Phoenix Mill

Phoenix Mill (HM2GV7)

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N 38° 48.442', W 77° 5.653'

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Alexandria Heritage Trail

—City of Alexandria Est. 1749 —

Phoenix Mill is the last surviving remnant of Alexandria's once thriving milling industry. William Hartshorne built the four-story mill in 1801. The mill was built at a time when Northern Virginia's economy shifted from tobacco to grain production, and flour and wheat were the principal export products of Alexandria's ports. The Phoenix Mill produced flour and feed, as well as ground lime for plaster. Water diverted from Holmes Run powered the mill's overshot waster wheel. The 19-foot diameter wheel turned the mill's four pairs of millstones.

When David Watkins purchased the mill in 1854, he renamed it Dominion Mill. Watkins replaced the original water wheel with a 40½-foot wooden wheel (pictured above). He later added a second 40½-foot wheel made of metal that more than doubled the mill's power. The mill produced flour, rye, and mixed feed, as well as ground coffee. Watkins' mill appears as Dominion Grist Mill on the 1878 Hopkins atlas (see detailed map) and as Old Dominion Mills in an 1888 advertisement (see detail). The mill continued to operate as Dominion Mill for another 33 years after Watkins' heirs sold the mill in 1888. In 1921, the Dominion Mill ceased operation as a grist mill. Later owners of the mill used the building as commercial office space, helping to preserve this piece of Alexandria's past.


Power. Overshot water wheels such as those used at Phoenix Mill were one of the most common methods for powering mills. As the name suggests, overshot water wheels receive their water from an overhead sluice that empties directly onto the forward part of the wheel, filling the wheel's buckets and causing the wheel to turn by force of gravity as the water drops. Improvements in wheel design eventually led to an innovative cured-bucket design that was more efficient than traditional straight-sided buckets. When Dominion Mill needed to replace its aging wooden water wheel in 1909, the owners installed a curved-bucket Fitz I-X-L Overshoot Water Wheel designed by John Fitz.

Millstones. Phoenix Mill had four pairs of millstones. The stones would have weighed from one to two tons each. Grooves chiseled into the grinding surfaces cut and ground the grain. Only the upper millstone in a pair turned. The lower or bed stone was fixed in place. It was the miller's job to see that the millstones were set properly, with no more than a paper's width between the grinding surfaces, and that the grinding surfaces were kept sharp.
HM NumberHM2GV7
Year Placed2008
Placed ByCity of Alexandria
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, May 18th, 2019 at 8:01am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 318158 N 4297483
Decimal Degrees38.80736667, -77.09421667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 48.442', W 77° 5.653'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 48' 26.52" N, 77° 5' 39.18" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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