Savage Mill is marking its bicentennial on Sept. 17 with free historic tours, live music, demonstrations, a sidewalk sale and a live broadcast from radio station Mix 106.5.
“Stop by the welcome tables that day,” urged Aimee Troglio, the mill’s marketing and operations manager. “The first 100 guests will get a special gift.”
Specifically, the mill is celebrating the 200th birthday of the Carding Building. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the mill has since been renovated and is now home to many shops, restaurants, studios, services and historic sites. Over the years, it has become a major tourist and shopping destination in Howard County.
The day’s events also will include a plaque dedication and costumed tour guides. In addition, Rams Head Tavern will offer a free pint glass (one per customer) with every Fordham and Dominion draft purchase, while supplies last.
Hammered dulcimer player Donna Nomick will offer performances all afternoon, and Will Donaldson will perform on the fiddle and tin whistle. Shoppers and spectators also can see spinning demonstrations by the Moon Spinners, and both weaving and spinning demonstrations will be offered by the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore.
A Little Bit of History
Originally, the property on which the mill is located was part of a land grant — Ridgeley’s Forest — surveyed in 1685 by Colonel Henry Ridgley, who arrived in the colonies in 1659. The property was then occupied by members of the Warfield family.
In 1820, Amos Williams and his three brothers borrowed $20,000 from a friend — John Savage — to start a textile weaving business on the banks of the Little Patuxent River. The water from the river flowed over a 30-foot water wheel that powered the machines that wove the cloth. They named the business Savage Mill after their friend. It functioned as a working textile mill from 1822 to 1947.
The primary product woven in the 1800s was canvas, a lightweight yet strong material used in making sails for the clipper ships that sailed into and out of of Baltimore Harbor. Canvas also was used for tents, cannon covers and other supplies for Civil War armies; as painted backdrops for Hollywood’s first silent movies from 1890 to 1900; and for cots, truck covers and transport bags used by U.S. soldiers in Europe during both World Wars.
The oldest remaining mill structure is the stone carding and spinning building, which was built between 1816 and 1823, about the time the business first started functioning as working textile mill.
People who visit Savage Mill on the day of the special celebration will hear this kind of historical information and more — at no cost, said Troglio. “Al the tours and demonstrations that day are free,” she said. “We want to inform the community and the region of what Savage Mill is now, and what it used to be.”
Eclectic Shops, Creative People
After years working as an executive with high-end brands such as Christian Dior, makeup artist Brandi Chroniger wanted to work in a setting with fewer schematics. She’s one of many business owners who consider Savage Mill a perfect location.
“Considering a preferred eclectic approach, I was able to feel free to run my business with an artistic flair by finding an intimate, private and natural lighted space inside the mill,” she said. “To this day, I continue to have new faces drawn to my space and state they feel a very positive, relaxing vibe and enjoy being there.”
Businesses in the mill also work together to draw new customers. “I participate yearly in the Great Room Bridal Show and continue to receive new business,” said Chroniger.
“Eclectic” is a word often used to describe the mill and its occupants, said Troglio. “The mill is truly an eclectic mix of resident artists and stores.”
More Visitors Every Year
By 2010, tourism numbers for the mill had surpassed 1 million. In addition to shops, services and restaurants, the mill has developed its own new attractions and traditions that attract repeat visitors.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Terrapin Adventures, on the grounds of Savage Mill, offers zip lines, ropes courses, a giant swing, a climbing tower, kayaking, caving, biking, tubing and geocaching.
In December 2014, Historic Savage Mill festooned Bollman Truss Bridge with decorative lights for the first time. The bridge — an antique iron truss bridge and the sole surviving example of a revolutionary design in the history of American bridge engineering — is now lit each year with 12,500 energy-efficient LED lights, and visitors flock to the annual ceremonial lighting.
Troglio believes the 200th anniversary celebration could attract just as many visitors. “We have had a good response on social media,” she said. “I have a feeling this is going to be big.”