The Ozark Mill literally stopped traffic Wednesday morning, Feb. 20, as both locals and the media congregated at the corner of McCracken Road and Fourth Street near the Finley River Bridge.
They gathered to witness another milestone for the ongoing project, Finley Farms, announced last August by Megan Morris, daughter of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. St. Louis-based Expert House Movers, a company with over 45 years of experience in moving buildings, is beginning to move the nearly 200-year-old structure back to its historic location on a newly-constructed foundation.
“Right now, the mill is back up on the sliding rails—the rails we’re going to use to roll it back into place over the new foundation,” EHM representative Gabriel Matyiko said. “It’s going to take sort of two move phases to get it to its final location. We’ll push out the length of its track today and then it will take us about a week to a week and a half to reset for the final push.”
That means it will be roughly another two weeks before the mill is back on its foundation, Matyiko said.
He explained heavy-haul rollers, hydraulic push ramps and roll beams work together to make the mill move.
“The skates are tempered steel rollers, and they cut down on the friction that it’s going to take to actually get the mill to move,” he said. “Then, we have hydraulic push ramps that are attached to the building and the roll beams, and they stroke out three feet at a time. The building will move three feet, stop, and then it will track three feet again, and it will continue that process until we reach the end of the track.”
The move will also require hydraulic jacks to accommodate the new foundation.
“The original foundation was a little lower, so when they poured the new foundation, we had to lift it three feet for that extra height, which we did last week,” Matyiko said. He noted the structure will also be lowered using hydraulic jacks.
Matyiko said Expert House Movers has worked on a variety of projects throughout the years. In the past, they’ve moved historic structures such as a lighthouse and a theater.
“I would say we specialize in historic structures,” Matyiko said. “We move new buildings as well, it’s just, most of the time, if we have to come move it, something went wrong.”
Matyiko said the Ozark Mill is a timber-frame structure, which presents some unique challenges for EHM.
“The tough part with timber structures is that they are really flexible,” Matyiko said. “With something like this, it’s over 200 feet long … you get varying loads from one side of the building to the other.”
Still, Matyiko doesn’t worry too much.
“This is what I do for a living. I’m a third-generation house mover, so I’m not real anxious when I get up in the morning that a house is going to fall upside down and into a pile,” he said. “We do this every day.”
The Ozark Mill is just a piece of the Finley Farms development, which calls for a restaurant, a speakeasy-style bar, river access, nature trails and much more. An ice cream shop, called “The Post,” is slated to open in 2019 as the first phase of the development.