In the midst of a bustling downtown area in Dutchess County sits this sturdy stone structure. Despite appearing out-of-place among the nearby shopping centers and strip malls, the building is the earliest evidence of commercialized industry in the area, the last remnant of a mill site that dates back to the 18th century.
According to the town’s official Web site, the building was part of an early grist mill, and was used as a dry goods and grocery store. Although the exact date is apparently unknown, records indicate the mill was already a properous business in 1795, and may have been built in the 1760s. In 1815, the mill building itself burned down, but the store was spared from the flames. The mill was subsequently rebuilt, and by the 1870s more than 40 local families drew a portion of their income from the mill. At the time, one-third of the 70 to 80 workers were under the age of 16 — and some were as young as eight.
The mill remained in business in this location until 1984, when its owner decided to move the company to a new location. There was talk of restoring the now-vacant buildings or converting the site to a shopping center, but both ideas failed to materialize. On July 21, 1994, the day the town board decided to purchase and restore the site, the mill fell victim to a second fire — but once again, the stone store survived the blaze. In 1995, the scorched remains were razed and the land was divided into two portions: McDonald’s purchased one and opened a restaurant on-site. The town bought the other portion and converted it into the Mill Site Museum Park. Now fully renovated, the old mill store sits adjacent to the park and serves as the office of the town historian — an appropriate use for a building that has witnessed more history than most of its neighbors.
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