Just outside of Helen, Georgia, a portion of the Chattahoochee River flows down a wooden raceway and into a 19th-century water turbine. These turbines power a series of elevators and chutes that bring dried grains to a pair of 1,500-pound French Burr millstones. Trapped between the stones, the grain is ground into flours such as cornmeal, grits, and pancake mix. This is how Nora Mill Granary has been producing flour for nearly 150 years.
Nora Mill was built in 1876 by John Martin, a gold prospector who decided to move to the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley permanently. The mill was purchased in 1902 by Lamartine G. Hardman, who would later become the governor of the state of Georgia. It was Hardman who named it “Nora Mill” in honor of his sister. Today, Nora Mill persists as a window into the technology of the past. The use of the turbine is especially unusual, as most mills of this time used water wheels instead.
These days, flour is usually ground with steel machinery and fossil-fuel electricity. Many bakers and natural food advocates still prefer stone-ground flour, claiming it to have a better texture and nutritional quality. The store at Nora Mills offers the perfect opportunity to try stone-milled flour and find out how it’s made. Visitors can also stock up on other kitchen supplies, kitschy Southern souvenirs, and food to feed the fish that live in the Chattahoochee river below the mill.
Know Before You Go
Nora Mill is open year-round from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is absolutely free.