You know the definition of “limbo.” It’s that ideological hotspot where something has a future, but no one is exactly quite sure what it is.
Sometimes in those cases, the proper course of action is to simply let it go – figuratively, not literally. Control the things you can control, with the knowledge that it will definitely work itself out, eventually.
Brandt’s Mill is the perfect local example of the good news-bad news scenario. The good news is that it’s not going anywhere soon, and the bad news is it’s not going anywhere soon.
But what makes all of that so difficult to digest is its place in Annville’s and Lebanon County’s past.
“The main thing as caretakers, our plan is upkeep and to maintain it for the next owners,” said Shawn Kilpatrick, president of Lancaster-based McGreary Grains, which owns Brandt’s Mill. “If there is not another owner, we will proceed and make it into something else. We won’t let it become abandoned. For now, we just want to keep it nice. We want to keep that historical property relevant.”
Kilpatrick said there’s been “a huge interest” in the mill.
“The Friends of Old Annville has asked about it on a number of occasions. But we’ve never been in a hurry to sell the mill. It’s not just the money, it’s also what they’re going to do with the mill. Contrary to some reports, the mill actually doesn’t flood all the time. It takes a specific type of storm to flood it.”
Brandt’s Mill is located at 545 West Queen Street in Annville, on the Quittapahilla Creek, just off Route 422. It is one of the locale’s historic landmarks, obstructed from the view of passers-by by a relatively recent growth of younger trees and brush.
The mill may have been constructed by Annville’s founder Andrew Miller in the 1750s. For more than two-and-a-half centuries, Brandt’s Mill – so named for its owner, David Groh Brandt, around the turn of the 20th century – had produced flour from grain, utilizing power generated by the flowing waters of the Quittapahilla.
“It’s definitely a cool property, but cool doesn’t pay the bills,” said Kilpartick. “Walking around the property, you can feel the history of the mill. It’s impressive, because despite how close you are to 422, you don’t hear the traffic. It’s a very calming feeling in there. The water races across the rocks. It’s definitely very peaceful. You just want to go hang out down at the creek. It’s definitely a very nice piece of property.”
The best case scenario, Kilpatrick said, is for a flour manufacturer to take over the property and its operations.
“Maybe [they’d] run it one or two days a week. If you’re going to have consistent manpower there every day, I’m not sure how you could compete in the market place. We had reached out to someone in the Amish community, and some other things have fallen through. We’ve been patient with the property. It doesn’t cost us a lot of money to maintain.”
The 4.85-acre Brandt’s Mill property has been for sale for about three years now, and it continues to be for sale.
On August 30, 2018, McGreary Grains offered the Brandt’s Mill property at a public auction. At that time, there was only one bid submitted, and that bid was not accepted by McGreary Grains.
Since, there has been little-to-no movement on the property, on the purchasing front. Kilpatrick declined to disclose the asking price for the Brandt’s Mill property.
“We did have one bid, but we weren’t able to reach a settlement at that time,” said Kilpatrick of the 2018 auction. “Make no mistakes about it, 99.9 percent of the people attending the auction were there to take a tour of the mill. It was a bit disappointing. We didn’t even get close to the asking price. If I would’ve sold tickets for people to walk around and take a tour of the property, I would’ve made a good amount of money.”
Kilpatrick said he is looking to involve a realtor who specializes in properties like Brandt’s Mill, and that there “definitely” won’t be another auction in the property’s future. (Editor’s note: Since this interview was conducted, the property was listed with Bering Real Estate for $249,000.)
In addition to McGreary Grains’ asking price, the key to Brandt’s Mill’s future may be tied to its proposed use. It might not take much to return it to its original use of turning grain into flour.
At one point, Brandt’s Mill was recognized as the longest operating flour mill in the United States.
“We operated to the last day [before its closing], and everything has been left alone,” said Kilpatrick. “It would require taking things apart, cleaning them and putting them back together again. I don’t know what it would cost to get it up and running. If somebody would come in, it would take a few weeks of maintenance to get it going again.
“There are plenty of ideas for its use,” continued Kilpatrick. “We always have people approaching us with ideas. We have looked at the possibility of dedicating it to our organic products or possibly making it a research center. We looked at the possibility of making it into a museum, but it’s just not easy to go up and down the steps. To make it handicap-accessible would be very difficult. It would make a really cool natural campground.”
Kilpatrick said he’s “extremely open” to ideas—but at the moment, patience is key.
“We just don’t want to see it become abandoned,” he said.
The current Brandt’s Mill remains true to its storied past. Located on the grounds is the four-story, limestone-and-timber mill, a two-story masonry shop with a large overhead garage door, four concrete silos and a large grain bin. And of course, the rippling waters of the Quitty.
“It has some limitations,” said Kilpatrick. “You do have to deal with the potential that it could flood. The beauty of the creek creates a little bit of a problem. But you do get sucked into the running water. The mill is made to take water through it.
“I have a passion for natural living,” added Kilpatrick. “I think you should try to eat organic when you can. I’d love to see the property be part of that.”
The Brandt’s Mill property was purchased by Mark Hershey in 1980, then sold to David Brandt in 1998. McGreary Grains had been doing business with Brandt up until the time of its purchase of Brandt’s Mill in 2002.
“It’s pretty historically significant,” said Kilpatrick. “The lineage goes back to some of the first families to come to this country. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Annville. If you go up the Quitty toward [Route] 934, there was pig-iron found from a blacksmith shop. There’s definitely a lot in that area, historically.
“People definitely know about the mill, especially the locals,” Kilpatrick continued. “It’s definitely popular. People have interest in it. That’s why people were down there the night of the auction. But everybody has been awesome to work with. They want to see something happen to it.”
The question of what exactly will happen remains.
Do you know a piece of Lebanon County history we should share? Give us advice on what to feature next!
Give the gift of local journalism.
If you are thankful for what LebTown brings to the community, consider joining our cause as a member. Members get an inside look at our publishing schedule each week, plus invites to our members-only Facebook group and happy hours.
Sign up for an annual membership using the link below, and we’ll give you a free LebTown mug at the next happy hour.
Learn more and join now here.
This article was updated to include a link to the real estate listing for the mill property.