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Listing of the week: Secret tunnels, stone mill

St. Johnsville, N.Y.

For sale: $1 million

When Ron Hezel was a kid, he loved the Hardy Boys books.

“I loved that there was always tunnels and secret places,” he said. “My wife loves stone and waterfalls.”

And when they were searching for a home in which to retire, they found a place that happened to have both.

The wood floors of the stone mill, covered with nicks and grooves from former mill workers, were preserved.
The wood floors of the stone mill, covered with nicks and grooves from former mill workers, were preserved. Mike Franklin

Perched along waterfalls on the Mohawk River inlet Timmerman Creek is a mill that Ron and Jan Hezel bought and transformed into their home. Not only is the mill built out of stone — hitting upon Jan’s request — but it also has several secret tunnels from its days on the Underground Railroad. The circa 1830 stone mill was family-owned and operational until the 1930s.

When the Hezels bought the property, it was in rough condition.

“The house was a real mess with stuff all over it, broken windows and broken porch. The mill, fortunately, they had it boarded up,” explained Ron.

On weekends, Ron and Jan drove to the property to take on the arduous project of reviving and transforming it. Their tasks ranged from getting rid of the bats that lived in the attic to refinishing the original hardwood floors.

The Hezels wanted to stay true to the rustic feel of the mill and incorporated many elements from the original structure into their home.

This four-story former mill is set along waterfalls in St. Johnsville, N.Y.
This four-story former mill is set along waterfalls in St. Johnsville, N.Y. Mike Franklin

“The walls are covered with thousands of mathematical equations. The walls look like hieroglyphics. We wanted to turn it into a bathroom so I put paneling over it, but I wanted to do it so you could pop it right off. Even with the windows, I covered them, I didn’t take them out,” explained Ron.

Even the floors — covered with nicks and grooves from former mill workers — were preserved. Jan restored them by hand, Ron said.

The mill now has three levels of open living space, with the fourth floor usable as a utility or storage area. Also on the property is the original barn, a three-stall garage and remodeled guest cottage. The Hezels have operated the home as a bed and breakfast.

For a more in-depth history of the mill, see http://www.waterfallrealestate.com/.

Sherry Comstock of Van Billings Real Estate holds the listing.

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Erika Riggs, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers celebrity real estate, unusual properties and home design trends. Read more of her work here.