Delaware Nature Society is excited to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, a hidden gem of southern Delaware nestled just 4 miles outside of Milford. Abbott’s encompasses 483 acres of towering upland forests, restored native meadows, pristine ponds fed by sinuous streams, mystic Atlantic white cedar swamps and bogs, saltmarsh and wetland preserves, and Delaware’s only preserved, working grist mill. Abbott’s will be kicking off their 35th Anniversary year with Patagonia’s The New Localism Documentary Film Festival and an inaugural Run the Mill 5K.
What is now know as Abbott’s Mill Nature Center first began in 1795, when a stone grist mill powered by an abreast shot water wheel was built. In the early 1900s, the mill underwent an addition to add roller mills, allowing for the full production of corn, wheat, barley, and oats. During this addition, the mill’s power source was changed from water wheel to water turbine.
In 1919, Mr. Ainsworth Abbott purchased the property. He operated the mill singlehandedly until 1963, when he sold the facility to Howard and Frances Killen. The Killens, wishing to preserve its historic and cultural importance, decided to sell the mill property to the Delaware Board of Game & Fish Commissioners (known now as the Division of Fish & Wildlife). A multi-year renovation project started in 1976, with the goal to restore the mill to a preserved, working order. Part of the renovation project included the building of a small classroom facility, which is now our current Visitor Center. In 1980, Delaware Nature Society leased the property as its 3rd state-wide facility. In 1981, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center was officially commissioned.
Over the past 35 years, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center has grown from its humble 27 acre beginnings to include 483 acres of conserved lands throughout Sussex County, including Blair’s Pond Nature Preserve, Isaacs and Isaacs-Greene Preserves, and Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve. Environmental education and public visitation programs at the site have reached over 35,000 people since our beginning, further advancing our mission to connect people to the natural world.
In celebration of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center’s 35th Anniversary year, Delaware Nature Society has planned several fun, family friendly events. The events kick-off with Patagonia’s The New Localism Documentary Film Festival at Abbott’s Mill on Friday, May 20 at 7pm, doors open at 6pm. Participants can enjoy an evening of environmentally-themed short films inspiring people to think globally and act locally via surfing, trail running, climbing, and more. This one-night film festival is made possible with generous support from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Join Abbott’s Mill for a night of film, frosty craft ale and food from the Taco Reho food truck. Tickets are $25.
On the following Saturday, May 21, Abbott’s Mill will host the inaugural Run the Mill 5K. The race starts at Blair’s Pond Nature Preserve at 9am, event opens at 8am and ends at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center. After the run, participants can enjoy a complementary Dogfish Head beer, some post-race food, live music, and see the running of our historic, preserved grist mill. Pre-registration is required; entry fee is $20. Abbott’s Mill Nature Center’s 35th Anniversary celebrations conclude in the fall, at the Meal at the Mill on Friday, October 14th. The Meal at the Mill is a farm-to-table inspired menu paired with Dogfish Head beer, and perennial favorite, Autumn at Abbott’s Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15.