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Everything You Need to Know About the Ozark Mill

Johnny Morris is creating another huge tourist attraction—this time in Ozark. Finley Farms will be home to the Ozark Mill, the Riverside Bridge, a speakeasy, a museum and more.

By Corin Cesaric

Aug 02 2018 at 4:06 p.m.

Megan Morris at the Ozark Mill
Photo by Corin CesaricMegan Morris gives a tour of the construction zone where the Ozark Mill is being renovated. Purchase Photo

Johnny Morris and his family have a special connection to milling and to Ozark, Missouri. His grandfather was a miller in Willard, his parents lived on the Finley River mill pond and, at one point, his family lived in Ozark, according to his daughter Megan Morris.

Built in 1883, the historic Ozark Mill has seen numerous owners, fires and rebuilds. In 1993, a year after it ceased operation, Johnny purchased the property. Untouched by the Morris family until this year, its future looks extremely bright, joining Johnny’s portfolio of projects that includes Bass Pro Shops, Big Cedar Lodge and Wonders of Wildlife. It will be part of Finley Farms, which will include an array of businesses and experiences that pay homage to local attractions and history. 

Finley Farms: Phase One

The Ozark Mill will be a fully functioning grain mill where guests can take tours of the historic site, but it won’t actually produce anything. Upon entering, you’ll find The Pantry, a gift shop stocked with local foods and handcrafted items. The main event in the mill, similar to Top of the Rock, will be a full-service restaurant called Riverside Grill that overlooks Finley River. 

In addition, there will be a museum in the basement of the mill that leads into a speakeasy-style bar called The Garrison. The bar is named after Howard Garrison who was known for selling bootlegged liquor during the Prohibition era. 

Ozark Mill Foundation Work
Photo by Corin Cesaric Purchase Photo
Ozark Mill Foundation Work
Photo by Corin Cesaric Purchase Photo
Photos by Corin Cesaric The mill has to be moved a few inches at a time in order to build it a new flood-proof foundation.

One of the first (and most important) steps in the restoration process is moving the entire grain mill 30 feet, so that a flood-proof foundation can be built. The foundation is currently being built while the mill’s structure is being restored. 

“We have been working diligently with a team of incredible craftsmen to preserve every piece of material that we possibly can,” Megan says. Pieces from the old structure will be used as signage when you first enter Finley Farms. 

A workshop will live in the former Wheeler Gardens building. It overlooks the property, which includes an urban farm
 that produces fruits and vegetables by using sustainable techniques. The workshop will be a place for friends and family to gather and have hands-on experiences making crafts, cooking and taking a variety of classes. 

Finley Farms plans
Photo courtesy Ozark MillReleased on August 1, 2018, the plans for Finley Farms are extensive. Eventually, the property will boast a tomato cannery, gardens, a chapel and more.

Finley Farms: Phase Two

While the Ozark Mill is currently the main point of focus and restoration, the Morris family still plans to keep building the attraction. The historic Riverside Bridge will be moved and restored to become a private event venue. 

The bridge was built in 1909 next to the mill. It was later moved to a location a mile and a half away, but it has been closed since 2015 due to flood damage. It was set to be destroyed, but community members rallied together and created an initiative to save the bridge. It worked. Megan announced they will restore the bridge and move it to a new location next to the mill.   

“The Riverside Bridge represents an important link between the past and the future,” Megan says. When it’s not in use for events, it will be open to the public.   

Finley Farms will also include a coffee and ice cream shop called The Post and a chapel that will offer both public and private access. The Riverside Bridge will create a trail connection from the mill to The Post, then on to Finley River Park and the historic Ozark square.

Phase one of the project, which includes the workshop, the mill and the farm, is expected to be completed by fall 2019. A timeline for future phases of this giant family endeavor, which includes The Post, a chapel and possible brewery has yet to be released.