Stony Brook Grist Mill
Authors: Marco & Angelo

Authors: Marco & Angelo

We own the Candleberry Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in central Cape Cod. We're glad to share our recommendations on all the great things to explore throughout Cape Cod.

Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Stony Brook Grist Mill in Brewster MA

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    Aside from natural beauty, the incredible history of Cape Cod is part of its charm. Historic buildings and sites dot the roadside, including Candleberry Inn on Route 6A. And, the Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum is a picturesque site that you’ll pass while driving down Stony Brook Road.

    If you’re looking for more scenic destinations to explore, take a look at our free Vacation Guide. We can even help you plan your Cape Cod adventures.

    Stony Brook Grist Mill
    Stony Brook Grist Mill | photo courtesy of harveyjwalker

    All About the Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum

    The Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum stands as a monument to the bustling, 19th-century milling industry in the area. Its name comes from the namesake stream in Brewster that empties into Cape Cod Bay.

    The Historic District

    The mill is located in the Stony Brook-Factory Village Historic District, an 85-acre area that encompasses one of the biggest, best-preserved industrial villages in the county. In 2000, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    This district mostly features Greek Revival architecture but has some 18th-century Georgian and late 19th-century architecture sprinkled in. While there are three mills with a mill pond, dams, and raceways here, the Stony Brook Grist Mill is the only remaining structure of Brewster’s Factory Village.

    Grist Mill History

    The current Stony Brook Grist Mill was built in 1873 using dismantled saltworks boards, and it stands on the site of the original Factory Village fulling mill. So, let’s find out how it came to be.

    The Land Is Purchased

    Locals recognized the industrial power of Stony Brook in the 17th century when it was referred to as Saquatucket. Seven interconnected ponds supply the 2-mile flow, which drops 26 feet into Cape Cod Bay. At this point, Plymouth Colony Governor Thomas Pence bought the brook and surrounding land from Native Americans.

    Factory Village Develops

    By 1663, a water-powered gristmill started grinding local grain into flour and meal. A fulling mill was erected in 1665 to clean and pre-shrink homespun woolen cloth intended for sewing family clothing. This ushered in a thriving community with new buildings and industries that took on the name Factory Village.

    A fire broke out in 1760, burning the woolen material and fulling mill. (Meanwhile, Brewster was incorporated as a town in 1803.) Then, the Winslow family built a woolen mill in place of the fulling mill in 1814 to make the first factory-manufactured clothes in the country.

    After that, a new era of the Factory Village began to thrive in the early 19th century. By the 1830s, the wooden fulling mill was used for cotton spinning. Carding and cotton mills, a cabinetmaker, a cobbler’s shop, a tannery, and more were added to this commercial village — making everything from ice cream to mittens to paper.

    Economy & Industries Shift

    During the mid to late 19th century, Brewster’s economy began to shift toward agricultural and maritime industries. The gristmill survived many of these changes because of its connection with local agriculture. It operated until 1871, stopping only after another fire at the adjacent tannery.

    Two years later, the Stony Brook Grist Mill that you see today was built on the site. For the next five decades, that building was used for making overalls, producing ice cream, and being a family residence.

    Brewster Residents Save the Day

    Eventually, the mill was abandoned and would have become a footnote in Cape Cod history had a group of residents not stepped in with preservation efforts. The Town of Brewster bought Stony Brook Grist Mill in 1940 from the Newcomb family. And, more than half of the purchase price was donated by the residents.

    Since then, the mill has been used as a museum, and volunteers maintain the mill and museum, as well as assist with festivals and weaving. The waterwheel and millstones were in rough shape in 2010, so much-needed improvements and restorations were completed. Now, the mill produces 400 pounds of cornmeal each day.

    Stony Brook Grist Mill
    Stony Brook Grist Mill | photo courtesy of jtofashland

    Exploring the Mill & Museum Along Stony Brook

    The Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum are open in July and August on Saturdays. It’s free to see the water wheel in motion, watch demonstrations, learn in the museum, and attend events.

    Even when they’re closed, the grounds are always open and attract visitors who like to stroll the scenic paths and gardens and enjoy watching the fish swim while seagulls try to catch their next meal. You might even come across basking turtles and dragonflies by the pond.

    Corn Milling Demonstrations

    Seeing the Stony Brook Grist Mill in action is the highlight of visiting, and a volunteer miller operates the mill, freshly grinding cornmeal. The miller shows onlookers how the corn kernels drop from the hopper and into a flat pan that feeds the kernels into the gristmill to make cornmeal.

    Before you leave, you can purchase 2-pound bags of the cornmeal to use for making cornbread, Indian pudding, muffins, pancakes, and more. Sometimes the cornmeal sacks are also available for sale at the Brewster Store on Main Street, across the street from the Candleberry Inn.

    Grist Mill Museum

    You’ll find the museum on the second floor of the gristmill. It features Cape Cod artifacts that tell the story of life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    The displays include a barn loom, cobblers’ tools, coffee grinders, knife cleaners, musical instruments, pan lamps, sausage stuffers, a spinning wheel, whale oil lamps, and more. Even a small collection of Native American cultivation tools are on display, some of which were found in the Stony Brook area.

    Additionally, there’s an antique loom in the museum on which volunteers perform weaving demonstrations.

    Annual Alewife Migration – The “Herring Run”

    Outside of the gristmill, you can see the amazing alewife migration phenomenon. This annual migration starts about mid-March and continues through early May as the weather gets warmer. During it, you can watch the herring make their way up Stony Brook to spawn in the ponds.

    It’s awe-inspiring to see them battle the flow of the water — flop-flopping around — so close to civilization because most migrations occur deep in the woods. The footpaths along the water offer wonderful vantage points for the journey.

    Other Events

    The Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum becomes a community gathering place multiple times throughout the year. Thousands of people visit during the Brewster in Bloom festival in late April and early May, the Indian Pudding Party in July, and the Cornbread Festival in August.

    For the Indian Pudding Party and the Cornbread Festival, the gristmill becomes a centerpiece where volunteer bakers use fresh cornmeal from the mill to make their specialties.

    Stony Brook Grist Mill
    Stony Brook Grist Mill | photo courtesy of jtofashland

    More Things to Do Near the Stony Brook Grist Mill

    The Stony Brook Grist Mill isn’t the only thing to do in Brewster Massachusetts. Here’s a quick look at some other options to explore during your visit.

    Beaches in Brewster

    There are tons of beaches on Cape Cod, and at least eight saltwater beaches are located in Brewster — not to mention the few freshwater beaches you’ll find along ponds and lakes. Some of the best Brewster beaches near the gristmill, though, are Mant’s Landing (Robbins Hill Beach), Saints Landing Beach, and Paine’s Creek Beach.

    Cape Cod Museum of Natural History

    If you’re hungry for more history, check out the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. The 17,000 square feet are filled with an awesome collection of natural artifacts, archaeological exhibits, and wildlife exhibits — including an aquarium. Plus, there’s a butterfly life-cycle exhibit, nature trails, wildflower gardens, and more.

    Boutique & Antique Shops

    You can’t visit Cape Cod without going shopping at some point, and there are plenty of fantastic places to shop in Brewster. The Sydenstricker Glass studio is an amazing place to get unique glass art designs and even watch the artisans at work. Vintage Traders is less than a 5-minute walk from Candleberry Inn and features vintage decor, jewelry, and more.

    For a variety of shopping in one place, head to Lemon Tree Village. This is where you’ll find kitchen supplies at The Cook Shop, toys and games at The Village Toy Store, delicious treats at Brewster Sweets, handmade items at By-the-Bay Designs, and more.

    Brewster Restaurants Near the Stony Brook Grist Mill

    When you’re ready for a bite to eat, you’ll have no problem finding a spot near the gristmill. However, a few of our favorite Brewster restaurants are in the area.

    Cafe Alfresco is located within Lemon Tree Village and serves great specialty sandwiches and panini, as well as seafood specials and turkey burgers. If you’re really in the mood for seafood, though, Kate’s Seafood is a great place to go and serves ice cream for dessert.

    For a tavern-style dining experience, enjoy a homestyle lunch or dinner at the Brewster Inn & Chowder House, which is located in a historic 1870 home.

    On the other hand, Spinnaker is a Mediterranean-chic boutique restaurant that offers a fine dining experience. And Brewster Fish House never disappoints with its sophisticated twist on Cape Cod’s favorite seafood dishes.

    Exterior of Candleberry at Twilight

    Historic Accommodations Near the Stony Brook Grist Mill

    Do you want to immerse yourself in even more history during your Cape Cod getaway? Book your stay at Candleberry Inn — the No. 1 Tripadvisor-rated bed and breakfast in the United States.

    We provide elegant rooms and suites and luxurious amenities. One of our highlights is the gourmet breakfast, which we prepare fresh every morning. It’s the best way to start your day before visiting the Stony Brook Grist Mill.

    As you begin planning your Cape Cod trip, look through our available rooms!

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