“Where can we find greater structural clarity than in the wooden buildings of the old. Where else can we find such unity of material, construction and form? Here the wisdom of whole generations is stored. What feelings for material and what power of expression there is in these buildings! What warmth and beauty they have! They seem to be echoes of old songs.”
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
Pears Mill is located just south of Front Street between Oak Street and Days Avenue in Downtown Buchanan, Michigan
Pears Mill and Millrace
Pears Mill was constructed by William Bainton in 1857-58, listed on the Michigan Historical Register in 1987, and added to the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing resource in the Buchanan Downtown National Register Historic District in 2009.
The Mill is a two-story, gable-ended, wood framed and sided building, approximately 38 x 60 feet, with replica tulip poplar lap siding and 12/12 replica wood windows. Foundation basement walls are constructed of dressed limestone above fieldstone. Reinforced concrete was installed on the exposed north wall behind waterwheel and some other areas in the 1980s. Four, sixty-foot, spliced structural beams and posts of locally harvested oak, per level, support the building. The building's original third floor was removed early in the 20th century. Later additions were removed in the 1980s when the mill was rehabilitated. Later, a new roof structure was installed replicating the original's slope. The current wood water wheel powering the millstones was repaired in 2007.
The rehabilitated Pears Mill is the only remaining example of an estimated thirteen water powered mills constructed in or near downtown Buchanan.
The 1860 US Census indicates that Pears Mill was the largest industry in Berrien County at that time, converting 170,000 wheat bushels into 40,000 barrels of flour at a value of $240,000. Bainton sold the mill in 1863 to Ross, Pears & Clark, who sold it again in 1864 to David Rough and William Pears. In 1881 they added a steam engine house on the mill's west side to boost power, and over the next several years added more equipment as well. In 1886 the partners closed the mill, ostensibly to replace the water wheel with a turbine.
It remained closed for at least six years, during which its ownership appears to have been disputed. By 1900 William Pears emerged as the owner, operating a feed mill. Between 1910 and 1911 the building's third story was removed. Pears Mill was converted to steam power in 1881, electric power in the 1930s and its last water powered machine was taken off-line in 1945. About 1933 the Buchanan Farm Bureau bought the mill and made many other additions. The Bureau, later known as the Buchanan Co-op, operated here for almost fifty years. The Co-op sold the mill to the city in 1983, soon after which the Buchanan Preservation Society undertook a successful campaign to save it from demolition. The city placed its rehabilitation and operation in the society's hands in 1984. By 1988 the mill reopened offering tours and demonstrations. In its Summer season, Pears Mill receives over a thousand visitors.
The Millrace begins at McCoy Creek, approximately three quarters of a mile southwest of downtown Buchanan. From its point of origin, the Race passes through a residential neighborhood toward downtown. The Race enters downtown at the National Register Historic District 's southern border, moving east toward Pears Mill. As it drops about 11 feet at the Mill, water collects in a small pool, below the wheel. The tailrace then travels underground a half-block east where it rejoins McCoy Creek under the sidewalk just south of the Buchanan District Library at Days Avenue. The land between the Millrace and McCoy Creek has been historically referred to as "The Island."
Excavated c1840, the Millrace supplies power for the Pears Mill water wheel. The Millrace is the only survivor of three identified races which once supplied water power to Buchanan's mills. Two sections contribute to Buchanan’s existing National Register Historic Districts; the remainder is eligible for designation to the National Register.
The first firehouse in the Village was located on the Race, about 200 feet west of Pears Mill. The Race also powered the Village's rotary pump for fire protection, and provided water and power to businesses along its banks.