Springfield Mills and the Miller’s Cottage date back to 1761 and are the oldest architectural features at the Morris Arboretum. Springfield Mills contains the most complete inventory of original grist mill works and related machinery of any mill in the area. The mill, with its Oliver Evans mill works, provides a unique view of 19th and early 20th century agriculture and milling in the Wissahickon Valley. Volunteers and staff are actively engaged in restoring the mill with the goal of renewing its water-powered operation. Springfield Mills is a contributing structure in the Morris Arboretum’s National Register of Historic Places listing.
The connections between food consumption, food production and land use is hard to imagine in a society where supermarkets with have become our main link to food. The role of mills in communities is largely forgotten or taken for granted. Springfield Mills creates a visual narrative of the social, economic and technological role mills play in food production and how important land conservation and plant diversity are to assuring we have food on the table.
Springfield Mills and Bloomfield Farm are closed to the public except for group tours and special events. Visit are permitted by pre-arranged group tour only. Current tours include History of Bloomfield Farm and the Historic 1761 Grist Mill. (60 mins.)
For more information or to schedule a tour contact: Lisa Bailey 215.247.5777 x157 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farmers came from many miles to have their grain ground into flour.The Flourtown Village was the great wheat market of the eastern counties of the state around and north of Philadelphia.
The mill used water power for an array of functions including sawing timber, grinding flour and animal feed, generating electricity, running agricultural machines and pumping water to irrigate the fields.
William Streeper, Jr. built the original saw and grist mill along with a stone cabin that is still a part of the Miller’s Cottage. His father was one of the first Crefelt-Sommerhausen immigrants to settle in Germantown.The original mill was powered by an undershot wheel and was known as Streeper’s Mill.
Springfield Mills was proclaimed the name of the new mill built by a Streeper son-in-law, Henry Piper. The name and date are inscribed in a marble date stone on the east side. This was a time of great local prosperity and an expanding Philadelphia population needing to be fed.
The mill went into foreclosure sale and was eventually repurchased by Henry Piper, Jr. A turbine, more efficient than a water wheel, was installed about this time and it appears the mill was refitted to serve more effectively as a feed mill. Competition from the mid-west replaced most local flour mills.
“It was as if the miller had turned out the lights, locked the doors and walked away", according to one report. The mill and farm land was now included in George Thomas’s development of the Wissahickon Valley Country Club (WVCC). George Thomas named the farm property, including the mill, Bloomfield Farm.
John T. Morris purchased Bloomfield Farm, after WVCC was completed. During John and Lydia’s ownership the mill was used primarily as a feed mill for the horses and dairy, but also generated DC power for the farm and ran farm equipment. Trout was raised here and sold in the city. Oats, wheat, barley, vegetables, pigs, milk, butter and eggs were produced for the estate and the community.
The mill was in good condition when the will of Lydia Morris established the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Most agricultural functions were ordered to cease when the University took possession. During WW II, the Lignum-vitae bearing in the water turbine were replaced and the mill was active in providing water for livestock and the Victory Gardens.
The decade began a period of restoration and renewal for the Morris Arboretum. Among projects undertaken in the 1980s were stabilization of the grist mill and renovation of the Miller’s Cottage.
Springfield Mills opened for Prearranged group tours. Structural stabilization, doors, windows, stairs and more have been renewed with the support of private donations and the dedication of the Run-of-the-Mill volunteers. The staff and volunteers are working to restore the mill to grinding operation..
The historic Wissahickon Valley was home to over sixty mills from colonial times to WWII. Springfield Mills is one of four remaining Mills of the Wissahickon you can tour or visit. Explore all the mills of the Wissahickon.