Leather doorway fashioned for birdhouse on the Mentzer Machine Shop.  X2017.007.0857.

Wayne Mentzer’s Birdhouse

When Millwright David Birch slapped a 4″ square crusty piece of leather on my desk, I was not too impressed.  “Remember that birdhouse we were talking about last week?”  he prompted as he looked meaningfully at the square which still bore traces of bird poop down one side.  David then began to retell me the story painting a softer picture of the mechanical brains behind the mill’s operations.

Wayne Mentzer on the grounds of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, WHC M3 1992-109-0001.

Wayne Mentzer

Wayne Mentzer (1904-1984) served, as his father before him, as the Millwright of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, and later the Mission Mill Museum.  As Millwright, he was in charge of all the mechanical workings of the mill and maintenance for the structures.  Headquarters for this operation were in the machine shop on the northeast corner of the grounds which consisted of a shop outfitted to make repairs to pretty much anything metal or wood on site – a forge, lathes, saws, drills and even a dirt floor that could be used to complete small casting projects.

In addition to his mechanical knowledge, he also had a gentler side.  “Wayne had a real soft spot for animals,” David remembered.  We have newspaper accounts detailing the relationship he had established with some local mice, whom he had trained to come and eat lunch with him when the noon whistle rang at the factory.  It turns out the mice were not the only wildlife residents of the machine shop during Wayne’s tenure.


Bird House, Interior Mentzer Machine Shop.

We can’t say for sure, but David suspects that there was a knothole in one of the boards on the north face of the machine shop.  Around the hole, Wayne mounted a wooden box (possibly a fruit crate) with a metal mesh top for air flow (and presumably clean out).  The leather piece was affixed on the exterior to help regulate the size of the birds getting in and out.  David remembers that swifts were the main residents of the box.


North Face Mentzer Machine Shop.  Boarded up entryway can still be seen just to the right of the window at the bottom edge of the top sash.

As is evident from the stains still on the leather doorway, the birds often left a mess.  This came to the attention of museum staff, and the door was ordered boarded up.  You can still see the square plug, just to the right of the window above the main entryway to the machine shop.