There are some magnificent deceptions at “The Old Mill” in T.R. Pugh Memorial Park, but the fact that the “old mill” is not that old and was never a mill is far from the most deceptive thing there.
More deceptive would be the large gnarled bridges, the water wheel, railings, floor planks, scattered branches and logs, even the mill’s rope and pulley, because though they appear to be made out of petrified wood, stone or steel, are all in fact sculpted cement. The creator of these concrete objects was Dionicio Rodriguez, a Mexican-born sculptor who learned the craft of Faux Bois (Fake Wood) or “El Trabajo Rústico” (The Rustic Work) as a teenager in Mexico, and in 1932 he was commissioned by Justin Matthews to help create this tourist attraction for Matthew’s new suburban subdivision.
Architect Frank Carmean designed the replica mill to look as if it were built a century earlier in the 1830s, while Rodriguez designed and created the concrete details and surrounding objects. Rodriguez’s constructions were created by covering bound rods, wire, or other fragments in layers of concrete. Then the concrete was sculpted in detail by hand, fork, or other tool to best imitate the supposed nature of the object. Rodriguez was extremely hush-hush about his process, and was even said to mix the materials covertly in the trunk of his car so others would not be able to learn the secrets his craft.
The “Old Mill” was shown in the opening musical credits to the film “Gone With the Wind”, and is believed to the be the oldest structure that was shown in the film to still be standing. In 2010 the park was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
- Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists by John Beardsley