Painter-Bernatz Mill

Decorah, Iowa (1851)

William Painter built the original mill on this site in 1851 as a commercial flour mill. Shortly thereafter he enlarged it to its present size. The upper story was added in 1890. A millrace from a dam upstream on the Upper Iowa River brought water to power the turbine. The water power was replaced by diesel power in 1947, when the Army Corps of Engineers built the levee system. The mill continued to operate until 1964. It was dedicated on July 4, 1971, as part of Vesterheim’s Open Air Division and now houses Vesterheim’s exhibits on agriculture and industry. The mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated site in the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area. Silos & Smokestacks is one of 49 federally designated heritage areas in the nation and is an Affiliated Area of the National Park Service.