We tend to think of Washington as a government town. Who would have guessed that forty years into the city’s establishment milling had become the main industry? Nestled within Rock Creek Park – about a mile north of the National Zoo – is Peirce Mill, (not Pierce Mills!) the last remaining grist mill named for a Philadelphia merchant who moved here in the 1780’s.
History of Peirce Mill in Washington, D.C.
Peirce Mill was one of eight such operations contained within the District limits powered by the waters of Rock Creek. It opened in 1829 and closed up shop in 1897 when the main turbine’s shaft broke and proved too costly to repair.
The almost two dozen mills throughout the region were also in decline by the turn of the century.
Twenty years later Rock Creek Park was part of the U.S. National Park System. Isaac Peirce’s mill and adjacent tract were restored to their historic layout in 1936, and opened to the public.
The complex is now run as a coordinated effort between the National Park Service and the Friends of Peirce Mill. Learn the ancient art of milling, plus walk the extensive landscape partially restored to when the family had their own orchard and gardens.
The gardens are stunning, and blooming through at least three seasons right in front of the mill. Even if you can’t tour the property, take a breath of that fresh air that only flowers can provide.
Hopefully, in the near future, you will be able to take in an exhibition at the old stone barn that was opened almost fifty years ago as the Art Barn.
One thing to note: the 1811 distillery building across the street became a private residence in 1924 and remains so today. You won’t be able to tour or view it at all.
However, you can pop up the road to Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens to see how the other 1% lived in the middle of the 20th century. It’s not too shabby.
Address: 2401 Tilden St NW, Washington, DC
Closest Metro: Access from the Red Line Cleveland Park or Van Ness-UDC exits, then a 15-20 minute walk
Parking? Tilden St. NW and Beach Drive
Hours: You are welcome to walk by the mill at any time, but open tour hours do vary. Please always check the website before visiting, as closures can happen throughout the year.
- Closed: Monday-Thursday
- March: weekends only, 10am-4pm
- April -October: Friday-Sunday, 10am-4pm
- November-February: weekends only, 12pm-4pm
Mill Demonstrations: 11:00 to 2:00 on the second and fourth Saturday of every month from April through October.
Picnic area: Picnic Pavillions are close to the parking lot and throughout Rock Creek Park
Why visit Peirce Mill? It’s one of Washington, DC’s national park sites and on the National Register of Historic Places
Exhibits: There are Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits
Family activities? Yes. Check website for upcoming events