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ARTICLES AND PRESS RELEASESSan Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Lauren Gold
May 12, 2012
Historic San Gabriel Mission artifact to be put on display
ACE is planning to relocate and restore the Chapman Mill to Plaza Park across from San Gabriel City Hall and San Gabriel Mission as part of the San Gabriel Trench project, which will lower railroad tracks into a 30-foot ditch to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow May 11, 2012. The Chapman Mill was connected by a series of ditches dug by Native Americans that extended to natural springs in the foothills. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Walt Mancini)
SAN GABRIEL - Locals may soon be able to dip their hands into the waters of the 19th century mill race that put the San Gabriel Mission on the map.
The mill race and grist mill, built in 1820 by ex-pirate and Boston engineer Joseph Chapman, gave the mission water for its crops and cattle, making it one of the most successful in the California mission chain, archeologist John Dietler said.
As part of an archeological dig for San Gabriel Trench Project, the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority commissioned the restoration and relocation of a portion of the mill race for display.
Out of eight possible choices, city and mission leaders have narrowed their choice on Plaza Park, just across the street from City Hall.
"We are delighted because it is going to add another attraction to the mission area and it's going to be a great ending place for the fourth graders after they finish their tour," the mission's Business Manager Al Sanchez said.
Once finished, the mill race will feature running water, educational placards and visitors will be able to touch it. In addition to its proximity to the mission, Dietler said the groups chose Plaza Park is because the original mill race ran through the exact spot where the restored one would sit.
Dietler, the lead architect for the ACE dig, said adding the mill race to the park would help tell the history of the mission, especially the ahead-of-his-time architect that made it so successful.
"I think Chapman's story is very interesting, being the first American in Los Angeles and this really clever guy that came up with some really neat engineering solutions to some problems they had," Dietler said. "The mill race is a great entryway into the story, into the way the mission used water to serve their needs."
And although only the mill race is going to be moved and restored, Dietler said preservationists shouldn't worry about the mill itself because it is not in the path of ACE construction.
In addition to its historical benefits, Bruce Mattern, the city's ACE project coordinator, said putting the mill race on display would also add to the city's Mission District and draw in more business.
"We see it as potentially an economic benefit for the city as well as historical," Mattern said. "It just goes along with everything (in our Mission District), it's part of the mission, part of history."
Mattern said the big move will likely not take place for at least two months, to give ACE's structural engineers time to determine a safe way to hoist up and relocate the 20 to 30 foot section of mill race.
Once it is finally finished, Dietler said the restored mill race will give visitors and locals alike an unprecedented look into the mission's story.
"This is the first time such a big piece of the mission's water system has been uncovered archeologically and put out for display," he said, "so it's pretty unique."
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