Old Mill History

Unloading grain from horse-drawn wagons at t
Unloading grain from horse-drawn wagons at the Old Mill in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts

In 1737, after Colonel John Ashley established his family farm, his cousin Ezekial was granted the first “privilege” in western Massachusetts to build a gristmill on the Konkapot River. A dam was erected of native granite and the water diverted into a channel which directed the water to the mill’s wheel. At first the wheel was located on the side of the mill, but in 1860, upon the introduction of the more efficient iron turbines, still in the cellar today, the building was rebuilt to accommodate two such turbines inside the mill with their wheels and gears. This machine powered the French burr millstones, one of which is set into the atrium floor.

The mill was in constant operation until the 1960s. Many local people have fond memories of the delicious bread and cakes that were sold there. In 1969, a disastrous fire nearly destroyed the mill. The repairs and reconstruction that took place prevented further deterioration, but the mill remained empty for many years. Hundreds of people looked at the mill hoping to resurrect it as a restaurant or home, but environmental and health laws, and Ashley Falls becoming a Historic District complicated matters, so the building languished. Eventually, the main dam on the Konkapot was breached, the channel and the mill pond filled with sediment, and finally raccoons moved in rent free!

In 2003, Howard Chezar, a general contractor active in the area for thirty years, believed he could bring the mill back to life, and developed a plan in collaboration with architect, Larry Wente. Two years were spent solving the puzzle. Drawings were developed, permits were secured, and a plan hatched to create a fabulous residence while keeping the historic nature of the property intact. Finally, in the fall of 2006, work got under way. Interior designer, Patricia Fox, who had worked with both Chezar and Wente in the past, joined the team. Construction was completed in 2009.