Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

Exploring the Hanford Mills Museum

09.22.15

Tim Raimy


If you’re interested in history, museum studies, alternative power, and engineering, or if you just have a general interest for the area in which you are currently going to college, then the Hanford Mills Museum in the nearby town of East Meredith is the place for you.


Unlike most regular museums, which feature exhibits in a single building, Hanford Mills Museum is itself a functional hydro-power mill, consisting of a series of buildings where you can observe first-hand how things were made with the precision of steam and hydro-power in the 19th century.


In addition to demonstrations of the Mill’s water-wheel, steam-powered engine, and woodworking machines, the Museum also houses interesting museum-style exhibits in a separate building, such as the “Rural Genius” exhibit, which features inventions registered with the United States Patent Office whose inventors came from the Catskill area.


The exhibit features many life-changing inventions, such as the fire escape, invented in the town of Meredith Square; Larry MacClintock’s “Apparatus for cutting and conditioning hay or like crops,” an attachment to a standard cutting and baling machine that dried the crops as they were cut so that they could be baled more quickly; or William Mickel’s “Barrel Head” cutter, a machine whose design enabled it to cut lids for barrels more quickly and in higher quantities than other contemporary machines.


The exhibit also pays tribute to some inventions that never took off, such as George Paradox Hill’s “Union Engine and Paradoxical Power,” a failed attempt at a perpetual motion machine. In the same building where the “Rural Genius” exhibit is housed, there is a brief history of the Hanford Mills Museum itself, including a description of Ken Kelso’s vision to turn the museum into “Delaware County’s Disney World” in the 1960s.


I visited the museum for the first time earlier this month, when they were hosting the “Dan Rion Memorable Antique Engine Jamboree and Powerfest.” People from all over the area brought in antique tractors, cars, tractor-style “Rat-rods,” and other machines to display. There was also live music performed by the Stoddard Hollow String Band, and the food was catered by “Tickled Pink BBQ” from the nearby town of Cooperstown.


I was blown away by my first time visiting the museum, and it certainly won’t be my last. They have one more event for this year, the “Woodsmen’s Festival,” which will be held on October 3, as part of the “Woodworking Week” held from September 30 to October 4. The museum is scheduled to close this year on October 15 at the end of “Fall at the Mill Week,” when you can learn all about the operation of the mill after it closes for the season.


One event that I’m looking forward to in particular, along with many of the staff I spoke with at the Engine Jamboree, is the “Ice Harvest Festival” scheduled for February 6, 2016. During the Festival, which is held once every year, the Hanford Mills Museum staff will give demonstrations of how 19th-century mill owners harvested the ice from their mill ponds. From what I could collect, it’s one of the most popular events held at the Museum, and one of the staff members’ favorites.


The staff members I spoke with also recommended visiting the Mill during a time when there wasn’t a festival, in order to really enjoy sitting by the pond or stream and listening to the peaceful sounds of the mill around you. If you’re interested in visiting the Mill, it is located at 51 County Highway 12 in East Meredith, and it is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.