A Working Museum in Sonoma County - Sturgeon's Mill

August 06, 2011

Iíve been asked to write about working museums. Iíve spent a lifetime chasing steam and steam engines from Sturgeonís Mill in the 1950ís, around Scandinavia, Europe, down to Africa, up the West Coast of the United States & into Canada.

At the Royal British museum in London I saw displays of the very 1st. steam engines. These engines were as big as half a city block, slow and inefficient, using vacuum pressure instead of positive steam pressure to provide power to pump water out of the late 1700ís -1800ís coal mines. In the mountains of Norway I came across a Swedish gang-rip sawmill powered by water from a nearby stream. In Saarbrucken Germany I visited a steam locomotive roundhouse that had 33 working steam locomotives coming and going during my visit.

The different types of museums: Static, Interpretive and Working museums.

My most treasured memories as a 10 year old are following Ralph Sturgeon around under our sawmill in the 1950ís, listening to ďGun-smokeĒ on the radio as Ralph oiled the Steam Engines and put them to bed for the night. I enjoyed listening to the steam hiss, the scent of burning wood smoke, steam, and the turpentine from the freshly cut lumber is a sensory pleasure Iíll never forget. A rare experience in our travels through life is stumbling upon a hidden treasure and actually getting to see how it works. An experience like this is further heightened by touching the history and being able to talk to the operators & docents about the history and how things work.

A historical point of interest can be interesting, itís usually static and once in a while thereís a restoration or a recreation of the original artifact. If the site is well funded there may even be an electric motor turning the display in slow motion behind a Plexiglas safety barrier. The display is interesting but dull & lacking in the sensory perceptions. My most powerful experiences have been in the presence of some compelling working process or the production of some product, or seeing something evolve and be created.

After a lifetime of chasing steam around the world Iím truly blessed to be involved with a genuine piece of local West-County lumbering history. Sturgeonís mill, a Steam Powered lumber mill is a fine example of an authentic working museum. All of the original hand tools, equipment, steam engines, rolling stock and book keeping records are preserved in a Redwood canyon not changed since the 1930ís. A visit to Sturgeonís mill is like stepping back in time.

Harvey Henningsen
Sturgeonís Mill Restoration Project - A Working Museum

A Public Demonstration Day at our Working Museum in Sebastopol, CA.

A working museum in Sonoma County
Onlookers watch in amazement as the sawyer guides the carriage, Redwood log secured
into position, toward the massive saw blade to remove the cant - all powered by steam!

Find us on Facebook for Public Demo dates & other information.

Please Donate

For as little as $25.00 you will be a "Friend of the Mill". You also will receive the printed version of our Newsletter to keep you up to date with up coming events and recent upgrades to the mill.

Thank you!
For successful season.

A hearty thank you to all who visited the Mill during one of our steam-ups this past year!! We, the members of the "crew", look forward to these ‚Äúproductive‚ÄĚ weekends when we see you, who enjoy steam-powered machinery in operation, come and enjoy the fruits of our labor of the year. We each have our reasons for enjoying this Restoration Project and they all come together when we get together on these great weekends.

The only thing we ask of you is to support this Restoration Project when and however you can and to pass on to your friends the information about this Mill and your enjoyment in observing its operation.

We are located at:

Sturgeon's Mill
2150 Green Hill Rd.
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Please view map for directions to Sturgeon's Mill.

Our Mailing List

Sign-up for the online version of the Sturgeon's Mill Mailing List - it's FREE! You will receive Public Demonstration times & dates, as well as other important details regarding events taking place at Sturgeon's Mill. The sign-up form is located near the bottom of our Sturgeon's Mill home page.