Exhibit Features Historic Watermill Images

March 7th, 2022

An exhibit of historic photographs and postcards recounts the history of watermills in the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed region, dotting the rivers in Somerset, Mercer, and Monmouth counties.

Twenty images of historic watermills and maps will be on display in the West Wing of the Garden Club of Princeton Gallery inside the Watershed Center through late spring.

Dating back to the 17th century, the wool, flax, wood, grist, and other historic watermills harnessed the power of the Millstone and Stony Brook rivers to create goods for people living in Kingston, Princeton, Pennington, Griggstown, and other local communities.

The exhibit illustrates the structures that once housed the gristmills that ground crops to sustain the food supply, sawmills for cutting lumber, and other mills for creating wools and other textiles.

New Jersey watermills were an integral feature in the colonial days and served as economic and industrial hubs for emerging villages and towns. The first watermill appeared along the Stony Brook in the initial decade of the 18th Century. By 1750, there were 18 gristmills and sawmills in the watershed. Before being eclipsed by coal-fired steam plants and large-scale grain and lumber processing, about 60 watermills drew power from the watershed’s rivers and left their imprint on the landscape.

The exhibit is a joint venture between the Hopewell Valley Historical Society, Hunter Research Inc., the William Walsh Historic Postcard collection, and The Watershed Institute.

The Watershed Center is free and open weekdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

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