Yates Mill

Yates Mill is a restored grist mill that dates back to the early 1760s and served Wake County for over 200 years.  The mill is located at 4620 Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh.  The mill and the area around the mill were converted into a park through a cooperative effort between the Yates Mill Associates and NC State University in an effort to preserve the mill and prevent its continued decay.

Of the 70 gristmills that once served Wake County, Yates Mill is the only one still in operating condition.  The water-powered gristmill was an important economic and social center for residents of Wake County from colonial times through the early 1900s. Gristmills provided the important service of grinding corn and wheat into meal and flour.  In rural areas of North Carolina, before towns or crossroad-stores developed, gristmills served as public gathering places for scattered rural populations. Millponds were popular locations for fishing, swimming and picnicking. Yates Millpond is again a popular gathering place, as it once was in the past. The mill continued operation until the 1950s, when it closed for lack of business.   North Carolina State University obtained title to the mill and the pond in 1963. The property was part of a 1,000-acre tract that was purchased for use by North Carolina State University Field Laboratory’s experimental farms and demonstration fields. Shortly after the University obtained the property, John Daniel Lea – the miller who had worked at the mill since 1898 – operated the mill for the last time as a demonstration.

 After the mill shut down for business, it began to fall into disrepair. In 1989, the nonprofit group Yates Mill Associates (YMA) formed to preserve and restore the mill. In 1996, after stabilizing the mill building, YMA approached Wake County with a proposal to turn Yates Mill into a county park. Park planning between NC State, YMA, Wake County and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services began, and the Wake County Board of Commissioners approved the park’s master plan in 1997.
 In 2001 N.C. State leased 157 acres to Wake County. In addition, Wake County bought 16 acres upstream and signed a memorandum of understanding with the N.C. Department of Agriculture for the development of hiking trails on 400 acres of land upstream from the pond. Shortly after park planning began, Hurricane Fran breached the dam, drained the millpond and caused the shed to collapse in the fall of 1996. The mill and its pond were badly damaged, but not beyond repair. Restoration of the mill and its grinding machinery was finally finished in 2005.  Construction of the visitor center for the park began in summer 2003, and was completed in April 2006. Historic Yates Mill County Park opened to the public May 20, 2006. Tours of Yates Mill are available to the public March through November, and corn-grinding demonstrations are offered the third weekend of each month during that time. (Yates Mill History courtesy of Wake.gov/YatesMill)