Saturday, May 31, 2014

Visiting the historical and resilient Chapman's Mill (Beverley Mill)

Chapman's Mill, located in Northern Virginia, is a structure that dates back to the 18th century. Once a mill that was operational for over 200 years, today only the remnants of this former bustling business remain. 

While much of the property lays in ruins today, visitors can come see the remainder of the building and surrounding property and learn about the history associated with the mill. The mill is believed to be the tallest stone structure in the United States; a remarkable sight.

Chapman's Mill exterior

Origins of Chapman's Mill

This historic and resilient structure was built in 1742 by the father and son team of Jonathan and Nathaniel Chapman. In the 1850s, the family expanded Chapman's Mill after the Manassas Gap Railroad was completed. The business prospered and by 1858, the mill grew to seven stories, "making it a model of agricultural technology", according to  

Civil War arrives

Chapman's Mill was taken over by the Confederate Army in the time frame leading up to the First Battle of Manassas. The army used it as a meat curing warehouse and distribution center. After the battle was over, the Confederate Army burned the mill, not wanting to leave behind anything the Union Army could use. Later on, the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap would take place in the vicinity of the Mill, which is not too far from the Manassas Battlefield.

According to accounts, owner John Chapman sued the U.S. government for damages done to his property during the Civil War but lost the case and his business was unable to sustain. A plaque on site states:
"Ruined economically, physically and emotionally by the mill's wartime destruction, Chapman suffered a mental breakdown in 1862."  
The marker said Chapman's family ended up committing him to an asylum and he died four years later.

The mill is revived and burned down again

By 1876, a family named Beverley had restored the mill and the business took on that family's name. Operations continued for many more decades into the mid-20th century.

The mill ceased doing business in 1951.

Earlier image of Chapman/Beverley Mill listed as 1937 (Credit: National Park Service)

Throughout the span of its 250-year history the mill saw seven wars: The French and Indian, the Revolutionary, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I and World War II, according to Chapman's The business had ground cornmeal and flour during all of them.

Since the business shuttered its doors for the last time, it had been preserved, but in 1998 a tragic fire once again destroyed the mill; the fire was said to be arson. The interior was destroyed, and today the structure stands, for the most part, hollow.
Fire at Chapman's Mill occurred in 1998
This historic mill fell victim to fire in 1998, here a charred beam rests on a wheel.

Visiting the Chapman/Beverley Mill

The mill is located off I-66 in Northern Virginia and is currently zoned as being on the border between Fauquier and Prince William Counties, not unlike it was in the 18th century. Today, efforts continue to maintain the once former prosperous mill as a "ruin site" that highlights the architecture and history behind this landmark. This website further explains the restoration/stabilization efforts in detail that have been taking place since the devastating 1998 fire.

Visitors can see the restoration/stabilization in progress as parts of the property are blocked off, however, during my visit we were able to enter the interior of the mill. The former Beverley Store that is adjacent to the mill is also open, along with other remnants left from buildings of a time gone by.
The Beverley Store
The Beverley Store

A sign on the property indicates the area is only open on weekends. There is a gate opened during this time, allowing visitors to drive right in and park next to the store and mill.

Drivers traveling on I-66, vehicles passing by can easily see the remains of the mill, however, despite its closeness in proximity to the interstate, there is no direct exit off to access the mill, visitors will have to take a number of other back roads to reach it. GPS may or may not easily locate it through search (I had some trouble), so if you want to see the mill close up, you can find its location at 17504 Beverley Mill Rd., Broad Run, Va.

This mill and store once prospered, but today remain as historic landmarks.
This mill and store once prospered, but today remain as historic landmarks.

Chapman's Mill (Beverley Mill) exterior
Chapman's Mill - a restoration in progress

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