Thousands Visit This 1846 Mill in Upstate New York Every Year!
"Down by the old mill stream...."
This mill, in rural Delaware County, is about as rare as it gets. There are reportedly only five working water-powered mills left in New York, and this is the best of them all. The Hanford Mills Museum operates this 1846 sawmill and gristmill with a close eye on history and tradition.
And thousands visit here each year to enjoy the fun and learn the incredible history of the Hanford family and their still-operating mill.
There are many structures on the mill campus, many of them well over 100 years old The showstopper here is a visit to the 1926 Fitz overshot water wheel in the basement of an old mill building. A giant metal water wheel sits ominously in front of you, stoically holding back tons of water from the above Kortright Creek.
When a mill hand shouts "start the wheel" the gates open and water starts pouring into the basement. The wheel sleeves catch the water and with that weight the wheel starts spinning faster and faster bringing in the outside creek water (and an occasional fish) until the entire barn is shaking with life and the power starts reaching out to the saws and grinders throughout the mill complex. It is an exhilarating experience to watch and when the wheel finally stops you usually hear a loud round of applause from those who just watched this monstrous wheel in action. (A video of this is in the gallery).
The mill hosts many popular events annually, but the ice harvest festival is a wonder to behold. The large pond at the mill, basically the life source of the working power here, is frozen thick each winter. As has been the tradition for many generations, the ice is harvested to cool and refrigerate important food items and milk for months of use by the family and workers at the mill.
This is a great example of American ingenuity, and creative rural science, as the public helps harvest huge blocks of ice from the pond, then loads them onto horse-drawn wagons, and then watches as they are packed into the old ice house for storing. As unbelievable as it sounds, this ice will continue to serve the mill site well into the summer. Amazing, and they owe it all do to sawdust provided from the sawmill. Wait, sawdust? Well, you have to visit here to understand it all. Just so awesome! (And you can warm up with some homemade soup when you are finished!)
This is a popular site for school groups, tourists, and those who seek a peek at what rural life was like in the 1800s. Hanford Mills is so precious and rare that is has been listed on both the national and New York lists of historic places.
Bucket list? Absolutely!
(This gallery lists the address and directions to this special place in East Meredith, N.Y. It also includes a direct link to their website to find visitor information).