Visit: Nathan Cooper Gristmill {Chester, New Jersey}

by Cate on August 24, 2016

Looking for a fun little afternoon adventure or a step back in time? Let’s drive to Chester and check out the Nathan Cooper Gristmill.


Most libraries have museum passes that you can borrow, which let you visit a local museum or attraction with your family for free. I’ve been good at taking advantage of that this summer, and lately, I’ve been going beyond just our local library, and using the passes at our county library as well. Each library has slightly different passes available, so your library card is really a passport to all sorts of fun adventures.



And last week, it brought us to the Nathan Cooper Gristmill in Chester, New Jersey. Built in 1826, it is one of the few, still-operating water-powered mills in the state of New Jersey, and it’s listed (and protected) on the State and National registers of historical places. The Morris County Park Commission bought the property in 1973, and opened it to the public in late 1978. Retired General Nathan Cooper originally bought the mill in 1878 for $750 (!) and built onto the mill to create the four-story structure you see here today.

Easy to find using the Waze app, we pulled into the mill parking lot. There was a large white house on one side of the parking lot, and the mill on the other. I wasn’t entirely sure where we were supposed to go, and it wasn’t really marked, but for everyone else…? Check in at the white house. Tours are given all day by a costumed master miller, with the last tour at 3:30 pm. They last roughly forty-five minutes.

Our guide started us at the Black River, which is, of course, the water source for the mill. We followed the water over the plume and then entered the gristmill, where all the action happens. Once you’re inside, the miller started up the water wheel and explained how it works. It’s amazing to think that the entire process is powered by water … zero electricity. The wheel (and its associated gears and shafts and whatnot) can pound out up to 800 pounds of flour per hour. Per hour! Crazy.



When you’re done with your tour, ask the miller if he has flour available. They make white and wheat flour, and corn meal, and if you’re lucky, they’ll have a bag of fresh ground flour available for your six dollar donation. I scored a bag of corn meal. Recipes anyone?


One caveat! I wouldn’t visit on a super hot or humid day. The mill is, of course, not air conditioned and the humidity inside is bumped up a few notches, so just a small forewarning.

Nathan Cooper Gristmill
65 CR-513
Chester, New Jersey 07930

Cooper Gristmill is open April 2 through June 25, Saturdays only 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last tour begins at 3:30 p.m.
 Cooper Gristmill is open July 2 through August 31, Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 12 noon to 5 p.m. Last tour begins at 3:30 p.m.
Cooper Gristmill is open September 3 through October 30, Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. Last tour begins at 3:30 p.m.

Hungry for more day trips or afternoon adventures?
A quirky adventure found us at the Harismus Cemetary in Jersey City one Sunday. Mostly to see the goats.
You have just a few more weeks to catch the Dog Days of Summer in Boonton.
You can visit Thomas Edison’s estate, museum, and laboratory for a rich step back into his life and mind.
Head for the Jersey shore and Jenkinson’s Aquarium. It’s small, but packed with many sea creatures and knowledgeable and friendly staff.
If you have an avid rock collector or history buff in your family, visit the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. Because of the cool temps inside the mine, it’s perfect for a hot day.
Brookhollow’s Barnyard might have been the cutest farm we’ve visited so far.
The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is a great step back in time.
For even more activity ideas in the tri-state area, visit this appropriately-themed Pinterest board.

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