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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    Oil Mill Historic District listed on National Register of Historic Places

    Waterford ― The town has another addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Oil Mill Historic District received the distinction on Feb. 2.

    Town Historian Robert Nye nominated the historic district on behalf of the town Historic Properties Commission. The Oil Mill Historic District is Waterford's ninth National Register listing alongside Seaside State Park, Jordan Village, the Eolia estate at Harkness Memorial State Park, Graniteville, Hartford Colony, Oswegatchie, Quaker Hill and Walnut Grove.

    Nye said Thursday that he has been involved with the commission since 1990 and the Oil Mill Historic District will likely be his last National Register listing. His first was Jordan Village.

    The Oil Mill district is situated on the western border of town at the head of the Niantic River and is about 55 acres in size, stretching from where Oil Mill Road meets Boston Post Road to just past its intersection with Gurley Road. A separate smaller portion sits north of Interstate 95 and includes the Oil Mill Brook.

    As stated in its application for nomination, the Oil Mill Historic District contains archaeological remains of a 19th-century mill that processed sumac and flaxseed oil, along with houses and an archaeological site associated with a community that developed during the most productive years of the mill.

    About 20, mostly privately-owned, buildings in the district, such as the Philip Cavarly House at 54 Gurley Road, contribute to the district and represent the mill community. The Cavalry home was built in 1794 and is the oldest standing home in the district.

    Overall, there are three archaeological-significant sites in the district. A fourth site at 34 Oil Mill Road was considered as it was purported to be the site of a sumac mill built in 1804, but Nye said because no archaeological survey had been done at that site, it was not considered for the distinction.

    Nye thanked National Register Coordinator with the State Historic Preservation Office, Jenny Scofield and Architectural Historian Marguerite Carnell for their contributions.

    Scofield visited the town for an informational session about the process of earning a National Register listing last March. She explained that the national register is the official list of historic places that are significant in American culture and worthy of preservation.

    Criteria for national register consideration includes if the district has historical integrity and if the properties are associated with persons significant in the past.

    The designation does not restrict the use, development or sale of privately owned historic properties and allows owners of a contributing property in the historic district to become eligible for economic incentive programs such as tax credits.


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