By Marah J. Morrison
Students, faculty and community members learned about Lanterman’s Mill and relived memories on Nov. 15 at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center through the Bites and Bits program.
A lecture on the history of the mill was led by Ray Novotny, who worked for 30 years as a naturalist at the Ford Nature Center.
“I did a lot of research on [Lanterman’s Mill and Mill Creek Park] about a quarter of a century ago,” Novotny said. “We wouldn’t be here today without Volney Rogers.”
He said without Rogers, who brought Mill Creek Park to life, there would not be a park or a presentation. In the spring of 1933, the idea of the old mill museum was approached and was being worked on.
According to Mill Creek MetroParks, the first floor was converted into a nature museum in 1933, but in 1972, it was converted into the park’s historical museum.
Novotny said in 1947, the park was on a one-year levy, which included the plan of expanding the museum, improving the lighting and creating steps and balconies on the outside for people to see the gorge and the falls better.
He said the levy needed 65 percent of the votes, but it did not pass.
Novotny said this was important to the history of the museum because a great deal of money was intended to be sunk into it, but that did not happen. He said some years later, another levy was run and it passed.
“They promised infrastructure, bridges, roads — nothing about the museum,” he said.
Novotny said in 1966, the attendance at the park was enormous. He said between 100 and 150 people came at a time and would have to be split up to go on hikes.
“That was just an amazing phenomenon,” he said. “Reading about this was astounding.”
Novotny said the restoration of the mill took three years and finally opened in 1985, where it has been cherished ever since.
Leann Rich, the external relations manager at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, said the mill has a fond place in the hearts of people in the community, and the Bites and Bits program is a nice way for people to spend their afternoon.
Rich has worked at the history center for 15 years, and said because of her position, she has learned a lot about the local history and how it resonates with the community.
“People love the stories that are here and the people that come from here and gone on to do wonderful things,” she said. “Those inspirational stories mean a lot to people.”
Rebecca Banks, a graduate student at Youngstown State University who attended the lecture, said the story of the mill and the history behind it brought back some recollections of her experiences at the mill with friends.
“I love these events in my city,” she said. “There’s so much to do here. [There are things] people who came before us left for us, and I’m appreciating that so much more now.”
The Bites and Bits program takes place once a month and covers a variety of topics.