Tucked within picturesque Hunterdon County, the historic Prallsville Mills still stands.
“We absolutely are sitting on a treasure,” said Delaware River Mill Society Executive Director Beth Japchen.
“It was perfectly situated between the Delaware River,” said Delaware River Mill Society Deputy Director Phil Gutis. “There’s a great creek that when it rains it runs like crazy and some entrepreneur back then said, ‘this is a perfect site for a grist mill.'”
Originally constructed in the early 1700s, the mill is the third grist mill on the now state-owned property.
“When John Prall bought the property, he turned it from a grist mill just alone, into what they describe as an early industrial village,” said Gutis.
That included a sawmill, stone quarry, fisheries in the Delaware River and more.
“Stockton, Lambertville — which is the neighboring town — they were industrial centers. They were not the tourist villages that they are now,” Gutis said. “Water drove so much of this, so if you had the opportunity to be near water you had industry.”
By the mid-1950s, the mills were no longer operating and began to deteriorate, says Gutis. A local couple, Donald and Beverley Jones, purchased the site and began to restore it. Then, they sold it to the state in the 1970s.
“State of New Jersey took it over,” Japchen said, “and then were not able to complete the restoration of the complex, so local residents came together and formed the Delaware River Mill Society. And that is how, to this day, I guess for the last 42 years, the Mill Society has been preserving, restoring and interpreting the mill to the area and the community.”
The property is part of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. About 15,000 people visit the site each year. There are 10 buildings on the property and the Delaware River Mill Society’s mission is to restore them all.
“Now to know that I’m a part, and we’re a part, of saving this, if you care about history, it makes you feel warm inside,” Gutis said.