Ralston Cider Mill

HMR recently completed a Preservation Plan Amendment for Ralston Cider Mill in Mendham, NJ.

The mill was constructed around 1850 as a grist mill. It became a cider mill soon after the miller, John. R. Nesbitt, died and gristmill operations at the site ceased. In 1904, the Tiger Distillery, known for its famous “applejack” was moved to the Ralston Mill, and operated there until it was officially closed during prohibition.   As the only remaining cider mill in New Jersey, efforts to preserve the site have been championed by many, including the Township of Mendham which purchased the site in 2004, as well as local residents and the Mendham Historic Preservation Committee. The original Preservation Plan was completed by The Cultural Resource Consulting Group in 2005, followed by restoration by Rondout Woodworking.

Through drawings, photographs and a written narrative, HMR was hired to document restoration work at the mill completed between 1984 when the roof and roof framing were replaced, and 2007 when the other restoration work was completed.  Also part of the preservation plan amendment is an archaeological survey of the site by Hunter Research. The goal of the survey is to locate additional buildings and structures on the site to support the interpretation of the site and provide a starting point for possible future reconstruction of these support buildings.  Finally, HMR’s work included the design of new entry stairs based on the historic images below, which were not available at the time that the original preservation plan was completed in 2005.

Current view of the mill from the northeast. (Photo: HMR Architects, July 2011)
Historic B
Historic view of the mill property from the northeast showing the miller’s house at the left and the vat house (the dark structure immediately to the right of the mill). The foundations of both of these buildings were identified in the archaeological survey.
1920 Post Card view from west
1920 view of the mill property from the west. The vat house is at the front corner of the mill, nearest the photographer.
Mike Yamashita -2
Condition of the pressing floor in 2005, prior to restoration. (Photo: Mike Yamashita)
The same view following restoration by Rondout Woodworking from Saugerties, NY. It should be noted that HMR Architects was not involved in this restoration project. Our responsibilities were only to document the previously completed restoration work and design a new front entry stair. (Photo: HMR Architects, June 2013)
View of the pressing floor with the scissor press at the center. All of the equipment is now operable, although it is now powered by electricity. (Photo: HMR Architects, June 2013)

The recently completed archaeological survey, shown in the photographs below, allows for a more complete understanding and interpretation of the mill complex.

12045 D2-036
View east of Trench #2, revealing the north foundation wall of the vat house, visible in the historic photos above. (Photo: Jim Lee, Hunter Research, January 2013)
Miller's House Archaeological Plan
Archaeological plan of Miller’s House showing location of Trench #3 and Excavation Units #2 and #3. (Image: Hunter Research, September 2013)
12045 D4-052
Southeast view of the location of the miller’s house showing Excavation Units #2 and #3. (Photo: Jim Lee, Hunter Research, May 2013)
12045 D4-019
View south of Excavation Unit #2 showing the west foundation of the Miller’s House, which runs north/south through the excavation unit. The east foundation runs through Excavation Unit #3. (Photo: Jim Lee, Hunter Research, May 2013)
12045 D2-078
View north of Trench #3, showing the north foundation of the main block of the Miller’s House in the foreground and the north foundation of an addition beyond. (Photo: Jim Lee, Hunter Research, January 2013)

Interested in learning more about the Ralston Cider Mill? This Saturday, they will hold their annual apple pressing event, where you can observe the process, and even sample some cider! A great event for adults and kids alike. Check out the Ralston Mill’s Tumblr page to find out more…


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