In a world that seems as if it's constantly changing, it's refreshing to find something every now and then that has scarcely changed in nearly 200 years. We're referring to the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, TN, a working gristmill that's been faithfully grinding grains on the banks of the Little Pigeon River since it was built on that site in 1835.
Back in those days, the mill was part of the hub of the city, which also featured an iron works business (and for which the town was partially named). Millers would take grains like corn and wheat and grind them into flours and meals using two massive grindstones, which were cranked by the power generated from the river turning the mill's giant exterior paddle wheel.
In the centuries since, the mill has gone through several sets of grindstones, but otherwise, not much has changed. The water still turns the wheel, which connects to the millstones via a collection of gears. And today's millers still turn out bags and bags of product daily, just as in the 19th century.
Some of that product is sold in the general store located on the lower level of the mill. Customers can purchase products like cornmeal, flour, grits, oats and specialty mixes to take home. Some of it is incorporated into recipes prepared at neighboring restaurants, The Old Mill Restaurant and The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille. Everything from cornbread to pancakes is made using products ground on site.
In addition to functioning as a mill, the Old Mill over the years has served as the local post office, and it even helped provide part of the city's electricity until as recently as 1935. Today, the mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed mills in the country.
Guests can take tours of the mill and also enjoy additional businesses in surrounding Old Mill Square. Besides the two restaurants, there's a general store, pottery studio, candy kitchen, creamery and jewelry/accessories boutique.
The Old Mill is easy to find. It's just a block east off The Parkway in Pigeon Forge, and once you get to the river, you can't miss it. There is limited parking immediately around the mill, so your best bet is to try to find a free space in the large parking lot at nearby Patriot Park.