Millsboro’s last gristmill demolished

Betts Pond Road structure was in danger of crumbling

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 1/11/22

MILLSBORO — Photographs and memories.

Aside from a few keepsake pieces claimed by history buffs and curiosity hounds, that’s all that remains of Warren’s Mill, the greater Millsboro area’s last known standing gristmill, which was demolished in mid-December.

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Millsboro’s last gristmill demolished

Betts Pond Road structure was in danger of crumbling

Posted

MILLSBORO — Photographs and memories.

Aside from a few keepsake pieces claimed by history buffs and curiosity hounds, that’s all that remains of Warren’s Mill, the greater Millsboro area’s last known standing gristmill, which was demolished in mid-December.

“Well, Warren’s Mill is no longer standing,” Carrie Kruger, Millsboro’s town engineer, announced at Town Council’s Thursday meeting.

Over time, the century-old clapboard structure, nestled precariously just off the shoulder of Betts Pond Road, had deteriorated to the point that it was in danger of collapse.

“Not a happy thing,” said Tim Hodges, acting mayor. “But at least the risk is gone.”

Town Manager Sheldon Hudson agreed, saying, “So glad it is finished.”

The approximate cost for demolition — professionally undertaken by East Coast Structural Movers of Harbeson — was about $50,000, including some asbestos abatement, officials said.

“The contractor did a really good job,” Ms. Kruger said. “They were extremely careful with a lot of the historical components within the mill.”

Pieces of history salvaged during demolition were removed “with much care” and are being stored at the town’s water plant, she added.

“They are in good condition. Maybe someday, we’ll be able to display and use them somewhere.”

Mr. Hudson said there are no plans to use the salvaged items in any way, but “who knows down the road?”

Betts Pond Road was closed for several days during demolition of the mill, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The closure, however, didn’t stop witnesses’ interest in the structure’s closing chapter, with some onlookers taking home certain artifacts.

“There was quite a bit of interest from folks while it was coming down,” Ms. Kruger said. “People wanted to take a little piece of the mill with them. And some people did.”

But there was a requirement: Individuals wishing to obtain relics had “to acknowledge in writing, a kind of waiver if you will,” that the wood was old and could have been treated with heavy metals, Ms. Kruger said.

Built in the early 1900s, the mill was named for Wilford B. Warren, who owned and operated it until the World War II era. Since that time, the mill remained dormant and vacant.

There were efforts to save the mill, though.

In 2017, the town explored the possibility of preserving history and functionally restoring the mill through a hydroelectric-generation component. However, based on cost and minimum financial return, that was determined an unfeasible option.

Following demolition and removal of the mill, a guardrail was installed by the Delaware Department of Transportation.