The Lope: Ye Old Mill

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ye Old Mill

A full moon rises over the Kansas State Fair.

And something surveys the crowd from Ye Old Mill.

It prowls the dark, dank corridors like a phantom.

...nurturing it's unholy pets...

...breaking the laws of nature for it's amusement...

...drinking in the fear thrown off by it's guests...

Here's how it's lair operates:
An electric motor turns this set of gears...

...which turns a paddlewheel...

...that pushes 80,000 gallons of water..

...that floats eight boats, one at a time...

...into 1,000 feet of circuitous tunnels...

...past automated horrors...

...and you're not quite alone.

As the boats emerge, they are caught by treads of wooden slats that hold them for disembarking and reloading.

The treads remind me of escalators in the London Underground subway system.

Ye Old Mill has quite a history; built in 1915, it was once part of a small group of such attractions at state fair grounds around the country. Three of these "water dark rides" remain at state fairs: The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines (remodeled in recent years), the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul (still run by the Keenan family, who built the Hutchinson "Ye Old Mill"), and this one in Hutchinson, KS. In addition, there is a "Ye Old Mill" at Playland in Westchester county, New York and there may be at least one more, though I do not know if they are of the same construction as the one in Hutchinson. Much of the Hutchinson site has been replaced over the years, but the basic structure and feel of the ride has remained the same. Here is a spot along the channel where an alcove used to be.

In recent years, Ye Old Mill was in danger of being torn down by order of the State Fair Board to make room for a picnic area. Although I don't agree, I can see why they wanted to do so as the ride does take quite a bit of land. You can best see the structure of it from the 2nd floor of the Cottonwood Court building. This is about the southern third.

The center:

This is the north end; wide rectangular extensions like the ones shown house the automated monsters.

Thankfully, the plan to raze Ye Old Mill seems to have faded; I consider it a victory of real history over real estate. Fire code violations will necessitate an influx of money to bring the ride up to code. Some labor has been provided by inmates of the Kansas State Industrial Reformatory. They painted these seatbacks in the boats.

I thought them incongruously placid for a horror ride, but a friend pointed out that an inmate who would paint a scene of corpses and mayhem might not fare as well at a parol hearing. I suppose he's right.


Post a Comment

<< Home