The Cruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill

New Smyrna Beach, Fl.
Sugar Mill Ruins

Down a gravel one lane road, off a 4 laned street, almost forgotten is an old Sugar Mill Ruin.  If you blink you will miss the road.  If you are lucky, though, you will see the buildings in ruin, 3 large cauldrons, an outdoor  grill, a gear whose circumfremce is not quite as large as a tire.   It is very peaceful with so many trees and grass surrounding the area.  The picture above was  most likely taken in the 1980's.  Since then the site has been restored some.

Below is some of the history recorded on the placques around the mill.   This heritage site is owned by the state of Flrida and managed by Volusia Coutny.  Photos are the property of Fran Smith, photographer.

Ruin 2015
"The walls are reminders of an agricultural venture gone up in smoke along with people's plan for taming the Florida frountier. In 1830, Henry Cruger and William dePeyster acquired six hundred acres near the village of New Smyrna, borrowed money, secured machinery from New York, and established a sugar factory.  Five years later, their plantation lay in ruins.

Coquina Tile
In fact, coquina ruins are the story of this site.  The mill had little time to produce sugar [or to repay investors] before it was wrecked by the Seminoles. In December 1835, they ran off the overseer, burned the complex, and destroyed other plantations throughtout the region.  Helping the Indians stage their raid here were Cruger-dePeyster slaves themselves.

Building mayerials

The mill ruins here are made of coqina-- Spanish for "tiny shell". . Quarried loclly (and elsewhere in the Southeast), it contains mollusk shell fragments and quartz sand bound together by calcium carbonate. Centuries after the Spanish first used coquina in Florida, frontier Americans chose this building stone for their sugar factory.  

Durable as it looks, cut coquina is porous and surprisingly delicte.  Today earthstone blocks are attractive, but in the 1830s this mill had protective coatings of white lime plster.  Its roof sheltered valuable machinery from the West Point Foundry of New York -- a pioneering industrial manufacturer in the United States.

Painting of the mill burningIn the years that followed this ruined mill becme a subject of paintings, photographs, travel writings, and speculation. Not long after the factory's destruction, soldier artist John Rogers Vinton explored the site -- then painteed a re-creation of events in 1835, with a Seminole warrior and the smoldering structure.  Owned by San and Roberta Vickers of Jacksonville, Vinton's 1843 work is among the rarest of Florida sugar mill images."

Following the Seminoles' 1815 raid, these ruins faced years of rugged weather, destructive vegetation, climbing visitors, and misguided masonry patching.  Fionally in 2007, preservation specialists properly repaired and stabilized the old coquina walls.  Even so, the site remains senssitive to human disturbance.  For your safety and the sugar mill's survival as a public place, please stay on the walkway and never climb on these ruins.  Future visitors will thank you.

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