John Goff author, historian, architectural historian, restoration architect and preservation consultant who lives and works in Salem, Massachusetts Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
See him on youtube at 1630'3 Show
Tide Mill Institute's John Goff speaks about historic tide mills in Topsfield, Massachusetts.
From Article in Salem Gazette Tide Mill tours in and around Salem
I had a series of really interesting experiences this month. A writer named Ben Swenson from Virginia e-mailed me requesting a tour of historic tide mill sites in and around Salem. Some 20 years ago, a similar thing happened when David Plunkett, a historian and tide mill preservationist associated with the historic Eling Tide Mill in England, came to America to learn more about water-powered tide mills in Massachusetts. To share some of the fun from both these tours, let us now consider briefly "What Is A Tide Mill?" and some of the historic tide mills that once functioned in and near Salem long ago. See Iron Working in Early New England
What is a tide mill? The question "What is a Tide Mill" pops up frequently, because so little has yet been written or published concerning tide mills. The short answer is that a tide mill historically was any mill or arrangement of buildings and machines situated close to the ocean coast that derived some or all of its motive power from the action of Earth’s moon--and the ocean tides. Tide mills were once exceedingly common, but now are rare. To harness the tides, European, English and American tide mills typically contained a tidal mill pond that was often nothing more than a dammed-across cove or river mouth. Within the dam, a set of one-way opening wooden tide gates would be installed as a valve so that at flood or incoming tide, tide waters would automatically fill the tidal mill pond. Yet as the tide ebbed or dropped, the gates would shut, trapping the mill pond waters at their highest height and holding them for a period of time. At a lower tide, the waters were run off, and run out of the pond, used to turn waterwheels and machines. Tide mills functioned widely between about 1630 and 1930 in eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. In America, they were almost always timber framed heavy wooden buidings. They were used as grist-mills, saw-mills, and snuff-mills, etc.to perform a wide variety of tasks. For other tide mills definitions, see: Tide Mill Institute
Here in Salem, tide mills historically operated on the North River, South River and Forest River. Three old and rare tide mill features that can still be seen in Salem today are: 1) a French Buhr millstone set into the Washington Street sidewalk in front of the Daniel Low Building; 2) Mill and Pond streets that survive near Domino’s Pizza and "Mill Hill" overlooking Riley Plaza; and 3) the beautiful Leadworks site that has recently been remediated near the Marblehead town line on lower Lafayette Street and the Forest River. This site, formerly used to power the Gardner-Wyman gristmill and later Francis Peabody’s lead paint production facility, has an impressive curved stone retaining wall, once used as part of a mill tailrace.
Within a short driving distance, many additional historic tide mill sites can be seen and toured from the outside. These include: 1) the Slade Spice Tide Mill on the Revere Beach Parkway (Route 16) in Revere, MA; 2) the Friend Tide Mill site on the Bass River and near the Cummings Center on Route 62 in nearby Beverly (one of this site’s old granite millstones is now displayed on the Cummings Center property); 3) the site of the former Salem Iron Works in Danversport, MA; 4) a tide mill site in Manchester-by-the-Sea, and 5) a collection of tide mill sites and building(s) bordering Route 127 in the Annisquam section of Gloucester, MA. It is especially fortunate that many of the machines and features of the 1830s William Hodgkins Tide Mill opposite Goose Cove in the Annisquam area were well documented before the old mill was converted into a residence. Consequently, many photographs and architectural drawings showing the mill with many of its original parts can be accessed easily on the Internet, using the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) web site maintained by the Library of Congress. In the years ahead, let us hope that old New England tide mills attract even more interest. They provide excellent examples of early utilization of a free, renewable, and eco-friendly energy source that holds promise to provide more energy in the future.
Souther Tide Mill History Another Article by John on Tide Mills Salem ties to some Quincys and tide mills
John also wrote a book on the Salem Witch House
Book can be purchased at Amazon
Thomas Gardner Blog John Goff, Salem Preservationist
Preserving Salem's historic Greenlawn Cemetery
The Bowditch House Photo by John V. Goff Historic Preservation & Design
Then & Now: Down By The Mill