Star Mills signage gets much-needed facelift

Ray Scherer

One of Hermann's stately structures has received a fresh coat of signage paint, a brightening that harks back to its days of glory.

The Hermann Star Mills/Eggers Milling Co. building, 238 E. First St., has the freshening, from the efforts of the wall dogs. The crew's repainting of the street-front sign was completed last week, and illuminates a familiar landmark for Hermannites and visitors.

According to an undated newspaper account, Hermann Star Mills was built in 1860 (other accounts place the origin at 1867). The 4 1/2-story brick edifice cost about $40,000 to construct. It originally possessed five millstones and was propelled by a 125-horsepower steam engine, with a capacity of producing 160 barrels of flour daily. Improvements made during the 1880s increased the capacity to 240 barrels a day. It was Hermann's first steam-powered grist mill.

The account stated the property was bought in 1872 by George A. Klinger, who continued the business until he died in 1886 -- when his sons took over the reins. 

The building houses the offices and facilities of Oncken Machine Service, where Jim Oncken tells the Advertiser-Courier much local history and lore has occurred. The Oncken family bought the building in 1981 from John LeBrell.

"It was a machine shop in the 60s," Oncken said. "It was all ready to go."

Plans to repaint the famous sign were delayed after a painting contractor was killed in a train accident, and the building itself has undergone one round of repairs since 1981, said Oncken.

And despite its current status as a machine shop, reminders remain of Star Mills' heyday. Steam engine remnants can be found on the upper floor, where flour was ground.

"You can see that there was something up there," Oncken said.

Moreover, the indentation of ancient wagon wheels is still visible outside -- where the wagons would pull up to the mill's ramp. Scrapings can also be seen up close on the side of the building. An elevator was installed at a later date to life the wheat upstairs.

The address was also the location for a chicken house and once housed some furniture. At one time, Ritepoint pens were also made there.