The Historic U.S. Route 1 is the first and oldest route in the United States of America. It runs north and south through the eastern section with the northern terminus is in Fort Know, Maine, and the southern terminus in Key West, Florida. (It is the most southern U.S. route in the 48 states and the third most southern route in the 48 states with only two state routes, 5A and the famous A1A, being father south. It is also the most northern route in the 48 states.) U.S. Route 1 passes through all the east coast states except for Delaware, plus it passes through Pennsylvania, the only non-coastal state the route passes through. It passes through the major cities of Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, Washington D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Augusta, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and Miami, Florida. It passes through many small towns. One of those small towns is Savage, Maryland, a suburb in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore, Maryland metropolis. In this small town is an old mill.
The Savage Mill is named after a man named John Savage. Who is John Savage? He loaned four brothers $20,000 to build a cotton mill on the Little Patuxent River. The mill began operation in 1822. Because the mill was built on a high ridge over the river, a waterwheel 30 feet in diameter was built to harness the waterpower. What great things were produced here? In its heyday, sails for ships sailing out of Baltimore, tents and covered used by Union soldiers fighting in the American Civil War, backdrops for Hollywood movies in the early days of Hollywood films, and truck covers and bags for soldiers fighting in Europe during World War I and World War II. Sadly, the mill ceased operation in 1947. The mill was spared demolition, and it was eventually made into a place for shops and artists studios. When you visit Savage Mill today, you will see a place where great products were once made, and you will see a place where great products are made today.
Some of you are saying, “This is amazing. This mill made some great products, and it was spared demolition. There is a big problem. You see. This was a mill. There are no railroads here. Therefore, I will not be manufacturing my visit to this place.”
So, you have refused to visit Savage Mill because there are no railroads here. Today, there is no railroad at this old mill. In the mill’s heyday, the railroad was a big part of the mill’s operation.
When you approach the mill from U.S. Route 1 along Gorman Road, the very first thing you will notice is not the mill. The first thing you will see is an old truss bridge. What is special about this bridge? It was built by Wendell Bollman. He went on to build many truss bridges using one material: iron. His company built about one hundred iron truss bridges.
Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful. What makes this iron truss bridge special?”
That is a great question. The answer is that this bridge is a railroad bridge. It was built by Wendell Bowman and used by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over the Little Patuxent River to connect the mill with the main line half a mile east of the mill. (The line is owned by CSX today.) It became a standard bridge used by railroads. When operations at the mill ceased, so did service on the spur line. The bridge is the oldest iron truss bridge in the United States of America, and it is the only surviving iron truss bridge built by Wendell Bowman in the world.
Today, the Bowman Iron Truss Bridge is a pedestrian bridge, but a set of tracks remain to remind you of the days the railroad came to the mill. It is registered as a National Historic Landmark.
Does the mill have any other railroad connection? It does. When the mill was closed, it was turned into a Christmas village for three years before it was bought by another owner. To enter the village, patrons had to park at a lot on U.S. Route 1. How did they get to the village? A miniature train took patrons from the parking lot to the village.
Now you have a reason to visit the old Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland. What was once a working mill now works to house shops, art, and dance studios. It you have the time you can walk along the truss bridge and look down into the Little Patuxent River.
The Savage Mill is located at 8600 Foundry Road in Savage, Maryland. It is half a mile east of U.S. Route 1 and a short drive from Interstate 95. Parking is on site. The truss bridge connects you to a hiking trail. You can get more information at https://www.savagemill.com/.