Rensselaerville Grist Mill

Despite the title of this post, I don’t have any photos of millstones, the mill itself, or any iconic spillway images.  That’s mainly because this 3 story mill has a road running close past it and a bridge directly beside it. 

I got to tour this mill unexpectedly this week, and the contents would make any antique dealer insane with envy.  Much of what is in the mill isn’t actually mill “stuff.”  Everything from fabric mill parts (from a separate mill now gone)  looms, boilers, old stoves, and milk cans littered the interior of the mill.  The mill is a haven for all things old – it’s a repository of history, in much part donated by residents proud of their heritage (and I suspect Ebay played a large part as well.)

Thanks to the handout the tour guide gave me, I can give you a little history of the mill itself.  It’s located on Ten Mile Creek, and was one of some 70 “water-powered sites” – meaning everything from grist mills for grain, sawmills for timber, and fabric mills for cloth and felt.   The original mill was built in 1789, but the building I toured was rebuilt in 1880 after a fire broke out and destroyed the original.  There was a fire in this one as well, and you can still see charred hand-hewn beams in the ceiling of the second floor.

The inside of the mill is poorly lit by a somewhat new electrical system and the large original glass-paned windows.  It made taking photographs difficult, as I didn’t bring a flash with me and I refuse to use the on-camera flash.  I wish I could have gotten better photographs of the publications pasted on the wall – the mill crew put up large advertisements for things like stoves and baking powder, and one whole wall was covered with political cartoons and newspapers. 

The main floor is set into the hillside with few windows, giving the building two loading docks – one on the second floor, and one below the road on the main floor.  Thanks to an ingenious screw converter and enclosed conveyor belt (with little leather cups) the mill could send grain into the system from either floor.  One water turbine ran all of this, and still can – the mill is the only operational water-powered mill in the area.  The tour guide groused that the system has set idle for so long that the wood of the turbine shrunk and leaks water.   

On the second floor sits a huge post office cubbyhole wall – donated when the old post office closed years ago.  The family touring the mill with me recognized some of the names on the cubbies.  The grandfather of the family told us how he had played hide-and-seek with his friends in the empty mill as a child, and pointed out the trap-doors that they used to drop into the next floor to escape capture.   His young grandkids weren’t too interested, but I thought it was cool.

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