October 2020. Our renovations began immediately,” Shannon said on Sunday. “No bank would touch this, until we agreed to make it into a three-bedroom house. We would have liked to have lived here for a little while and felt out the space first, before starting to do the renovation, but we’re pretty happy with how everything turned out!

“We’re trying to be really careful that the renovations that we make are making it into a modern home, but with a very small footprint, where it still honors the history and if somebody in the future wanted to turn it back into a mill, they could,” Shannon said.

“We’re making sure we’re taking really good care of the stone work. And down in the basement, where the water wheel was originally located, we are doing virtually nothing there, outside of making sure the floor was easier to walk on.”

The renovated space has effectively merged the historic nature of the mill with modern tastes, clearly influenced by the skilled eye of Shannon, who is a soft pastel artist and acrylic painter.

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