The Prallsville Mills site is a significant multiple-structure industrial complex in Central New Jersey. Specifically, it is on 33 Risler Street in Stockton. Most of the 10 buildings that currently make up the mills in Stockton date back to the 18th century. Found along the picturesque Delaware River, the property welcomes people to walk, bike, fish, and enjoy every season.
Around 1720, industrialist Daniel Howell built a wooden grist mill where the Wickeckeoke Creek meets the Delaware River. (The mill drew power from the creek.) Throughout the following 70 years, and numerous ownership changes, the mill saw great success. Then, in 1794, the land’s most popular owner, John Prall, Jr., bought the mill outright. Prall was a local businessman and veteran of the American Revolution. In addition, he is responsible for turning the once small grist mill operation into an industrial complex.
An Origin Story
Shortly after taking over, Prall built the linseed oil mill. Under his ownership, the business also took up milling lumber. Additionally, Prall ran a nearby quarry many believe to be the supplier of stone for the New Hope/Lambertville Bridge. During his lifetime, he took an active role in his community and the communities of Western New Jersey. Following his death in 1831, the mills and surrounding land were bought by William Hoppock and John Wilson.
At this time, two of the complex’s most important transportation improvements took place; particularly, the railroad and canals. Under the ownership of Hoppock and Wilson, the mills could skillfully support both. The canal was built on the property in the 1830s to transport products both farther and more efficiently. Equally important over the next 20 years, the duo oversaw construction of the Belvidere & Delaware Railroad alongside the canal. This gave the industrial complex additional access to transportation.
The mills were in constant use into the 1950s. By the late ‘50s, however, the mills finally shut down, ceasing all operations as the property and buildings stood vacant. That is, until local resident Donald Jones paid to take ownership of the site about a decade later. Jones held it until the State could afford to purchase it in 1973. That same year, Prallsville Mills became part of the National Register of Historic Places. Afterward, Stockton locals created the Delaware River Mill Society to “restore, preserve, operate, maintain and interpret” the site.
Visiting Prallsville Mills Today
Despite changing hands several more times throughout the late-19th through early-20th centuries, the mill never became less relevant. Even after sustaining severe fire damage in 1974, the mill was quickly rebuilt and operational three short years later. Thanks to diligent workers and competent owners, Prallsville Mills became one of the most affluent production centers in New Jersey.
In the subsequent decades, Prallsville Mills underwent some necessary structural renovations. For instance, the railroad line running from Lambertville to Frenchtown that passes through the mills is now a recreational trail. Presently, the mills that remain standing include a grist mill, linseed oil mill, saw mill and granary; most date back close to 300 years. Moreover, the complex includes decadent 18th century homes. Of course, among them is the former home of John Prall, Jr.
Prallsville Mills grants an impressive historical look into Hunterdon County’s industrial age. Due to generations of industrialists passing through the property, it is now an important landmark in New Jersey history. But besides its historical significance, Prallsville Mills is also a home for cultural and environmental events. It is often home to concerts, art exhibitions, antique shows, holiday parties, school fund-raiser auctions, meetings and private parties.
Prallsville Mills offers historical tours by appointment or regularly on Thursday afternoons from June until September. The tours provide an in-depth look at the property’s evolution and transformation into what it is today. Visit their website to learn more.
All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ