Isaac Ludwig Mill: 60 HP Erie Steam Engine Helps Power Scenic Destination

Star 5 HP steam engine also found at mill beside Erie Canal

| Spring 2007

The scenic Isaac Ludwig Mill in Providence, Ohio, is a, restored, water-powered grist and flour mill, sawmill and power generating station. And better yet, the mill employs two steam engines – an Erie 60 HP and an 1880-1890 Star 5 HP oil drilling engine­.

Adjacent to the mill, two mules, Molly and Sally, pull the Volunteer, a replica 1876 canal boat through the restored mile-long section of the Erie Canal and Lock 44. Along the way, re-enactors take tourist passengers back in time during their one-hour journey. It all adds up to a “must see” for steam engine fans and lovers of history.

History of the Isaac Ludwig Mill

Situated alongside the Maumee River, the mill operated from 1868 to 1970 as both a sawmill and a grist mill. In 1974, the mill became the property of the Providence Metropark System of Toledo. The park system immediately began the restoration process, taking the mill, the adjacent Miami Erie Canal and Lock 44 back to the heydays of the early 1900s.

The mill was powered by water turbine under normal conditions, but when a flood occurred the water would rise and could no longer provide the head needed to run the turbines. To counter this, in 1900 the mill owner installed a steam engine, which could provide power and allow the mill to continue operating under flood conditions.

In small towns and rural farm areas everyone knows their neighbors, and sooner or later stories of anything of interest will spread throughout the community. This was the case with the two steam engines installed at the mill.
But those who knew of the engines didn’t want to see these pieces of history end up in the scrap yard, and their location had remained hidden for many years. Until, that is, the Isaac Ludwig Mill restoration provided a place for the steam engines to be viewed and enjoyed by those interested in preserving these relics of the past.

Laird Henderson, Toledo Metroparks mill curator and historian says, “In the middle 1970s the park department heard stories that a large stationary steam engine was still in the basement of an abandoned Toledo, Ohio, laundry.” Upon investigation, they found an Erie 60 HP steam engine that had been built in 1890 by the Erie City Iron Works, Erie, Pa. The engine had been under water for 20 years with only the top of the flywheel and the governor flyball visible. The owner agreed to donate it to Toledo Metroparks, so arrangements were made to have the engine lifted from the mud and water, cleaned and brought to the Isaac Ludwig Mill.