Owings Upper Mill
Bonita Avenue & Reisterstown Rd (MD 140), Owings Mills, Baltimore County
Located in the north corner of the intersection of Reisterstown Road and Bonita Avenue is the Owings Upper Mill. It is a large brick structure, 50 x 60 feet, 3 ½ stories high with its attic and supra-attic lighted by dormer windows. There is no cellar, but some crawl space is found beneath the first story. Dimensions of the main block, 50 x 59 feet 8 inches, are practically the same given in the 1798 tax list (which were 50 x 60 feet). The building stands on a low stone foundation, surmounted by a moulded brick water table. As originally constructed, the mill was a brick rectangle with a brick central pavilion 18 feet wide projecting 9 feet from the north façade; the pavilion was designed to house loading doors at each floor. Sometime in the 1880s (subsequent to a photograph in the owner’s possession), two frame extensions were built flush with the gable end of the central pavilion, filling in the corners and rendering the floor plan completely rectangular. The architectural front or south façade faces Reisterstown Road and is four bays wide, of Flemish bond brick, with two irregularly spaced dormers with triangular pediments in the eastern half of the roof. The 12/12 double-hung sash windows are set in plain wood frames surmounted by flat arches of vertically laid brick. Two doors open into the basement or first story--one with a 5-light fixed transom and one with a 12-light fixed transom. The words "EUREKA FLOUR MILL" are worked into this façade in purple brick between the 2nd and 3rd story windows. The north façade or rear, although unseen from either Reisterstown Road or Bonita Avenue, is the business end of the mill, where grain was lifted to the upper story loading doors by a hoist. This façade, the functional front, is five bays across. The central pavilion is 2 ½ stories high and one bay wide, containing only doors. The north façade is set on higher ground than the other three elevations and has its own water table, which is set at a level higher than the first story windows because the ground slopes upward from south to north. A door with a 5-light fixed transom is set in the pavilion and opens into the second story, or office and grinding level. Loading doors are set directly above this entrance, opening into the third and attic stories. The hoisting mechanism is sheltered by an extension of the gable roof and eaves known as a "hood" in Pennsylvania milling terminology, but apparently nameless in Maryland. The mill is entirely unornamented, the work of an accomplished millwright rather than an architect. The style, if any, could possibly be called late Georgian or Federal. The mill is also a "rodded building," with ten tie-rods with S-shaped end plates above window level of the first and second stories of the south façade. Six plates (mixed S-shape and lozenge pattern) are found above window levels of the 2nd and 3rd stories on the gable end.
Owings Upper Mill is probably the oldest and largest mill surviving in Baltimore County and was the last known project of Samuel Owings, the Revolutionary patriot and enterprising merchant. It is a good example of a merchant mill built in the post-Revolutionary investment boom when numerous mass production mills were built to supply the overseas market served so successfully by Baltimore’s aggressive commission merchants and ship owners. The mill is well built, and even without its grinding equipment provides many examples of the millwright’s work in its massive posts, bolsters, and girts, peg fasteners, morticed joints, and slots and cut-outs for belts and axles. A number of pulleys are still in place, some hand-made of built-up segments of wood, and there are also hoists, bins, corn sheller, smut machine, balance scales, flour packer, and an endless-belt flour elevator system. The retailing of feed preserves much of the mill atmosphere. This may be the only brick mill in Maryland with a projecting central pavilion for the loading doors.