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What is the history on the old millstone in downtown Wilmington? And why doesn’t it have a historical plaque?

Ben Steelman

The old millstone has been a downtown fixture for years, but has been migrating lately because of renovations on Front Street.

On July 9, as the questioner noted, it was relocated near Chops Deli, not far from the downtown Post Office on Front Street. Because of local concerns about foot traffic, however, it was moved again on July 13, said Brett Russell, construction manager for the City of Wilmington.

It now sits in Bailey Park, just inside the facade of the old Bailey Theater off Front Street between Market and Princess.

The actual history of the millstone is a little hazy. According to local history librarian Joe Sheppard of the New Hanover County Public Library, locals claim it came from Green’s Mill, the old gristmill that used to sit on Greenfield Lake in the 1800s and early 1900s, when it was still a plantation millpond.

(In his 1980 book “Land of the Golden River,” Lewis Philip Hall recalled fishing from the mill’s spillway while sitting on one of the mill’s old timbers. This would have been located at the present spillway near where Third Street becomes Carolina Beach Road.)

With its carved gears, the granite millstone makes a fascinating artifact. On rainy days, vistors can make out a “W” and the numbers “1720” carved into its surface. (According to Hall, Dr. Samuel Green acquired the Greenfield Lake property around 1730 and erected the first mill there.)

“I’m storry we didn’t put a plaque on it,” Russell said. “It just has so much history.”

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