Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Sickler Brothers Mill designated as county historic site

The County of San Diego’s Historic Site Board has designated the Sickler Brothers Mill in Pala as a historic landmark.

The September 19 designation acknowledges the significance of the mill’s contribution to the patterns of the county’s history and cultural heritage, its characteristics of the period, and its potential to yield information important to the county’s early history.

The mill is currently within the Wilderness Gardens Preserve, which is owned by the County of San Diego and operated by the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation with help from Friends of Wilderness Gardens Preserve. Wilderness Gardens itself has some historic significance, since it was the first open space preserve in the county’s park system, but only the mill portion of the park was designated as a historic landmark.

M.M. Sickler and W.A. Sickler came from Kansas to California in 1868 and built a gristmill in the San Luis Rey River Valley. The gristmill was used for grinding grain, primarily for individual customers, and was the first gristmill in northern San Diego County.

The mill is now the last remaining structure of any gristmill in the county. The integrity of the foundation is intact, and based on early photographs the original structure is intact. Some concrete infill and window areas has occurred but is reversible, and that infill probably helped keep the structure intact. The historical significance of the mill was based on three sections of the Local Register. The section identifying a resource as significant if it is associated with events which have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of San Diego County history and cultural heritage was invoked because the mill was the first built in northern San Diego County and the last remaining foundation in the county and because the mill exemplifies the ranching and homesteading period of the late 19th century in northern San Diego County. The gristmill enabled many farmers in the area to process their grains.

Another Local Register section identifies a resource as significant if it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, San Diego region, or method of construction, if it represents the work of an important creative individual, or if it possesses high artistic values. The gristmill was state of the art for mills and included a James Leffel and Sons 48-horsepower turbine as well as grinding stones made in Paris, France. Gristmills were usually built in a distinctive method of construction beginning with a large rock foundation and then a wooden structure two to three stories high, and the original structure exemplified that method of construction.

A third Local Register section utilized in the designation identifies a resource as significant if it has the potential to yield information important to the county’s early history. Although no subsurface excavations have been performed, it is likely that significant artifacts can be found which will provide important information on the history of the county. The Department of Parks and Recreation has made a commitment to maintain the structure in its current condition and to interpret the foundation and gristmill to public visitors.


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