As part of his series On the Waterfront, GM has been exploring the buildings that once made up Georgetown’s industrial heart. Today he turns to Georgetown’s last operating mill: Bomford’d Mill at the corner of Grace St. and Potomac.
Name: Bomford’s Mill
Built By: George Bomford
Current Use: Office Space
George Bomford was born in New York City in 1782. By 1804, Bomford enlisted in the Army where he had a successful career and was regarded as an expert in munitions. In fact, he invented the influential Columbiad, a seacoast defense cannon. The name Columbiad derived from a poem by Joel Barlow. In fact, Bomford married Barlow’s sister-in-law and purchased the Kalorama estate from his widow’s estate.
Bomford constructed the first mill on this site probably in 1832. It was a flour mill. However, it burned down in September 1844. The following year, rather than rebuild a flour mill, Bomford built a cotton factory. There are slightly conflicting accounts for the switch, but the most likely explanation is that there was less competition in the cotton market than in the grist mill market.
According to the records of the Columbia Historical Society, Bomford constructed a four story building with an immense water wheel. The interior contained 3,000 spindles and 100 looms. Over 100 men and women worked in the cotton factory.
The factory was sold to Thomas Wilson in 1850, who continued to run the cotton factory until the Civil War, when the supply of cotton dried up. In 1866 the building was sold to A.H. Herr who converted it back to the property’s original use as a flour mill.
During the late 19th century the mill was known as Pioneer Flour Mill and was owned by Herr and various other partners. From 1892 to 1916, the mill was owned by George Cissel & Co. In 1916 the mill was purchased by the Wilkins-Rogers Milling Company.
These photos were taken in 1967 in connection with the Historic American Building Survey. At the time, Wilkins-Rogers still maintained it as an active flour mill. According to the survey, this was the last functioning mill in Georgetown. However, in 1969 the company moved to its present location in Ellicott City, MD. It still makes flour; you can find it in stores labeled as Washington flour.
GM believes that by the early 20th century, the original building functioned primarily as a warehouse. The actual milling appears to have been conducted in the lower part of the milling complex:
Of course, this part of the flour mill was eventually converted into the “Flour Mill” office building after being sliced in half by the Whitehurst Freeway:
After Wilkins-Rogers left Georgetown, the original Bomford’s Mill building was converted to office use. Unlike many of the other old industrial buildings in Georgetown, the exterior remains in the exact same condition:
All information and photos (except the Google Maps) are from the Historic American Building Survey at the Library of Congress