Kings Mills

The Kings Mills date back to the late 1600’s when America was in its revolutionary period. Two mills were initially built on the property in the late 1600’s, then the millkeepers’ house was constructed, and finally a third mill was completed in 1850, two years after the great flood of 1848. Two of the mills and the millkeepers’ house have been completely renovated to date. The Stone Mill, which now houses the Paradise Ballroom and the Water’s Edge Ballroom was originally constructed in 1689. Its sister mill was unfortunately disassembled and sold for the stone and timbers in the 1970’s.  The Wood Mill currently houses the Camelot Court Ballroom and the Windsor Court Ballroom. Throughout the more than 250 years that the Mills have stood on the property, they have enjoyed a rich history, which has been recounted to us at Kings Mills by several historians. The Mills first served as grist mills, using the power of the waterfall to grind the grain of the local farmers. At this early time, the Mills served a dual purpose in this new community, in that while the local church was being completed, the Stone Mill served as a place of worship for the local farmers, families and workers. The Mills were later converted to an iron foundry for the production of cut nails for the local gentry. In addition to supplying local carpenters, the owners of the Mills began using the creek by the Mills to float large flat boats of cut nails down to the Delaware River, from which they could easily reach distant destinations. These uncovered flat boats are the reason that cut nails can still be found in the Chester Creek today. During the Revolutionary War, the iron works in the Mills then shifted focus and began mass production of both musket balls and cannon balls to support the Revolutionary War effort. As history notes, George Washington and his troops came to these very mills to pick up their musket balls and cannon balls prior to the battle of Brandywine and prior to his Valley Forge encampment. In the 1800’s, following the completion of the final mill on the property, the Mills were converted to Textile Mills, producing bolts of cloth and clothing. In support of the Civil War effort, the Mills began the production of uniforms for the Union soldiers. Later on, the Mills once again served an important role in the Civil War, serving as a temporary hospital for wounded Union soldiers from the battle of Gettysburg and other campaigns. In referencing the Civil War, it is important to note that the Mills here were used in the Under Ground Rail Road, harboring runaway slaves from the South. Interestingly, while exploring the basement of the Mills, we discovered one of the underground hideaways used to shelter runaway slaves. At the close of the 19th Century, the property was purchased by the famous philanthropist Samuel D. Riddle. Samuel D. Riddle, famous for owning the horse of the Century, Man O’ War, did many great things for the property. To increase the efficiency of the waterfall on the property, Mr. Riddle reconstructed the waterfall in 1915. Previous owners had diverted water from the falls to pass through the buildings and turn massive waterwheels inside the mills. At the onset of the First World War, the Mills here at Kings Mills were once again able to make a contribution to the American war effort, as the entire complex was refitted to produce uniforms for the United States Army. Following World War I, the Mills continued the production of uniforms and crossed over into the production of costumes. The Mills were a successful full service costume production facility, even producing some of the early costumes for Walt Disney’s Disney World. Interestingly, when we were restoring the Mill, we actually found one of the first Mickey Mouse costumes still in its shipping box. We have saved this costume with some of the other artifacts that we found during the restoration of the mills. Some of the other artifacts that we have found include a pair of colonial eyeglasses that was found atop a beam in the basement of the mill constructed in the 1700’s. These glasses were most likely left there centuries ago by a forgetful artisan. Also, in that same basement we found several musket balls, cut nails, and even an original concentrate for Hires Root Beer, which claimed to make five gallons from one ounce. The most interesting discovery of all, however, was a room in one of the Mills that had been sealed up since the early 1900’s and contained many interesting antiques that had been preserved over the years. The Mills here at Kings Mills were later converted into one of the first home centers in the nation in the late 1960’s and continued in that line of service for several decades. Later in the 1980’s, the Mills lay dormant until the early 1990’s when the King family acquired the property. At this time, the Mills were in much need of repair and with the aid of Amish craftsmen and skilled stone masons the property has been fully restored to its original grandeur. It is the sincere wish of the King family that these historic mills be preserved so that when you visit here as a guest, you can step back into the 18th Century and appreciate the architecture and craftsmanship of a time gone by.