SPRAIN BROOK SAWMILL
Built in 1756 and expanded in 1775, Gideon Hollister’s landmark sawmill employed an undershot “flutter-wheel” powering a rare “up-and-down” saw. Milling continuously until 1926, it was then neglected until 1955 when it washed down the brook in a spring freshet. In 1956, the remaining parts were reassembled. The flume was removed and many mill parts were left for lost. The building was little used thereafter.
Purchase of the property was contingent upon conversion of the mill to an accessory house. Recognizing the historical significance, the civic-minded owner embraced the idea of reconstructing the millworks, presenting the challenge of melding the residential program with a working sawmill.
When listed on the Connecticut Register, the building and dam were near collapse. Structure and surviving millworks were fully documented and dismantled. Existing fragments, research and streambed archaeology yielded patterns for reconstruction. The pond, dam, relief-canal, flume, timber frame and millworks were restored to original configuration.
The project is periodically opened to the community to view the mill in operation:
A log is set and the carriage dogs are hammered in,
The flume gate is lifted to flood the wood sluice box,
The box gate is lifted to spin the flutter wheel, powering the saw at 200 cycles per minute,
The tub gate is lifted to rotate the tub wheel, turning the wrag wheel to advance the log carriage,
As the log passes through the saw, the roar and vibration are astonishing.
Robert Silman Associates, PC – structural
Rondout Woodworking – restoration millwright
Charlie Boucher – construction
AIA Connecticut Design Award
Wood Design & Building – “Sprain Brook Sawmill”
The Litchfield County Times – “In Washington – Historic Sawmill”
New York Times – “An 18th Century Flutter Mill Reborn”
William Seitz Photography