Peirce Mill

When it has rained for two cold days straight, and then starts sleeting while you are running errands, and when one has more deadlines, but would prefer to sleep, one may be tempted to stretch the definition of a weekly “adventure.”  For instance, one may want to call the fact that you saw a 20-something who had shaved his head but still had grown dark black sideburns, “something new.”

But I did good, and actually went out to try something new.  Too bad it was closed.  Still, here are the pictures of the outside – proof positive I had gone to Peirce Mill, something I have driven by umpteen hundred times and had never stopped at.  Despite the rain and the sleet, I wandered around the 1820 (or 1829) mill, which is part of a national park in downtown DC, and actually learned some new things.


First, in downtown DC, it is easy to get a sense of history in terms of the government, but it is more difficult in terms of the growth of the city itself.  (It does help to actually stop at these historical places for a change).  This mill is only two miles from my house, in Rock Creek Parkway, and served as a flour mill from 1820 (or 1829 – folks are not sure when it was built; I reckon because somebody had bad hand-writing) until 1897 when its main shaft broke. The mill was already government-owned by then (purchased 1892), and the place became a public tea room, which would have been quite cool.  It was restored to operation in the 1930s, grinding flour for government cafeterias until there were no more folks who knew how to run a mill, which, according to NPS info in Wikipedia, was around 1958.  Park employees still ran it occasionally as a demonstration until 1993, when the equipment became too degraded to use.  Now it serves as a history lesson.


This looks like an accident waiting to happen. I wonder how many people were injured running mills. I imagine it was dangerous in several respects.


That is the type of stuff that I expected to learn, and it was interesting, but what I didn’t expect was to find a sign about how a low dam constructed for scenery in 1906 blocked herring and alewives from spawning upstream.  I had no idea that herring came up the creek in Washington DC and spawned.  Really?  Herring?  In downtown DC?  I am glad that, a hundred years later, folks cared enough to build a fish ladder in 2006 to allow the herring around the dam so they could continue their journey further upstream.  At least, as I read the sign, I hoped that they are continuing their journey – the sign didn’t say.  But, according to a 2007 Washington Post article, herring and alewives were shortly after seen north of the dam.

So maybe this spring (once the sleet and snow stop, because it also snowed this evening), I’ll go stand outside the mill and see the herring run.  Today was not that day.



The fish ladder is off to the far right. You can see part of it above the water above the dam. The Washington Post article has a better picture.  One that does not include pollution foam.


One thought on “Peirce Mill

  1. Pingback: The Year 2014 in Adventures | adventuresacross2014

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