Once the largest building on Virginius Island, this 1848 four-story brick structure sported steam heat and gas lighting and boasted the latest machinery for making "yard-wide sheeting and shirting at less than Baltimore prices." The cotton mill operated under various owners until just prior to the Civil War. After the war, the new partnership of Child & McCreight converted the factory into a flour mill.
Business at the flour mill lagged. Production was first disrupted by the 1870 flood. The mill finally was abandoned after a flood in 1889 ended all hope for economic recover.
Over the course of its existence, this building housed two generations of waterpowered turbines - each in its day a leading example of American hydraulic technology. As a cotton mill, it was powered by two Fourneyron turbines, one of the first iron turbines built in the United States. Following the war, Child & McCreight installed four double Leffel turbines in the new flour mill. Only the iron drive shafts, which connect to the turbines below, are visible today.
Water running through the Double Leffel Turbine generated energy which rotated shafts, drums, and belts powering the factory's machinery. This efficient power turbine became a standard in the 1870s and 1880s.
As a Civil War Hospital
By August 1862, the Union Army had converted this mill into a hospital. Excerpts from the diary of a soldier of the 123rd New York Volunteer Infantry vividly describe the scene here in November 1862:
"There were no wounded men there for it was for the treatment of disease only. There were about two hundred cots in a ward...separating the most helpless from those in less serious condition. Nearly every morning from five to ten who had died that night were carried out. We were almost surrounded by dying men."