Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Oakland Mill

Jenni Schwartz and Roger Wood held a second baby shower in Maquoketa, Iowa, which is Jenni's home town. Lacey McDevitt and Nick Szebeni own the historic Oakland Mill ( 22095 IA-64, Maquoketa, IA 52060). Lacey is an old friend of Jenni's and offered the mill as a venue. The theme of this shower was woodland creatures and Lacey, and another friend Season, did an amazing job of decorating. Photos of cute baby critters were hung on the wall near the food serving table. Centerpieces were elegantly appointed. A large horse-drawn hoe hung from the ceiling.

The historic building, originally known as Oakland Mill, was built by Joseph Willey in 1867. The 2½-story stone building has a partial basement and is capped with a gable roof. A water-powered turbine, still extant, supplied the power to operate the mill. The location of the mill race can still be seen on the east side of the property, and remnants of the damn remain in Prairie Creek. None of the mill workings remain on the inside. Willey sold the mill to Seneca Williams in 1867, and he operated in until 1904. The building was converted into a barn in 1920. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Wildlife artist Patrick J. Costello used the old mill as a residence and studio from 1979 to 2006. Today it is operated as a reception hall. I wish I had seen the place when it was an artist's studio.

I fell in love with the site. From several outdoor balconies you can watch the creek as it flows gently by. The large wheel no longer turns because the owners are not allowed to build a small dam to divert some of the river's flow.  The back yard has a nice paved path with a fire pit at the end of it a quiet gazebo. This baby shower never moved outside however.

This event was quite a bit larger than the party in Des Moines, Iowa. Food consisted of several large casseroles and cinnamon rolls. Bright blue cupcakes were arranged in the shape of a baby carriage. They had some kind of jelly center and were delicious. Though sketching, I ate more than I needed to. The couple opened presents in front of the "Oh Baby" banner. Between the two showers, the couples surely have more than they need to start their newborn's life in this world.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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