Records indicate that Swift Creek Mill was in existence as early as 1663. It is believed to be the oldest grist mill in this country. Henry Randolph I, born in Little Houghton, Northhamptonshire, England, migrated to this country about 1640. In 1655, he acquired a large tract of land in Bermuda Hundred on Swift Creek where he erected the present mill. An heir of Henry Randolph I, William Bland Randolph, deeded the mill to William Rowlett on February 20, 1805, and it became known as Rowlett's Mill. In 1852, the Rowlett heirs conveyed the mill to the Swift Creek Manufacturing Company. On May 9th and 10th, 1864, a battle was fought around the mill when General B.F. Butler's Army of the James attempted to cross Swift Creek. Following the Civil War, the property became Schmidt's Distillery, making corn whiskey. Following this, the property changed hands several times, was operated as a grist mill and became known as Swift Creek Mill. It continued to operate as a grist mill until about 1956.
On December 2, 1965, Swift Creek Mill Playhouse opened its doors. Converting the old grist mill into a dinner theatre required an addition to the three story building to house the kitchen, dressing rooms and restrooms. Stairways were built leading to upper and lower dining levels, and to the theatre located on the top floor. Much of the old equipment in the mill was refurbished to lend a rustic atmosphere.
Swift Creek Mill has been preserved as both an historical landmark and a cultural outlet for the talent of local artists, skilled actors, directors, designers and technicians whose efforts have made possible the artistic achievements of the Mill. The 300 year old Swift Creek Mill has been made a Virginia Historical Landmark and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
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