Old mill's new LIFE
Barth Getto's experience as an ultra-marathoner might help as he races to finish a family retreat on a wooded Ligonier Township hillside by an Oct. 28 deadline.
“My daughter (Emily) is getting married here that day, and my wife will kill me if it isn't ready,” Getto says.
Though the exterior is mostly complete, the interior is still pretty rough. The poplar flooring is stacked in piles all around the first floor, and the plywood subfloor isn't even finished. The walls are bare studs.
Getto admits it's a big undertaking but, he says, “We're good as long as the floor gets finished.”
They'll have a big catering tent outside and, as for the rest, well, rustic weddings are in vogue this season anyway.
It's likely that guests will forgive the venue's half-finished state when they hear the story behind it.
Old becomes new
What Getto is doing with other family members is rebuilding the old Mathews flour mill that sat for generations along Route 31 in Jones Mills.
He employed a crew of Amish builders to dismantle the structure and move all the numbered pieces to the 92-acre property along Two Mile Run Road that he owns with his brother, Bob Getto of Cincinnati, that includes 800 yards of Loyalhanna Creek frontage.
The interior replicates the old mill, while the exterior has been updated with state-of-the-art materials.
Any wood that was too deteriorated to use in reconstruction was replaced with lumber from the property.
Getto says he doesn't know the whole history of the Mathews Mill, but that it dates back “at least to the 1800s. I know it was in the Mathews family for 138 years.”
He says he was shown a quilt that had a depiction of the mill with the date 1798, when Jones Mills was founded, but doesn't know if it showed the same structure that he bought, or an earlier one.
Inside the guest house, 42-foot hand-hewn oak beams run the length of the first story ceiling.
“Imagine the tree that came from,” Getto says as he points at one. Planks from the original mill floor are being used for the ceiling.
Poplar harvested from the property was milled for the flooring, while red oak was used for some of the interior studs.
“We saved at least $10,000 by supplying our own wood,” Getto says.
Grain chutes from the mill also will be repurposed as conduit for the electrical wiring.
The structure is topped with a red metal standing-seam roof and is covered with a Dutch lap hemlock siding that Getto says gives it an authentic period appearance.
When finished, the first floor will contain a master suite, kitchen and dining and living areas. An addition will hold a TV room. The second floor will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the third-floor loft will be carpeted for additional sleeping or play space.
With the full basement, the structure has about 5,700 square feet of liveable space, Getto says.
The original grindstone, surviving portions of the waterwheel and gear came along with other materials from the mill and will be displayed in some manner once the house is finished.
Getto learned about the mill during a chance conversation in a hardware store with Bob Rankin, a Latrobe resident who reclaims wood from old structures.
The mill had sat vacant and deteriorating for years, Rankin told him.
“He said, ‘I've been trying to find a home for it for a long time,' ” Getto says.
That clicked with Getto, a Jeannette native for whom family and history are both important.
The family first came to Ligonier Township in 1935, when Getto's great-uncle, Tony Getto, bought five acres of land and built a cabin on it. In 1950, his grandfather Dominic Getto bought an adjoining acre and built his own cabin.
“We'd come here to fish,” Getto says. “My granddad paid $300 for that acre, and that was a lot of money for them back in the day.”
Getto's parents added onto and updated Dominic's cabin during the 1980s.
He and Bob purchased 84 acres of an adjoining farm in 2013, and since have added an additional seven acres.
“My brother and I have it all in (a limited liability company) called Monte Getto LLC,” Getto says, which means ‘Getto mountain' in Italian. “Paying homage to our ethnic background,” he says.
The foundation for the guest house was poured in March 2016, incorporating stone from the mill. A dilapidated house on the site had to be torn down beforehand.
Getto, 55, says he hopes that one day the guest house will be filled with the noise and commotion that any future grandchildren will create.
Meeting the challenge
Getto and his wife, Angie, had been living in Bedford, N.H., for 15 years before they returned to the area in August 2016. They are living on one house on the family property while son Alan, an alternative folk-rock musician, stays in another between gigs that take him to various places around the country.
Getto is a vice president with Promoboxx, a Boston-based digital brand-to-retailer commerce platform. He spends one week a month in Boston and otherwise works remotely, putting his free time into finishing the guest house.
“My mom, Mercedes Getto, has been helping out a ton, too,” he says, along with Bob Patton, a general contractor from Ligonier Township.
“Don't ask him about doing any jobs,” Getto jokes. “He's booked up until after Oct. 28.”
There's a lot to do before then, but Getto, who hunts and takes fishing trips to Alaska in addition to competing in ultramarathons, isn't one to shy away from a challenge.
“I've got confidence in myself,” he says.