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Toomey's Mills

Toomey’s Mills, also known as Newcastle Milling Company and Electrical Light Plant or the Old Mill Inn, is located in downtown Newcastle, Weston County, Wyo. Historically, the building was used for agricultural purposes such as grain milling and storage. Currently a restaurant, bar and liquor store, the structure highlights the agricultural, commercial and industrial aspects of northeastern Wyoming’s economy. The entire site is an example of an important business enterprise in Newcastle and Weston County. From 1905 until 1965, the mill served townspeople, local farmers and others who produced a variety of wheat crops from the surrounding region.

The products milled here—flour, grain and seed—were sold to national markets from the Midwest to the West Coast. The mill produced flour by day and generated electricity at night; an electric-light franchise allowed the plant to produce power to illuminate the streets of Newcastle. By 1907, the mill already was capable of producing 65 barrels of flour in 24 hours and was served by a railroad siding, according to Robert Rosenberg, author of the document nominating the site for the National Register of Historic Places. Power for the mill came from a 70-horsepower engine running drive belts from the basement.

In 1919, the year that D. J. Toomey, a pioneer from Spearfish, S.D., purchased it, the mill—named the D. J. Toomey Produce Company but known as Toomey’s Mills—used 60,000 bushels of wheat and was expected to use 100,000 bushels during the following season. The grinding capacity was 80 barrels of flour per day, with laborers working in three shifts.

The Toomey’s Mill site was completed in phases. George C. Getchell began construction of the three-story wood-frame mill in 1905, when the Duling and Smith Company was hired to grade the land and build the foundation. After Toomey bought the mill in 1919, he had a concrete grain elevator built in 1920 by F. W. Lehrach Construction Company from Kansas City. That same year, Toomey’s Mill was reported to be the largest flour mill in the state. Bakeries within a 200-mile radius used the “White Satin” flour milled here.

By 1936, the main building had been expanded to include warehouse and office spaces. Two silos were added next to the elevator, and a one-and-a-half-story gabled brick addition was built on the west side of the mill in 1947. Today, the entire site includes several pieces: the three-story wood-frame mill first built by Getchell; a one-story, quarried-stone addition on the east side; the brick addition on the west side; and the concrete grain elevator and two timber-frame silos on the south side.

The second and third floors of the mill house the original milling machinery in its initial locations. The basement still contains the original Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company walk-in safe.

Toomey’s Mills remained a family enterprise—owned and managed by Toomey’s daughter, Ella, and his son, Eugene Howard, and Ella’s husband, O. Allen Anderson—for many years after Toomey retired. Howard died in 1964, and the mill closed in 1965. Two couples—Tom and Judith Mitich and Cable and Vera Jones—purchased the property in 1974 and converted it to a restaurant, renaming it the Old Mill Inn. Current owners Doug and Larita Brown purchased this property in 1995 and made numerous improvements.

In 2011, the property and buildings were sold to Maverick, Inc., and the Newcastle Planning Commission unanimously agreed to rezone the area from heavy industrial to commercial property. Planning a Maverick gas station and convenience store on the site, the company plans to tear down part of the building, including the former bar, liquor store, kitchen and restaurant booth-seating areas.

The silos and the remaining portions of the restaurant will not interfere with plans for the convenience store and, as of the state of plans in early 2012, will remain standing. Discussions are underway with the Newcastle community and the Weston County Historical Society in hopes of preserving or restoring the remaining structure.

More history about ­wheat processing may be found in the nomination of the site to the National Historic Register. Nominations can be obtained online by searching the following website: http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/NationalRegister/Search.aspx, or by contacting the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office at (307) 777-7697.

Resources

  • Bonnar, Bob. “Old Mill coming down,” News Letter Journal, October 27, 2011, 43.
  • ______________. “How much can be saved?” News Letter Journal, November 17, 2011, 46
  • Rosenberg, Robert G. Toomey’s Mills National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, September 2007, Weston County file. Cheyenne: Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office.
  • Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, National Register of Historic Places. “Toomey’s Mills Newcastle, Wyoming.” Accessed 12/15/11 at http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/NationalRegister/Site.aspx?ID=481.

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