One of the things that I like about getting off of the
interstate is that I stumble across pleasant surprises when I drive along state
highways. For example, when I visiting the town Oneonta NY in September, I took
a drive along NY Route 23 east from town I noticed a sign for the “Hanford
Mills Historic Site.” Having a couple of hours to pass and a very willing
passenger, I turned off of NY-23 and into the past.
Two-and-a-half miles along the Meridale-Davenport Center
Road (County Road 10) is the Hanford Mills Museum
. This lumber and grist mill is over 150 years old. It has been
fully restored, and today it functions as both museum and working lumber mill
providing specially made lumber and finished pieces. It is a working museum,
using the water power that put in place over 100 years ago.
The original sawmill was built in 1846, and in 1860 it was
bought by Daniel J. Hanford. At that time it was a water powered mill, using
the nearby Kortright Creek for power. The mill draws water into a millpond that
sits about 4-5 feet above the height of bottom of the creek as it flows
downhill. This height difference is used to power a water wheel that sits in the
basement of the mill house. The turning of this wheel powers the all of the
equipment through a series of belts and wheels.
|1926 Fitz overshot water wheel|
|Drive Wheel and belt|
|Wheels to transfer power from the Drive Wheel to equipment|
|Wheels of different sizes provide different speeds for equipment|
The mill became truly profitable when the Ulster and Delaware
passed through the property. The railroad went from Kingston NY on
the Hudson River to Oneonta, passing through the heart of the Catskill
Mountains. The rail line served a support to both the growing tourist industry
and as a way to ship food and goods to the rest of the country via shipping on
the Hudson River. The U&DRR passed right through the Hanford Mill’s
property. This gave the Hanford family an easy way to grow their business.
|A box car still sits on the U&D right of way|
In 1895 the Hanford family added a large furnace and steam
engine. This allowed the mill to operate year round. Regardless of the whether
the pond of frozen in the winter or low during a dry summer, the furnace
powered the mill. In the early 1900’s the mill began producing milk crates, and
added grind stones in order to begin preparing animal feed from oats, wheat and
corn. Later in the 20th century a gasoline motor was added to the
mill. The Mill also became the town’s first provider of electricity.
|Rebuilt steam generator|
The Hanford Mills operated until 1967. It closed, but reopened
that year as a museum. Today it is chartered by NY State and is open from May
15 through Oct 15th
. It offers guided tours of the facility along
with special event days. One of those is the museum’s Ice
which is held on the first Saturday in February – 2/4/17 next
year. Blocks of ice will harvested from the millpond and stored until July 4th
when they will be used to make ice cream during the Independence Day Festival.
|Turning square piece of wood into a round bucket top|
|routing a handle hole for a milk box|
|Taking the bark off of a piece of lumber|
|Making wooden shingles|
Drive up to Catskills. Enjoy some beautiful scenery and
visit some historic sights. Get off of that interstate and watch for those
signs that show where to stop.
Getting There –
From Oneonta, NY – take NY-23 east from town for 8.5 miles. Turn right onto
Meridale-Davenport Center Road (county road 10). Travel 2.5 miles, then turn
left onto Doonans Corners-E. Meridith Road (county road 12). The museum will be
on the left.
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