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Example #2 National Register Nomination, Form Information for an Old Mill.

Peirce Mill photo taken in the 1940's, Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.


Form 10-300
(Dec. 1968)
United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service


Entry Number: 69-03-08-0002
Date: 03/24/69

1. NAME: (common) Peirce Mill (and or historical) Pierce Mill.

2. Location: (street and number) N.W. corner, Tilden Street and Beach Drive, N.W.
(Rock Creek Park), (city or town) Washington, (state) District of Columbia, (county) District of Columbia, (code) 001.

3. CLASSIFICATION: (category) Building, (ownership) public, (status) occupied, (accessible to the public) yes (restricted), (present use-check one or more as appropriate) government, museum, park.

4. OWNER OF PROPERTY: (owner's name) United States of America.

5. LOCATION OF LEGAL DESCRIPTION: (courthouse, registry of deeds, etc) Recorder of Deeds, (street and number) 6th and D Streets, N.W., (city and town) Washington, (state) District of Columbia. (approximate acreage of nominated property) part of Rock Creek Park.

6. REPRESENTATION IN EXISTING SURVEYS: (title of survey) Proposed District of Columbia additions to the National Register of Historic Properties recommended by Joint Committee of Landmarks, (date of survey) March 7, 1968 federal, (depository for survey record) National Capital Planning Commission, (street and number) 726 Jackson Place, N.W., (city and town) Washington, (state) District of Columbia.

7. DESCRIPTION: (condition excellent, (integrity) unaltered, (check one) original site.

Describe the present and original (if known) physical appearance:

Peirce Mill faces northwest at the N.W. corner of Tilden Street and Beach Drive, N.W., in Rock Creek Park. The mill is a rectangular, gabled-roof structure of simple design, with 2-1/2 stories of blue-grey and brown stone granite reportedly taken from a nearby quarry on Broad Branch Road. The building is in excellent condition; and with the exception of minor changes made during the 1934-36 restoration, it appears to be little altered from its original design. Unfortunately, the historical data upon which the PWA restoration was based have been misplaced, and we have no record of why these changes were made.

The mill is approached by a short path of stones, one of which is an old grinding stone (since removed). The simple, central board door, painted brown and two stone steps above grade, is flanked on either side by a 12/8 light double-hung window with wooden sash and sill painted white. The three windows of the second story are of the same design as are most of the other windows in the mill. Before the 1934-36 restoration, these windows were 2/2 light double-hung, with single shutters hung from the left. The rear of the mill is similar in design to the front but with the central door at the basement level and two full stories above. Prior to the PWA restoration, there were two gable-ended dormers evenly spaced along the roof, but these have been removed and the black shingle roof is obviously of later date.

The controversy over whether Peirce Mill was built in 1820 or 1829 has never been resolved. Francis Shoemaker and several other writers favor the 1820 date, although "BIP 1829" is inscribed in the south stone gable. The north gable is made of wood, however, and may predate the south gable and inscription. "BIP" may mean either "Betsy and Isaac Peirce" or "Built by Isaac Peirce."

Inside of the mill, with the exception of a small office (miller's office) for the National Park Service guard on the first floor, each of the floors consists of only one room. The original timbers and board floor remain, and the walls are of the same stone as the exterior. There is a modern concrete floor in the basement. The milling machinery in the mill today was installed in 1934-36 and is a reproduction of the 1897 equipment. There are excellent illustrations of the mill of how this equipment worked. On the ground floor to the left of the entrance door are three mill stones. One of these, bought by Francis Shoemaker in 1880, is an imported stone intended for grinding wheat and flour. A second stone, imported from France, is the newest stone in the mill. When the National Park Service restores the mill to operation or simulated operation--they will replace the present damaged water wheel dating from the 1934-36 restoration with a new overshot wooden wheel, and only one of the three stones will be activated. They will also rechannel the mill race to increase the water volume.

There are several other extant structures near the mill which were once part of the Peirce Plantation. The small spring house northwest of the mill on Tilden Street were milk and butter were kept cool was built by Isaac Peirce in 1801. In 1811 he built a distillery southwest of the spring house, which later served as a barn and is not a privately owned residence. There is another stone barn several yards away from the mill.

8. SIGNIFICANCE: (period) 19th century, (specific date(s) if applicable and know) 1820 or 1829, (areas of significance (check one or more appropriate) agriculture, commerce, others- architectural.

The Joint Committee on Landmarks has designated Peirce Mill a Category II Landmark of importance which contributes significantly to the cultural heritage and visual beauty of the District of Columbia. The last extant grist mill in the District, Peirce Mill is the principal relic of the Peirce Plantation and a unique symbol of the milling industry which once flourished along Rock Creek. It is now maintained by the National Park Service.

The property on which Peirce Mill stands was originally part of three English land patents--"Resurvey of the New Seat" patented to George Read in 1747, "The Gift" patented to James White in 1762. In 1794 William Deakins deeded "The Gift" and part of " Mill Seat" to Isaac Peirce (sometimes Pearce or Pierce). Born in Pennsylvania on April 9, 1756, Isaac Peirce was a resident of the Georgetown area by 1790. He married Betsy Cloud, the daughter of Abner Cloud, a pioneer miller of the region. They had nine children, many of whom became prominent citizens of Washington.

When Isaac acquired the Rock Creek property, there was already a two-story frame grist mill with an undershot (breast) wheel near the site of the present mill. By 1820 Isaac owned 1,200-2,00 acres of land long Rock Creek, extending from Chevy Chase to the present Zoo, interrupted only by the Blagden Mill property.

Isaac built the present mill either in 1820 or 1829. This mill was powered by an undershot (breast) wheel and two runner wheels until 1840 when these were replaced by an overshot (?) one. Isaac probably never ran the mill himself. He was a millwright and farmer by occupation, not a miller. The mill was only one of many Peirce interests on the large plantation, and was operated for the family by various millers, who occupied a small frame house across the road from the mill, some of the Peirce millers were "Donald, Tennyson, Gaskins, Fleckker, Donald again, Gaskins again, and the White Brothers."

Isaac died in 1841 leaving his estate, including the mill, to his fourth child, Abner Cloud Peirce, by occupation a stone mason, who continued to operate the plantation. Abner Peirce died in 1851, and his sister Abigail's son, Peirce Shoemaker, inherited the estate. In 1876 Peirce Shoemaker replaced the old Peirce family home with a new house. It was during his tenure in the 1860's and 70's that business at the mill flourished remarkably. The installation in 1876 of the metal (James) Leffel turbine wheel replacing the wooden water wheel probable marks the arrival of Aleibiades and Charles White, who were the last commercial millers at Peirce Mill. By 1880, however, steel rollers began to replace millstones, resulting in the mass production of cheap white flour and the eventual destruction of the American grist Mill. The quantity of business at Peirce Mill declines rapidly in the 1880's.

Peirce Shoemaker died in 1891. In 1892 when the Government condemned 450 acres of land for inclusion in Rock Creek Park, Parcel 75 upon which Peirce Mill stands (15.612 acres) was purchased by the Government for $16,306.00. The White Brothers continued to operate the mill until 1897 when the main shaft broke. It was not repaired and all milling ceased.


McCormick, Charles H. "Milling in Rock Creek Park, General Background," Division of History, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, November 1, 1967.

"Historic American Building Survey," (DC-22) 19 exterior photos showing restoration (1934, 1935, 1936), 3 photocopies (1899, c. 1900, 7 data pages (1936).

Clark, Allen C. "The Old Mills," Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Volume 31-32, Washington, D.C., published by Society, 1930, pages 81-115.

10. GEOGRAPHICAL DATA: (latitude and longitude coordinates defining the central point of the property of less than one acre) latitude 38 degrees, 56 minutes, 24 seconds. longitude 77 degrees, 03 minutes, 08 seconds.

11. FORM PREPARED BY: (name and title) Nancy C. Taylor, Landmarks Historian, (organization) National Capital Planning Commission, (street and number) 726 Jackson Place, N.W., (city or town) Washington, (state) District of Columbia, (date) February 27, 1969, (code) 08.

12. STATE LIAISON OFFICER CERTIFICATION: (state) signature of Deputy Mayor- Commissioner, (date) March 24, 1969.

NATIONAL REGISTER VERIFICATION: signature of Chief Office of Archaeology and Historical Preservation, (date) March 24, 1969.

Raymond Watt inspects the make-shift sluice box drain behind the breastshot water wheel.

The mill race over flow is just to the right out of the photo. Mr. Watt (called "Wattie" by his friends) was the 3rd miller who worked at Peirce Mill during the 1938 to 1958 period when the mill was grinding flour for the White House and the Government cafeterias. Raymond Watt began working at the mill in 1941 at the miller and then became head miller (before the war ended) until he retired in December of 1958. After that he came to the mill on weekends through into the mid-1960's (as long as his health would permit it) to ad stories and color to the mill that was no longer operatering. The above information found in the sections: "Number 8. Description" and "Number 9. Significance" was presented to the pubic from the time of the first restoration as Peirce Mill site folders.

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