For travelers on I-66 heading westward out of the DMV, there’s a magical moment when Bull Run Mountain, the easternmost range of the Blue Ridge, appears in front of you. Soon enough you’re whizzing through Thoroughfare Gap, the chain's gateway used by peoples across the span of time.
But if you have some time, there’s a place just off the highway worth visiting. We’re talking Chapman's Mill. Located about 40 miles west of Washington, the tall stone shell sits along Broad Run Creek and marks the border between Fauquier and Prince William counties. Perhaps you have seen it from the highway. It now stands only a mile or so from the suburban sprawl that has leapt over Highway 15.
The gristmill, believed to be the tallest stacked stone building in the United States, dates to the 1740s. A fire in 1998 destroyed its inner workings. To the rescue came the Turn the Mill Around Campaign.
Like Menokin, the preservation effort deviates from the normal approach. Due to extensive damage from the fire, the plan is to preserve the mill, but not reconstruct it. The site plan includes interpretive programs.
Jonathan and Nathaniel Chapman built the mill in 1742. This was seven years before Alexandria was founded, a city that would ship out the mill’s wheat and corn mill products to international ports. The mill helped grow the economy of the Shenandoah Valley, while the Manassas Gap Railroad helped the mill prosper.
Its water-powered wheels stopped turning in 1946. As the TTMAC website notes, the mill had ground cornmeal and flour for American troops during seven wars: The French and Indian, the Revolutionary, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.
Getting to the site is a bit tricky. We took the Highway 15 exit, turned right on Highway 55, proceeded about three miles, made a right (no sign), crossed over the highway, then a left (no sign).
The campaign needs funds and volunteers.