Lou's Place in Cyberspace
CASTLE VALLEY MILL
Castle Valley Mill is located on Neshaminy Creek in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The Mill may have begun operations as early as 1749, as an "oil mill", grinding Bitternut tree nuts for the oils used to fuel lamps. The building is a variation on the typical mill structure by having a large red brick chimney rising from the long sloping northern roof.
Castle Valley Mill is presently owned by an avid Mill enthusiast, Mark Fischer. Mark’s grandfather Henry Fischer purchased the Mill and property in 1948. Henry Fischer had been a miller in Bavaria before immigrating to the United States in 1923. He had hopes of once again returning to the profession of his family which ran a mill in Bavaria that was several hundred years old.
Mark has made improvements to the mill, and has kept it in repair with plans of eventually restoring it to operating condition.
The building shows signs of having been modified over the years, having gone through several distinct transitions and technological changes.
Mark’s grandfather Henry collected mill equipment with the intent of using it in his mill, acquiring it from local mills in the area that were being dismantled or falling to ruins. He stored these items in his mill.
The mill became a repository of various milling equipment such as bolters, roller mills, gears, pulleys, and shafts of various kinds scattered about the Mill.
The mill as viewed on approach. The small extension, with chimney on the right, was added before 1887, and once housed a boiler for a stationary steam engine.
Most of the existing elevator leggings or wooden ducts, which directed the grain to its various processing machinery, had been cut away for reasons unknown. The removed leggings were retained, and stacked around the mill, unidentified as to their original locations.
When Mark’s grandfather purchased the mill, it was in deteriorated condition and the first floor had partly collapsed into the basement. Parts of the first floor had been restored at that time to make the building usable. Timbers from local demolished barns were used for the repairs.
All the power machinery, the original "Hurst Frame", the heart of the mill, and all the gearing is missing. Since the first floor had been rebuilt, lost were the telltale clues as to shaft holes etc. that would aid in determining where the millstones and other machinery were located.
Equipment on the second and third floors is intact and though the equipment had been re-arranged over the years, most of the machinery is in good condition and can be restored.
My interest in Mills and mill technology led me to construct a scale model of the Castle Valley Mill and some of its existing equipment
Using AutoCAD, a computer aided design program, I constructed a three-dimensional model of Castle Valley Mill for use on my Web site.
From this model I created all the illustrations used throughout this report.
I began this project by taking measurements of the exterior of the building, locating all windows, doors, and stonework.
My data point was the southeast front corner of the building.
From this data I made architectural drawings of the exterior and interior framework.
The front of the building is about thirty feet higher in elevation than the water level at the rear.
After completing the exterior, I then took measurements of all structural elements and machinery on each floor. This included all supporting timbers, crossbeams, floor joists, chutes, floor holes, wall framing, grain elevators etc., including the latch that held the front door open.
The craftsmanship throughout the building was done with obvious pride. In places where no one was ever expected to look, there is pride in the handiwork. In places where the carpenter could have easily made his cut and be done, he took the time to chamfer each side of the cut a quarter inch at a 45 deg. angle! It was done consistently throughout the woodworking. Today this effort would be unheard of.
After modeling all the individual parts of the mill and equipment, I constructed the mill model from the basement to the roof.
By seeing the model three dimensionally and being able to manipulate and rotate it in any angle, patterns began to emerge, and alignments that would have been difficult to determine by just examining in the mill’s interior became apparent.
I was able discern shaft alignments, hole alignments, and to determine also some of the missing parts and machinery. By looking at the way the wood faded from exposure to daylight, I was able to determine how chutes were aligned before they were removed.
Since most of the equipment was rearranged we will never know exactly where some equipment was located. I have shown only the equipment that I was able to locate with some certainty.
Photographs taken within the mill were useful for making the model, but as there is so much clutter and years of accumulated dust, the photos would be confusing to use for explanation, though I have included many.
The CAD model illustrations present the mill as if it was new and clean, as if it were in the process of being built. Using the 3D model I am able make invisible ceilings, sub structures, and roof so as to present a well-lit daylight model with less confusion than a photo would present.
In the end, all structural elements are restored and the mill exists as a complete virtual model with a high degree of accuracy.
I used varied color to make objects more discernable, the wood type used is for color only not accuracy as to wood type.
Gearing ratios are for illustration and not calculated as to exact ratio etc., as the original gearing is not in place.
Floor views are shown without the above flooring so as to see the floor joist arrangement and allows a view of the structural elements in clear "day lighting". Items described as "right" or "left" refer to them as being viewed when entering the mill by the front door.
Though the mill has sagged, settled, and shrunk over the years, my overall model is less than three inches off square overall. The following report is the result of my investigation.
Lou Robertella, April 2008.
© Lou Robertella 2008 All rights reserved.