Park/Historic Site Plans

at Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site

Conceptual Development Plan
November 2001

Established: 1964
Size: 1,442 acres
Location: Clay County

MISSION STATEMENT The Mission of Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site is to preserve and interpret the historic structures and surviving remnants, cultural landscapes, and relevant artifacts associated with the mill, plantation, and the Watkins family, with emphasis on the last half of the 19th century. Recreational opportunities consistent with the facilities historic character and carrying capacity of the property will be provided.

INTRODUCTION Watkins Woolen Mill is a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark, as well as a Clay County Historic Landmark. The woolen factory is the only one of over 2,400 textile mills operating in North America in 1870 that still contains its original machinery and equipment. As such it is a very important historic document of 19th century life, working conditions and industrial technology. Its value is enhanced by the preservation of Watkins' Bethany farm, Mt. Vernon Church and Franklin Academy.

In 1963 Clay county voters passed a $184,000 bond issue to buy the Watkins property and turn it over to the Missouri Park Board. Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site entered the Missouri Park System on January 1, 1964. The site now comprises 1,442 acres. This tract contains the Watkins' Bethany Farm, woolen mill and associated historical structures and archeological features; a visitor's center; a 100-acre lake; a campground, beach area, 3 picnic areas, shelter, launch ramp, scout area and a 3.75 mile trail. The Division of Youth Services leases an 18-acre tract for a minimum-security facility.

DEVELOPMENT GOALS Preserve the historic structures and surviving remnants, cultural landscapes and relevant artifacts associated with the mill, plantation and the Watkins family to enhance public enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of the siteProvide adequate administrative, operational and maintenance support facilities to protect, secure and maintain the resources of the siteProvide adequate visitor orientation and interpretive facilities to enhance the public's understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the resources of the siteProvide recreation and public use facilities and structures that are compatible with the mission of the site


Reconstruct Mule Barn and Corral
Mule barn and corral will be reconstructed to house period farm equipment and a period workshop. Mule barn reconstruction will require archeology.

Reconstruct Period Privy
Reconstruct period privy shell that will be set on a vault base that meets environmental and health regulations, by Watkins home for public use.

Restore Mill Ponds
Dredge and reseal the bottoms of the millponds and repair dams.

Stabilize/Conserve Woolen Mill Machinery
Machinery, equipment and tools will continue to receive conservation treatment and enhancements to preserve and to aid in interpretive efforts. Due to the fragile and rare nature of the mill equipment, no attempt will be made to make the machinery operable. See Appendix for supporting documentation.

Continue the Restoration and Preservation of the Watkins House
Efforts will continue with the house restoration and preservation to more accurately represent its appearance in the late 1870s. Some specific tasks will include tuck-pointing; replacing the second floor west window sills; removing the modern floor in the winter kitchen; repairing and refinishing the woodwork, hardware, floor and fireplace repair; restoring the basement including tuckpointing, whitewashing, repairing shelving and doors and removing or replacing all exposed or inappropriate wiring and plumbing; rebuilding the back porch columns; repairing box-stoves and other needed repairs as required.

Historic Area Preservation
Preserve, stabilize and enhance the foundations and features related to the Workers Cabins, Sawmill Site, Scale House, Wool Shed, Blacksmith Shop and William Waer's House. Continue research to further define these locations and to interpret these features.

Watkins Yard Restoration
Unearth and refurbish historic stepping stone path from Watkins house to Mule Barn.

Remove Red Barn
Red Barn (circa 1950s) to be removed.

Remove Wash House
Wash House (circa 1950s) to be removed.

Day-Use Area in Historic Zone
The day-use area in the Historic Zone that has been considered temporary will be designated permanent to house the vault toilets and picnic tables currently there. No shelters or other day-use facilities will be developed in this area. The old sawmill and related structures in the area will be interpreted.

Stabilize Germann Farm Barn and Fields
Stabilize as a service support area for facility operations and occasional special event staging. The root cellar and Farrowing House will be removed. If future development of this facility includes a living history farm program, this area could be used to support it. Any modifications to this area need to consider this possible future use.

Recreation Area

Expand Equestrian Trail
Equestrian trail will be expanded to the south of the existing trail and parking area. This expansion is contingent upon the acquisition of adjacent land (Acquisition #2).

Trail Link
Link the park trails with the Northland Trail System (a proposed inter-county network system) when this system is developed.

Construct Overlook
An overlook will be constructed along the existing bike trail at the waterfall location.

Construct Wildlife/Bird Viewing Area
Construct an addition onto the North side of the visitor center to house a wildlife/bird viewing area.

Expand South Day-Use Area (Shelter Area)
Expand parking to accommodate shelter and day-use activities. Construct new vault latrine and horseshoe pits.

Beach Access
Beach access will be reconfigured to accommodate Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerns.

Interpret the Missouri Valley Fox Hunt Kennel's Features
Located in the recreation area, the Missouri Valley Foxhunt Kennel features will be defined and interpretation will be provided.

Upgrade Williams Lake Dam Structure
Due to increased housing below Williams Lake Dam, the Department of Natural Resources' Dam and Reservoir Safety Program recommended that the emergency spillway be widened and possibly armored. A study needs to be undertaken in order to access this need and may require additional projects to bolster the strength of the spillway.

Special-Use Camp

Expand Special-Use Camp
Enlarge parking lot to accommodate approximately thirty vehicles, add water line and play-field.


Improve Campground
The campground will be renovated by removing sites that have deteriorated and are causing resource damage. These sites will be replaced in a new campground development adjacent to the existing campground (Acquisition #3). In addition to the relocated campsites, a modest amount of new campsites will also be developed. The number of additional campsites will be determined by site conditions.

Service Area

Expand Service Complex
The service area will be expanded to incorporate the current superintendent's residence. The residence will be converted to historic collection storage. An equipment storage facility will be constructed and the sewage system will be upgraded in the complex and additional landscaping will screen this area.

Park Residences

Renovate Germann Farm
Renovate Germann Farmhouse to provide a state residence.

Major's Residence
Sell the Major's residence (house only) with a protective covenant and move it off site. The land on which the residence currently sits will remain within the facility's boundaries.


Railroad Overpass and Removal of Road
An overpass will be constructed that will connect the Main Park Road over the railroad to the Park Road North just across from the current superintendent's residence and current Division of Youth Services (DYS) gate. This will be followed by the removal of the section of the Main Park Road between the north picnic area and old Bethany Road. This project will allow public access to the visitor center via a route that lessens the impact to the Historic Zone and avoids the vehicle height limit for emergency equipment at the current underpass. A relocated historic bridge is preferred.

Contact Station and Removal of Brown Barn
Construct contact station at the South Park entrance and remove non-period brown barn (circa 1960).

Division of Youth Services Camp
Land surrounding Watkins Woolen Mill has become increasingly expensive and more developed, which is limiting opportunities to expand the land base. The current cooperative agreement between the division and DYS has diminished so that the park receives extremely limited, if any services from DYS, while DYS continues to expand its number of structures, residents, and staff. This expansion affects the park as traffic increases wear and tear on roadways, and while the level of detention is to include only nonviolent offenders, the potential remains for increased liability to park visitors, staff and facilities whenever clients runaway. DYS will be encouraged to vacate the camp upon the expiration of the Memorandum of Understanding in 2016. The area will be converted to an Organized Group Camp.

Bury Power Lines
Bury power lines in Section 10 of Historic Zone to restore historic viewshed.

ACQUISITIONS Acquisition of 80 Acres adjacent to Historic Zone (Acquisition #1)
Acquire 80 acres adjacent to the millponds to provide needed buffer to the historic zone's northern border. The proximity of this tract to the mill and the threat of a significant impact upon this setting should this tract be developed, makes this acquisition the highest priority acquisition. It will provide viewshed and watershed protection.

Acquisition of 65 Acres south of Equestrian Parking Area (Acquisition #2)
Acquire 65 acres south of the Equestrian parking area to provide an expansion area for new equestrian trails.

Acquisition of 97 Acres Adjacent to the Campground (Acquisition #3)
Acquire 97 acres on the campground's southern border for campground improvements.

Acquisition of 230 Acres to the West of the Park (#4)
Acquire 230 acres to the west of the park for viewshed protection and buffer.

Special Note Regarding Acquisitions/Purchase Units
Acquisitions will be pursued through willing sellers.

PLANNING AND RESEARCH GOALS Research and Archaeology
Research and archaeology will be an ongoing activity at the site; especially as it relates to development projects proposed in this plan and enhances interpretive efforts and a basic understanding of the site.

Interpretive Plan
The Interpretive Plan will be completed to address all interpretive issues at the site.

Cultural Resources Plan
The Cultural Resources Plan will be completed to address all cultural resources of the site.

Natural Resources Plan
The Natural Resources Plan will be completed to address all natural resources of the site.

Development Phasing
Development Phasing will be completed after the plan is approved. 

Approved by:

Douglas K. Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 12/18/01
Deborah Schnack, Director, Planning and Development Program, 12/18/01
Jim Rehard, District Supervisor, Northern Missouri Historic District, 12/14/01
Michael Beckett, Site Administrator, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, 12/10/01


Members of the CDP Team
Mike Beckett, Site Administrator, Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site
Lisa Dillon, Architect, Planning and Development Program
Stan Fast, Natural Resource Manager, Operations and Resource Management Program
Richard Forry, Assistant District Supervisor, Northern Missouri Historic District
Jim Rehard, District Supervisor, Northern Missouri Historic District
Booker H. Rucker, Director, Cultural Resource Management Program
Debbie Schnack, Director, Planning and Development Program
John Spencer, Cultural Resource Preservationist, Interpretation Program
Ron Sutton, Park Superintendent, Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site
Note: Ann Sligar, former Site Administrator, Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site participated on the CDP team from its' initiation in December 1999 through October 2000.

REFERENCE Matthews, Ann M (1986). Why We Decided Not To Demonstrate Process at Watkins Mill. Proceedings of the 1986 Association of Living History Farms and Agricultural Museums Conference, Connor Prarie, Nobelsville, IN, 67-72