Leustetten’s Bark Mill was built in 1835 as a half-timbered structure, slightly uphill from the tannery on the village square. Today, thanks to a private initiative on the part of the Hummel family, it’s been preserved and can be visited as a museum.
About 300 metres (or 330 yards) upstream from the Bark Mill, water is diverted from the village stream to drive the water wheel. Hydro energy was transmitted via the water wheel to various pulleys by means of transmission belts. They drove a bark mill, a fulling barrel, a grindstone and a leather roller.
Originally, there was a smaller water wheel on the side of the building facing the road. But in 1870, the mill wheel was moved to the gable end. The gradient was steeper there, so a larger wheel could be powered more effectively. The Bark Mill’s water wheel has a diameter of about five metres – a little over 16 feet – and is still operational. The hub, the journal bearings, the metal plates in the paddles and two spokes have all been preserved, as have the transmission axles.
If you’d like to hear some general information about how mills are powered by water wheels, please press number 7.
Inside the Bark Mill, everything is geared towards operating efficiently. The dried bark was stored on the upper floor and decanted into the lower room through a hatch in the ceiling – perhaps you’ve already noticed the pane of glass that now covers the opening. There used to be a barking machine in here to coarsely chop the pieces of bark. They could then be ground into tan of varying degrees of fineness. The tannins from the bark were essential to the chemical transformation process from raw animal skin to hard leather.
All depictions: © Gemeinde Fricklingen