Kings Mills dates back to the late 1600s during America’s colonial period. Initially, two stone mills were built on the property followed by the construction of the mill keeper’s house. Unfortunately, one of the stone mills was disassembled and sold for its stone and timber parts in the 1970s, but thankfully the other stone mill survived, which now houses the Paradise and Water’s Edge Ballrooms. In 1850, two years after the Great Flood of 1848, a third mill (The Wood Mill), currently home to our Camelot Court and Windsor Court ballrooms, was completed on the premises.
1689 ~ Early 1700s: Founding and the Grist Mills
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 the community; since no local churches had been built yet, the Stone Mill was used as a place of worship for the farmers, families, and mill workers.
Early 1700s ~ 1775: Iron Foundry for Cut Nail Production
Later, the Mills were converted to an iron foundry, which mainly produced cut nails for the local gentry. The nails were transported from town to town by wagons and eventually by train. Due to their mass production and popularity, some nails can still be found in the Chester Creek today.
Revolutionary War Period (1775-1783): Iron Foundry for Musket & Cannonball Production
During the time of the Revolutionary War, the iron works in the Mills 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 ammunition prior to the Battle of Brandywine and his Valley Forge encampment.
1800s ~ Civil War (1861-1865): Textile Mills
In the 1800s, following the completion of the final mill on the property, the Mills were converted to Textile Mills used for the production of cloth and clothing. In support of the Civil War effort, the Mills began the production of uniforms for the Union soldiers. Additionally, the Mills served as a temporary hospital for wounded Union soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg and other campaigns. In referencing the Civil War, it’s important to note that the Mills were used in the Underground Railroad and the harboring of runaway slaves from the South. Interestingly, while exploring the basement of the Mills, the Kings discovered one of the underground hideaways used to shelter and protect slaves.
Late 1800s ~ World War I (1914-1918): Mr. Riddle & the Waterfall
At the close of the 19th century, the property was purchased by the famous philanthropist, Samuel D. Riddle. Famous for owning the horse of the Century, Man O’ War, Mr. Riddle did many great things for the Mills property. In 1915, he reconstructed the waterfall. Previous owners had diverted water from the falls to pass through the buildings and turn massive waterwheels inside the Mills, but Mr. Riddle changed this process by converting to steam power, to better suit the waterfall’s efficiency and flow. The waterfall is now famously used as a backdrop for outdoor wedding ceremonies and serves as a picture perfect scene for photographs, as well.
1900s ~ Present Day
At the onset of the First World War, the 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. By the end of the war, The Mills continued the production of uniforms and even crossed over into the production of costumes.
This full service costume production was so successful that even some of the earliest costumes for Walt Disney’s Disney World were made at the Mills. Interestingly, when the King’s were restoring the Mills, they found one of the first Mickey Mouse costumes still in its shipping box. The costume was saved along with some other artifacts that they found during the restoration of the Mills.
Among the artifacts, are a pair of colonial eyeglasses which were found atop a beam in the basement of the Stone Mill. These glasses were most likely left there centuries ago by a forgetful artisan. In that same basement, the Kings have also found musket balls, cut nails, and even an original concentrate for Hires Root Beer, which claimed to make five gallons of root beer from one ounce of concentrated syrup. The most interesting discovery of all, however, was a room in one of the Mills that had been sealed up since the early 1900s, which contained numerous antiques that have been preserved over the years.
By the late 1960s, the Mills went through another conversion period and was transformed into one of the first home centers in the nation for several decades. Later in the 1980s, the Mills lay dormant until the King family acquired the property in 1990.
At this time, the Mills were in much need of repair and with the aid of Amish craftsmen and skilled stone masons, the property was 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 18thcentury and appreciate the architecture and craftsmanship of a time gone by.
*Although our rich history has been recounted to us by several esteemed historians, due to the lack and sometimes inaccuracy of historical information and events, many dates within the timeline are rough estimates*