The Baldwin Gristmill
This article by Susanne Knudsen, was first published in the “The Old Station Timetable” in January 1978.
When the Northwest Bergen Sewer Authority commissioned an archeological survey for their sewer lines, as required by law, they found that one of their interceptor lines would run in the vicinity of an historic site. The law also requires that in this case a more in-depth survey be done to prevent intrusion in the area.
I walked that site, known as the Baldwin Gristmill, with Ed Rutsch, the archeologist, on January 11th. It is located on the Ramapo River behind the UAW Hall. Claire Tholl, John Y. Dater and a reporter for The Record were also there.
Mr. Rutsch was able to point out for us the remnants of the dam, mill building, head race, equipment and a dam built further upstream at a later date to compensate for changing conditions in the river’s flow. He said It was probably the largest earth moving project In this part of the country; the dam measured 100 yards in length, 16 feet wide and 8 feet high, with a breastwheel for grinding grain in the Revolutionary period, (probably supplying Washington’s troops), sawing wood later and pressing cider in the late 1800’s when it was converted to a turbine mechanism. It burned down in 1919. To the untutored eye there is little to see, but Mr. Rutsch was able to make it come alive for us. Mr. Dater told us that the area had been rich in hemlock trees which provided bark for tanning. As the trees were cut down, the river silted, necessitating the upper dam. Mr. Rutsch is going to do the necessary survey work so that the area can be submitted for the National Historic Sites Register by our town Historic Sites Committee. He will also provide us with a drawing of how it looked. We need to think of some creative way to improve the area, now that it will be preserved, to make it an educational and pleasant place to visit. Any suggestions are welcome.