One of Hellertown’s most recognizable and iconic architectural landmarks could be recognized in an official capacity, if its proposed nomination to the National Register of Historic Places is ultimately approved.
Hellertown Borough Council paved the way Monday for the possible inclusion of the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill on the exclusive list by unanimously voting to allow the NHRP nomination to move forward.
The borough owns the grist mill and leases it to the Hellertown Historical Society for a nominal amount in exchange for the HHS’s work to maintain the historic building, which traces its origins to the construction of a sawmill on the site sometime in the 1760s.
According to a brief history of the mill outlined on the HHS website:
After several owners, Christopher Wagner purchased the sawmill and both tracts in 1772. For the next 142 years the sawmill, and eventually a grist mill, bore the Wagner name. In 1875, the mill was remodeled with the addition of water turbines. The grist mill operated into the 1950s. The Borough of Hellertown took ownership in 1965.
If its nomination is accepted, the Heller-Wagner Grist Mill will become the first property in the borough to be listed on the NHRP.
The historical society’s Chip Wagner told council there are several buildings and sites listed on the NHRP in Lower Saucon Township–including the historic Lutz-Franklin Schoolhouse maintained by the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society–and 120 to 130 NHRP listings throughout the Lehigh Valley. One of the sites that is listed on the NHRP is the Meadows Road Bridge on the Saucon Creek, which will soon be demolished.
Wagner told council that the nomination process could take a year or longer, due to the length of time of various review periods that are built into it.
“If you give us permission, it shouldn’t affect the borough’s ability to do anything with the property,” he assured council members.
In recent years, the historical society has been able to generate revenue to help fund its maintenance of the building and various other preservation endeavors by renting out the Tavern Room in the grist mill, although the COVID-19 pandemic reduced rental income.
“It’s a great venue,” said borough council president Tom Rieger. “To me, (the nomination) makes sense.”