From the website: Peirce Mill was built in the 1820’s, and operated commercially until 1897. The United States Government acquired the mill as part of Rock Creek in 1892. Peirce Mill has recently been refurbished and operates on special occasions. Peirce Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places.
If I were going to eat at the Peirce Mill Teahouse, I would order the Tutti Frutti Salad, a Cheese Dreams Sandwich, and a cup of Hot Chocolate. It would cost me $1.10. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to see if the Delicious Salad is really delicious, since it contains shrimp (I’m vegetarian), but I can only dream of how good the Cheese Dreams Sandwich would be.
Peirce Mill unfortunately is not serving food today, and certainly not at those prices. The structure operated as a mill from 1820 to 1897, and afterward as a public teahouse through the 1930s. Today, it is a museum run by the National Park Service. I visited on a day that the mill itself was not open, but I saw the exhibits in Peirce Barn and viewed the mill and other buildings from the outside.
The history of Peirce Mill in its pre-teahouse days has a lot to do with food, too. Millers produced flour and corn meal in the mill. The outbuildings at the site included a springhouse (a small building for keeping perishable food cool) that still stands, and a potato house for storing less perishable foods. They are the counterparts to the refrigerator and cabinets in my apartment kitchen.
On the website, educators can find information about the themed field trips available for grade school classes. Some of the field trips give children the chance to try their own hands at de-shelling and grinding corn. The details of the field trips themselves are accompanied by several suggestions for pre-field trip and post-field trip classroom activities. Activities in the lesson plans include making Indian corn pancakes, baking bread (out of wheat flour), and creating corn husk dolls.
In 2011, the American Alliance of Museums (then the American Association of Museums) held a symposium called Feeding the Spirit, all about museums and food. Jennifer Rothman, educator at the New York Botanical Garden, wrote in a blog post leading up to the symposium: “I have come to believe food is the universal communicator. It helps me bring to life the stories of our exhibits….we can use food to help a visitor get a sense of place or time in history and to understand the themes of the exhibit in a deeper way.”
At Peirce Mill, this very place, in a previous time in history, comes alive in part through the kinds of foods that were milled at the site. Although DC is known for its national museums, there are also numerous local history museums in the DC region. Throughout April, I will be visiting and blogging about places that share local history with visitors.
April’s blog theme is Local History.