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Healan's/Head's Mill backers celebrate first phase of restoration
Fundraiser helps raise money for project
Russell Sagon plays his dobro on the balcony of Healan’s Mill on Saturday. The weekend event gave the public a chance to see progress on the historic site’s restoration.

Friends and family of historic Healan’s/Head’s Mill gathered at the mill Saturday night as part of their Bows and Boots fundraiser to partake in dinner, drinks and revelry.

Thrown by The Healan-Head Mill Historic Preservation Trust, the party was part celebration and part fundraiser.

“Tonight is really a fundraiser,” said Becky Healan Ruffner, whose aunt and uncle were the last private owners of the mill. “It’s a celebration. We have completed phase one. The entire project will take about four phases. The first phase was really to stabilize the mill. It was in bad condition; it was really about to fall into the river.”

Work on preserving the mill began about two years ago, when the county began taking interest in restoring the area and turning it into something bigger.

“The county was interested in preserving the mill, making a park and making it where everybody could enjoy it and let it live past our years, so that’s what they’ve done and I think they’ve done a beautiful job,” said Fred “Chip” Healan, son of Fred and Burnice Healan, the last owners of the 170-year-old mill.

Both Healan and Ruffner have fond memories of the mill growing up.

“As a child, we spent a lot of weekends out here playing. It was really used for family events, family reunions,” said Ruffner. “We would play out here. My uncle would turn the water wheel on and my sisters and cousins and I would actually get on the wheel as it was turning and slip and slide down the wheel. It’s a wonder we didn’t get hurt. We would play up at the barn in the corn crib and throw hay out and jump out of the barn. Just doing the fun things kids could do back then.”

Garland Reynolds of Reynolds Architects in Gainesville volunteered to work on the mill free of charge.

Reynolds restored the building as closely as possible to the original 1850s structure, but it wasn’t easy. He found that he needed to order custom windows and had to search for a mill that would produce local pine lumber for the crew.

Reynolds, who visited the mill with his father as a child, had help from the Hall County Parks and Recreation staff, saying that he couldn’t have asked for better craftsmen to work with him on something he is passionate about.

“Something like this is a labor of love because it takes so much patience to make sure that it’s put together as much as possible using modern materials and modern techniques and still meet old building codes,” he said.

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