Description of Historic Place
The Secord Mill is located at 137 Four Mile Creek Road in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The one-and-a-half storey custom flour mill was built circa 1782.
The property was designated by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2004 for its heritage value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 3809-04).
With foundations dating to circa 1782, the Secord Mill is an extremely early and singular example of an industrial building in Niagara. The former grist mill, which was never updated to an automated merchant mill, is one of the first “King's Mills” built in Upper Canada and may be the only surviving 18th-century 'banal' mill in Ontario.
Originally run by Peter Secord and his brother James, the grist mill was built with state of the art English industrial technology. Powered by water from the Four Mile Creek, the mill was built in response to the demand for a flour mill in the region, which had previously been imported from Quebec. The mill was later run by Peter Secord's nephew David, husband of Laura Ingersoll Secord, and their son David Secord Junior. Both father and son would eventually participate as British officers in the War of 1812 and would survive the Battles of Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane. Several women owned the mill at various points, including David Secord Senior's sister-in-law, Hanna Secord; Eliza Woodruff, who controlled the mill until 1889; and Sarah G. Black, whose husband farmed the surrounding land into the 1890s.
A refreshment stand, added to the front of the mill and later known as the Old Mill Inn, had illustrious clientele including Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe, who often ate there while filming the movie Niagara in the 1950s. The former mill, an industrial icon valued by historians and residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake, is now a private residence.
The Secord Mill is part of a collection of historic properties lining Four Mile Creek Road, including the nearby Woodbourne property (1839), and Niagara-on-the-Lake's oldest house pre-dating the War of 1812, the Peter Secord Inn (1782), the former Secord family home located on the same side of the road. Despite having been largely disguised by the present exterior finish, the original scale and configuration of the house is still clearly visible. The architectural value of the Secord Mill is linked to its standing as a rare North American example of an early English farm-style or custom flour mill with two runs of stones. Originally built as a simple gable roof one-and-a-half storey clapboarded structure of timber frame construction, the house has now seen several modern additions.
The original structural details of the old mill are still evident on the interior, particularly on the basement level, where the Hurst frame supports the double run of stones at the east end, and the broad-axed white oak timber superstructure, with traditional timber connections of mortise, tenons, trunnels and diagonal braces, are visible. The main floor framing is in substantial pit-sawn joists closely spaced, with the old floor deck above.
Source: Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, By-law 3809-04.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Secord Mill include its:
- extremely early and rare example of a “King's Mill” in North America
- association with the Secord Family
- original scale and configuration of the house
- timber superstructure
- Hurst frame supporting the double run of stones at the east end
- main floor framing
- closely-spaced pit-sawn joists
- original floor deck above
- proximity to the Four Mile Creek
- proximity to other historic properties along Four Mile Creek Road