This mill goes back–way back. Before the Revolutionary War back. Erected from solid stone, what was originally Chapman’s Mill went up in 1742, five full stories and open for business.
Operating as a grist mill in northern Virginia in an area that was known as Thoroughfare Gap, the mill is about 40 miles west of what would later become Washington DC. Built for local farmers who wanted to process and transfer their corn and wheat to the nearby port town of Alexandria, the mill saw steady business for over a hundred years. When the railroad came through the gap in the mid-19th century, business only got better as transportation got faster.
The Civil War saw a change of operations at the old mill, as the Confederate Army thought that it might make a good meat curing operation. Commodities of corn and wheat turned into pens of pigs and cattle, and tons of meat were cured on-site for the troops. But after only a short time in its new job, the Confederate Army was on the move as Union Troops pushed ever closer. As the Confederates moved on, they burned not only the meat behind them, but the mill as well in order to keep them from the advancing Union Army.
It wasn’t until another 10 years after the Civil War that the mill was rebuilt, this time under a new owner, the Beverley family–and the old place was back in business. Over the next quarter century it changed hands many times, and the 20th century saw mechanical improvements and the addition of a store. Business continued in fits and starts, until finally, by 1946, the wheels stopped turning and grinding for good. But during its 200 years in operation the old Chapman Beverly Mill fed troops over the course of seven wars–from the French and Indian War all the way through World War II.
The Mill suffered a major fire in 1998, but it’s been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is now structurally stabilized for visitors. Current fundraising efforts now seek to make the site accessible to the public regardless of physical disabilities by improving the road and installing walking paths and interpretive signs.
Know Before You Go
The mill is about 40 miles west of Washington, DC. Leave I-66 at exit 40 and go south on Rt 15. Turn west on Route 55, and after about two miles turn right on Rt 723 and then take an immediate left onto Beverley Mill Drive. The site is fenced, and the neighboring trail management rangers advise that the mill folks are very sensitive about trespassing. There are posted opening times of Saturdays and Sundays, but a recent Saturday visit proved it to be quite closed; best bet is to call them first and be sure about when they will be open.