Warkentin Mill

301 N Main

Newton, KS 67114

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The Warkentin Mill, originally a grist mill, was built in 1879 by D. Hamill, a dry goods store owner, and C. H. Hobart. Originally called the Monarch Mills, it opened for business during the summer of 1880. Shortly after, Hobart sold his interests to Hamill and retired. Bernhard Warkentin purchased the mill in 1886 and changed its name to Newton Milling and Elevator Company. Warkentin was instrumental in the Mennonite migration to Kansas and for the establishment of Turkey Red hard winter wheat as a staple crop. This high-yielding wheat variety gave Kansas its enormous productivity and recognition as the "Breadbasket of the World." Warkentin remodeled the mill between 1897-1898. An article in the Newton Daily Republican, dated May 5, 1897, details one improvement in particular. "The roof will be taken off and the entire building made a full four stories high with a mansard roof. The old office part of the building on the south will be raised to the same height of the rest of the building and will be covered by the same roof. The main building will then be 50x60 feet in size." On July 29, 1898, the Newton Daily Republican ran another article about the new smokestack for the mill. "The Newton Milling and Elevator Company is completing the largest smokestack in the city. It will be 100 feet in height. The base of the stack is ten feet square and the foundation fourteen feet square. The stack tapers to five and one-half feet at the top with an opening four feet across. The wall is three feet, nine inches thick at the top. It will cost the company about $1,500 to build." After the mill closed for good, the building became neglected. So much so that in the 1970s, it was slated for demolition. The roof had been removed when local manufacturer and inventor, Lloyd Smith, stepped in to buy the building. He immediately began restoration, during which he found the original blueprints to the building, enabling the reconstruction of the mansard roof. Today, the Old Mill Plaza, as it is called, looks similar to the mill Warkentin created with his remodel and leases office space to a number of local businesses. It continues to stand as a monument to a key turning point in Kansas wheat production.


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