Hanford Mills to reopen with virus precautions

FileHanford Mills Museum, shown in this 2009 file photo, will open for the season Aug. 12.

Hanford Mills Museum will reopen to the public for guided tours Wednesday, Aug. 12. 

Tours of Hanford's water-powered sawmill, gristmill and woodworking shop will be offered Wednesdays through Sundays. To ensure social distancing, reservations are required and only one party can tour at a time, according to the media release. 

“We instituted a reservation system for tours to limit the number of people in the Mill at one time,” Executive Director Liz Callahan said in a media release. “This system also means visitors get a custom tour. Interpreters can cater to visitors’ interests even more than during a regular season tour. We are eager to welcome visitors back to Hanford Mills."

In a follow-up phone interview with The Daily Star on Wednesday, July 29, Callahan said the museum would normally open in March, but because staff was working from home during the state's "On Pause" response to the coronavirus pandemic, many of the site's opening procedures had to be delayed until June.

Then, when other museums began to open during Phase Four of the state's reopening, the Hanford staff discovered they would need to do some major renovations to a section of the mill's floor and the support beneath before it could be reopened. 

The delay kept the museum from opening in July, but now that repairs are made, the site is able to reopen with social distancing measures in place, she said. 

"We are trying to be conscious of how to guide people while keeping them safe," she said.  

Callahan said the tour has been rerouted to avoid some areas where social distancing is not possible. Other parts of the tour will be set up to allow a group to see parts of the mill while a tour guide stays outside of a confined area. 

"When a group comes together on site, they are the only group in the mill at that time," she said. 

Hanford had never had a reservation system previously, she said, but the new system will allow the public to enjoy the mill without creating a situation where unrelated groups are in close proximity to each  other. 

"We are delighted to be open," Callahan said. 

The museum will not hold its traditional events this year. The Dan Rion Memorial Antique Engine Jamboree & Powerfest, held in September, and the Woodsmen’s Festival, held in October, will return in 2021, Callahan said. However, the museum is exploring its options to hold virtual events online, she said. 

Museum members will be able to take preview tours beginning a week earlier than the general public, starting Wednesday, Aug. 5. Callahan said the earlier opening for members was being offered as a reward for the mill's loyal patrons and donors. 

All tours must be reserved in advance by calling 607-278-5744. Tours are offered Wednesdays through Sunday, as well as Labor Day and Columbus Day through Oct. 15.

Children 12 years old and younger receive free admission. Museum members and residents who live in zip codes (13757, 13739, 13786, 13750 and 13806) neighboring Hanford Mills receive free admission. Anyone with an EBT card receives free admission. 

Hanford Mills is located at 51 county Route 12 in East Meredith. Go to www.hanfordmills.org or call 607-278-5744 for more information.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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