It is difficult to imagine Johnson Mill in its original setting: once rural, it now includes many buildings and businesses typically located adjacent to a major interstate highway exit. Businesses have operated here since 1835, when the first Johnson Mill was constructed. Burned as a consequence of the nearby battle of Pea Ridge in 1862 and rebuilt after the Civil War in 1867, the mill subsequently served the community for over a century. In 1992, architect Lambeth, best known for his passive solaroriented residential work scattered about the region, acquired the mill and adjacent lands and, with his design, stewarded its renovation into a hotel and restaurant complex. Its centerpiece is the mill building itself, a large, gabled, barnlike structure, complete with an overshot waterwheel and now housing the hotel offices and a few of the suites. While the wheel itself no longer operates, it is maintained as it originally appeared, and water from an extensive ornamental sluice system flows around it. Much of the original heavy timber structure of the mill building is exposed on the interior. New functions are carefully inserted into the spaces on the ground floor, establishing a pleasing opposition between the rustic old components of the mill and the elegant, polished materials associated with the newer hotel. Typical of Lambeth’s often-playful work, many of the guestrooms are themed, including Claude Monet– and Frank Lloyd Wright–styled suites. Attached to the historic building is a large wing of newly constructed guestrooms, a simple block with subtle ornamentation. The complex of structures is balanced on the other side of the mill by a restaurant building with space for social functions, housing one of northwest Arkansas’s premier sites for haute cuisine in an interior also designed by Lambeth. The additions, particularly the restaurant wing, reflect his concern for site orientation; interior spaces jut out from the building’s facade in a gesture that not only recognizes the sun’s angle but also helps frame views to the extensive landscaping, which includes the multilevel sluiceway, a koi pond, and several planted beds. No visit to the mill, for lodging, dining, or mere curiosity, is complete without a walk through these lush garden spaces.
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Johnson Mill and Inn at the Mill
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