Saint Vincent Gristmill


Visit Steeler Training Camp and the Gristmill

Today Saint Vincent is a thriving Archabbey, College, Seminary and Parish. But when Father Boniface Wimmer and 18 missionaries arrived in Latrobe from Bavaria in 1846, they found only a small frontier parish. They immediately set to work, building a self-sufficient foundation for their life of work and prayer.

This method was consistent with Wimmer’s European heritage, and his monks began many industrial and agricultural enterprises. When they found local gristmills to be too expensive, Wimmer asked local millwright George Washington Bollinger to design a gristmill for the monastery. Originally powered by steam engines and fueled by coal, the mill was constructed from locally-harvested red oak, white oak and American chestnut trees. Wimmer ordered fresh-water quartz millstones—each weighing a ton—from a quarry in France known for the quality and density of its stones. The four-story structure cost $3,000 to build. The monks added a sawmill on the west side of the building in 1855, and additional storage and equipment space on the east side in 1883.

The mill, which has operated on electricity since 1952, also once housed a cider mill.

Many farmers from the area made use of the gristmill, and a great deal of flour was produced there. At its peak in 1913, the mill ground enough flour to make more than 150,000 pounds of “Saint Vincent Bread.” This crusty, hearty loaf with no preservatives or shortening, fed the students and the monks and was sold in the local community.

A fire in 1963 damaged much of the campus, including the brick ovens used to bake Saint Vincent Bread. As a result, the bread is no longer baked on campus for popular consumption, but rather, for the Benedictines to enjoy at almost every meal, and for other on-campus uses. Younger monks from the Benedictine community fill the role of miller, allowing the gristmill to offer its stone-ground flour for sale to the public at a general store established in the mill in 2001. A local farm uses flour ground at the mill to bake the “Saint Vincent Bread” that is sold there, using the recipe that has been handed down from generations of monks.

In the 1990s, the gristmill faced demolition due to insurance problems. A creative plan by the Benedictines, supported by area foundations, saved it, preserving one of the last remaining vestiges of Boniface Wimmer’s time, and a tradition of milling that has been uninterrupted since 1854.

The mill is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

In the spring of 2001, a museum and general store opened on the first floor of the gristmill, with a viewing area where visitors may see Benedictine monks grind grain, much as they have done since 1854. Visitors can buy flour ground by monks at the mill at the store, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Visitors can purchase other items, from coffee to monastery bread and pancake mix. Also available at the store is a history of the Gristmill and the former Saint Vincent Brewery, once located nearby.

While visiting the gristmill, take a walk through the Saint Vincent wetlands, a passive acid mine treatment system. Follow the treatment ponds from orange to clean, and bring a camera to capture any wildlife that might be present, from frogs to red-winged blackbirds to geese, and even the occasional heron.

Learn more about the Gristmill by purchasing your copy of The Saint Vincent Archabbey Gristmill and Brewery, 1854-2000 today! The book is available in the general store and online, at gristmill is located on Beatty Road, just north of the Saint Vincent Campus. Saint Vincent Archabbey, College and Seminary are located on Saint Vincent Drive, just off of Route 30, northwest of the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

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