Historic Mather Mill along Wissahickon Creek in Fort Washington to get new life as office space and home to fishing club

A property along the Wissahickon Creek in Whitemarsh Township that is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places is set to have a rebirth.

Mather Mill in Fort Washington, initially called Farmar’s Mill, was built sometime near the end of the 17th century by Edward Farmar. Edward Farmar was the son of Jasper Farmar, who had purchased 5,000 acres from William Penn which included what is now the Borough of Conshohocken and Whitemarsh Township. Today you can find a restaurant in Conshohocken named Jasper’s Backyard, which recognizes Jasper Farmar.

The property containing the mill passed from the Farmar family to Samuel Morris, who built nearby Whitemarsh Estate, which is known today as Hope Lodge. His estate then sold the mill and four acres to Issac Mather. In 1820, Mather’s son built the mill that stands today. The mill operated late into the 19th century.

In 1966, the property was acquired by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in the early 1970s.

In 2022, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sold the property to a private entity named The Grist at Mather Mill, Ltd., which was established by Fort Washington resident and attorney Edmond R. Shinn and his father. The Grist at Mathew Mill recently received approval from Whitemarsh Township’s zoning hearing board (see agenda) to operate an office for the Shinn’s law firm and real estate business on the second floor of the building and allow the first floor to be utilized for meeting and event space for the Friends of Hope Lodge and a fishing club. The first floor, which is flood-prone will be restored to be “flood resilient.”

“The Shinn Family is excited to serve as the next generation in a long line of stewards for historic preservation of this property, which is notable for having been a lookout for George Washington and the source for grain for his troops during the Whitemarsh Encampment of 1777,” shared Shinn.

The fishing club, Wissahickon Sporting Club, will seek to partner with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to develop a catch-and-release fly fishing opportunity on the Wissahickon Creek between Skippack Pike and Morris Road, and offering handicap-accessible fishing right at the mill. According to Shinn, the club’s goal is to “establish quality fishing and native trout population through a robust trout stocking program, habitat restoration and implementation of stream quality management practices, similar to the Spring Creek Project in State College, PA.” Shinn referred to the Spring Creek Project as having created a “Fisherman’s Paradise.”

Shinn projects that the work needed to occupy the property will be completed by the end of 2023.

Photo: Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission