established in 1720
The Mills at Green Hole are a fully operational small complex of historic water mills set amidst the beauty of the iconic Hudson Valley, 2 miles South of The Village of Philmont, New York. The mills are currently home to a water powered sawmill, cider mill, woodworking shop and blacksmith/machine shop.
Pre-dating the forming of Columbia County by nearly a century, the property was established as a mill site in the early 1700s. The mills started life as a grist mill for grinding grain and a sawmill for producing local lumber. Nestled at the base of a cliff, the mill’s power is fed by waterfalls coming from the Agawamuck Creek. The creek winds its way through the mill property, passes through the High Falls Conservation Area and eventually flows into the Hudson River via Claverack Creek.
Growing, Improving & Recovering
The original up & down saw and the grist mill were powered by a 10 foot diameter traditional water wheel that was located at the lower of the two waterfalls that sit below the current dam. At that time the 2 mills were in separate buildings but were close to each other.
Two turbines were installed around 1880 which produced much more power, but needed a higher head to operate. So, to create more pressure, a dam was built at the top of the upper waterfall. Built entirely of stone, the dam had a concrete abutment to guide the water into the penstock. Essentially a large intake pipe, the penstock was built of wood, resembled a long wooden barrel pipe, and carried water to the 2 turbines. The smaller turbine, with an output of 25HP, provided power for the grist mill and the larger turbine, with an output of 40HP, operated the sawmill. The buildings grew to accommodate the growing mills. The grist mill had grown to a 3 story building by the time the turbines were installed and the sawmill followed suit soon after with the addition of a 3rd floor. The new floor allowed for the addition of a circular head saw which was much more powerful than the original up and down model. At the same time, a lath mill table saw and a sawdust extractor were installed on the 2nd floor of the sawmill building.
A few years later, a new building was added, separate from the others, to operate the blacksmith shop which had been located elsewhere on the property up until this time. Some more modern metal-working machinery was added as well.
In 1904 a cider mill was added, with the apple conveyor, grinder and press. This building was built between the grist mill and sawmill and tied the 2 buildings together to become one.
The farm had its own orchard that supplied some of the apples that were made into cider for customers to purchase but more commonly it was local farmers who brought their own apples to the mill to be processed. This was unlike many of the large cider mills where a farmer would show up with an amount of apples that would be exchanged for an equivalent amount of cider that had already been processed. At Green Hole the apple owner got cider from his own apples, from trees that he had planted, nurtured and tended to over the seasons. That wasn’t the only unique selling point for using the mill however. Legend has it that during its’ heyday the mill owner always had a good stock of ‘hard’ cider on hand, to be sampled and consumed by the farmers as they waited for their apples to be processed. This same advantage applied to grain that was brought to be ground in the grist mill, and logs brought to the sawmill. Some customers would come to buy product, but most would bring their own grain or logs to be processed. They would take home flour or corn meal from crops that they had grown on their own farms, or logs from trees felled on their own property. This would have increased the quality of the product in the farmers’ minds as it gave farmers the reassurance that they would directly benefit from any additional effort, nurture or care they put into their own raw materials.
In 1938, a hurricane caused heavy flooding in the river and destroyed the stone dam and the grist mill but left the other buildings standing. This temporarily ended the mills being powered by water, and 2 gasoline engines were installed to provide power, but connected to the existing power distribution system including the old line shafts and flat belt / pulley systems.
In 1946, a large, heavy, industrial, 4-sided planer machine was added to the 3rd floor of the sawmill, under cover of a new addition. A shingle mill, its cut off saw, trimmer saw and bundler were also installed in the same annex.
The mills continued to operate, powered by the gasoline engines until Howard Barton, the last of his family’s line, passed away in 1988.
The current owner, Stephen Formel, purchased the property in 1990 as a passion project to satisfy his interest in traditional watermill engineering. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and this has certainly been true for the mill. Countless hours were spent talking with operators of other mills past & present around the Eastern U.S., who were generous in sharing their knowledge and experience of water powered mills gained over the years. With that knowledge and with the same pioneer spirit that built the mill, it took over 2 decades of dedicated restoration, renovation and re-building projects to bring The Mills at Green Hole into their current state of rustic beauty combined with natural splendor. He built a new concrete dam in the river, installed a new water turbine and attached it to the existing power distribution system. The mill buildings were strengthened and the mill owner’s house was rebuilt completely, keeping the original style and adding a wood fired brick oven in the kitchen.
Today the mills operate from April until mid-October. We turn out custom lumber from the sawmill for people who like to know where their lumber comes from and that it was produced the same way it has been for hundreds of years. Woodcraft gifts and products are also available and can be personalized.
Tours & Demonstrations
We run regular tours and demonstrations for individuals, schools & community groups who enjoy seeing the history of the mill first hand and learning about the engineering & construction involved in water powered mills.
Wedding & Event Venue
The Mills at Green Hole make for a unique wedding and event venue due to the incredible natural beauty of the waterfalls, stone cliffs and gorge as well as the historic rustic charm of the mills, house & buildings.
We look forward to welcoming you.