The Old Mill
Nantucket is home to the oldest still-functioning mill in the United States. Built by Nathan Wilbur in 1746, the old windmill is fifty feet tall with four arms that are thirty feet long. The mill resembles those of Holland, a place Wilbur had visited often as a sailor. Wilbur was also a carpenter and built the top of the mill so that it could rotate into the prevailing winds. He also built each of the arms with a string lattice so that they might be fitted with canvass sails. However, the winds of Nantucket are so strong that the mill can turn even if there are no canvass sails on its arms.
Backstory and Context
This mill was built in 1746 and sold for scrap and firewood in 1826. However, the new owner restored the old flour mill and upgraded it so that it could grind corn into meal. By the 1890s, the mill had become obsolete and faced destruction once again until Caroline French decided to purchase the historic structure. French donated the mill to the Nantucket Historical Association in 1897. Over a century later, the mill continues to function. The Nantucket Historical Society provided interpretive tours of the Old Mill and other historic sites through programs and walking tours.