Keeping History Alive at Cecil’s Old Mill
COVID-19 UPDATE: THE MILL IS OPEN! 10-5, THURSDAY-SUNDAY.
Writer: Carrie Lovejoy
Photographer: August Seleckmann
Rustic charm of centuries-old building is perfect backdrop for Rob and Stacy Seltzer’s Herring Creek Furniture
For more than 200 years, a building in St. Mary’s County has been evolving. It’s been a textile mill, a flour mill, and a site for the sale of arts and crafts, to name a few.
Today, Cecil’s Old Mill is home to Herring Creek Furniture, and is arguably in its most beautiful iteration to date. Herring Creek owners Rob and Stacy Seltzer took over the mill a little more than a year ago, and have turned it into an amazing site that both celebrates its history and makes use of its rustic charm to create a backdrop for an array of unique products.
Outside of his business as a building contractor, Rob has been making furniture for years now, making use of found objects, old tools and pieces of scrap wood to turn them into furniture that is sturdy, functional and breathtaking to see.
Rob obviously sees the potential in old pieces that most of us cannot see, and he has the know-how to bring his vision to life.
The mill’s museum-like quality
That vision is a perfect match with his wife, Stacy, who has been his partner in their venture at the Old Mill. Stacy, whose day job is with a defense contractor in the county, has shared her own talents for decorating and design with the store, and helped to turn the entire building into a display piece in itself.
After they took over the store in January 2019, the couple, their children Nathan and Sophie, and several friends spent close to eight months getting it ready to open, clearing out plaster walls and finding ways to display the mill’s metal walls, mill machinery and incredible network of tunnels that were once used for transporting grain from the mill upstairs to baggers downstairs. All of these historic pieces are clear to see, and provide a backdrop for the work of talented artisans ranging from jewelry makers to professional photographers. The Seltzers also mentioned members of their team, Susan Hill and Anita Goehringer and their expertise helped them hit the ground running.
“We’ve been sure to maintain the building’s history and integrity,” Stacy says. “We’ve reused everything we can possibly put back into the store.”
As they worked to combine the pieces of artwork for sale and the museum-like quality of the building, both Seltzers say they wanted to be careful not to have so many pieces filling the space that a customer cannot easily navigate it.
“We didn’t want too much stuff,” Rob says. “It can get overwhelming.”
“We wanted it to be simple and easy on the eyes, so you can see every piece, and we didn’t want to cover every piece of every wall,” Stacy says.
Chance of a lifetime
In fact, the walls themselves are part of the decor, as the couple tore down plaster and sheetrock to expose the wood beams and even metal sheeting that make up the walls, which have lasted through the 19th, 20th and now 21st centuries.
Rob says they had wanted for some time to operate a venture like Herring Creek at Cecil’s Old Mill, and when they heard that the person who was running a craft store in the mill was thinking of closing, they jumped on the opportunity.
“When we traveled, we were always finding these cool places and we wanted to know why there wasn’t something like that here,” Stacy says.
“We thought we would wait until the kids were out of high school, but we knew it was the chance of a lifetime,” Rob says. “It seemed like such a good fit.”
Walking into the store is like walking into a museum of St. Mary’s County history.
Machinery that has been in the location for a century is creatively displayed and lighted. While there are hundreds of interesting things to see on the floor level, every customer should be sure to look up and see the workings of the old mill, from rolling millers to grain polishers and dust collectors.
On special occasions, Bill Clements, who rebuilt the engine in the 1980s, and his crew even fire up some of the machinery so visitors can experience it firsthand.
For the Valley Lee couple, enduring the dust that gets kicked up is part of the entire experience for them, their children and the public.
“This is a place to appreciate good furniture and good art in a place that has a history,” Rob says. “It’s all about the love of the old building that’s more than 100 years old, keeping it where it can be appreciated by new generations.” •
Herring Creek Furniture at Cecil’s Old Mill is at 20854 Indian Bridge Road in Great Mills.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday