It’s the perfect shopping excursion for parents who want an experience for themselves and their children besides endless mannequins, food courts and fluorescent lights.
Savage Mill in Savage, Md., combines the history of early America’s textile and railroad industries with the hiking trails of nearby Savage Park and 250 or so stores and shops specializing in jewelry, antiques, and arts and crafts. And it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, which is something you cannot say about Columbia Mall or Tysons Corner.
The mill traces its history to 1820, when Amos Williams and his three brothers started a textile weaving business specializing in canvas, using a 30-foot water wheel on the banks of the Little Patuxent River to power their machines. They named their company Savage Mill after a family friend, John Savage, who lent them the $20,000 they needed to get started.
Savage Mill served as a functioning textile mill until 1947, when it was turned into a Christmas display village for three years. A local family, the Winers, bought the property in 1950.
Today’s Savage Mill consists of nine interconnected buildings, all of which date to the 1820s, and the original mill manager’s office. The mill has been undergoing renovations since 1984, and work is still planned for the wheelhouse and boiler house.
The mill traditionally has been known for its emphasis on arts and crafts and antiques, but that is changing, says the marketing firm that handles advertising and publicity for Savage Mill.
“For a long time, it’s been pretty much like an artists colony,” says Cecil Phillips of Madison Media. “That perception still exists, but there are more shops than artists there now; it’s mostly retail.”
Still, Mr. Phillips acknowledges that antiques hunters will find a smorgasbord of delights at Savage Mill.
“I don’t know of any single place in Maryland where antiques collectors can go to find a greater, larger selection than here,” he says.
Last summer, the Rams Head Tavern opened a restaurant in Savage Mill, with an outdoor deck overlooking the Patuxent. Alain Koseff, one of the restaurant’s managers, says the tavern is building another bar downstairs that will be more of a sports bar, with pool and foosball tables and larger televisions.
“I think we’re doing the kind of numbers we were hoping to do,” Mr. Koseff says.
Children probably will be drawn more to the area surrounding the mill, and there are plenty of interesting places for parents to take them before or after shopping.
The Bollman Truss Bridge, which crosses the Little Patuxent River, is designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. It was completed in 1869 by Wendel Bollman, a Baltimore engineer who developed the first system of all-iron bridges used by the railroads. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad used Bollman bridges for years, and in 1873, Bollman’s company built 100 such bridges for the railroad. The bridge at Savage Mill is the only one left.
Crossing the bridge leads families to Savage Park, which features seven miles of interconnecting trails. The 1.5-mile Historic Mill Trail, which begins at the bridge, is level enough for strollers and ends a few hundred feet past old stone dam abutments where the Little Patuxent and Middle Patuxent rivers join.
More vigorous hikers will enjoy the Wincopin Neck Trail or the Savage Loop Trail. Both provide scenic overlooks of the Little Patuxent, and trout fishing is allowed on the Little Patuxent.
Families that want to make a day of shopping and hiking can use one of the park’s picnic tables and cooking grills on a first-come, first-served basis.