The Lights of Historic Clifton Mill
By Jessica Noes
Historic Clifton Mill, located in the Village of Clifton at the edge of Greene County, Ohio, is one of the largest attractions in the area with several thousand visitors each year.
Built in this location to take advantage of the natural power of the water that funnels from the Little Miami River into the Clifton Gorge, it’s one of the oldest grist mills. Today you can still see the mill operate, converting natural water power into energy. The Mill grounds are open year around, but actual tours of the Mill operations are only available in the spring and summer.
Legendary Christmas Light Display
For over a quarter of a century Clifton Mill has been lighting up the winter holidays. What began as a simple idea of stringing a few strands of lights on the historic mill for the enjoyment of family and friends has become one of the largest outdoor holiday displays for miles around. The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill now features close to 4 million lights which decorate the mill, the trees, the river banks and everything else they can reach. There is a 100-foot “waterfall” of twinkling lights. The display includes a Miniature Village, a Santa Claus Museum, and a Toy Collection, together with a synchronized lights and music show that features the old Covered Bridge.
About 33 years ago, the owners began work on a miniature village with scaled down versions of some of Clifton’s historic buildings built by an artisan in Pennsylvania.
There has been a new addition each year by a variety of artists and today it is a sight to behold with street after miniature street of scaled down homes and businesses, a tiny Fire Department. putting out a “house fire,” an outdoor train, a 1950s drive-in theatre, a County Fair and much more, all lit up for the holidays.
The Clifton Mill Santa Claus Museum has over 3,000 examples of Santa Claus on display dating from as far back as 1850. Some are toys, some are advertising items, some are weird, some are elegant, all are interesting.
The 2020 Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill will be open November 27 through December 30. Gates open at 5 pm, the lights come on at 6 pm and the gates close at 9 pm. To avoid crowds, Monday through Thursday are less busy. The display is wheelchair and stroller accessible. It is an outdoor event and is weather permitting. Come bring the family and friends and enjoy the spectacular light display. It is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. (Call before you come in bad weather.)
Historic Clifton Mill Restaurant
Where else can you enjoy the best in home-style cooking while savoring the atmosphere of yesteryear? Whether you are hungry for breakfast, lunch or dinner, their menu is guaranteed to please your palate. Their dinner menu changes with the season, and their homemade pies and cookies are baked fresh daily. Along with the great food you can sit back, relax and listen as the mill wheel turns, and water cascades over the falls. Restaurant hours are 9 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday, and 8 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday.
Clifton Mill General Store Gift Shop
Make sure to browse their charming gift shop, and take home your own bag of Clifton Mill Pancake Mix. The Gift Shop is decorated with antiques from a bygone era with the feel of the old-fashioned general store. The Clifton Mill General Store and Gift Shop has a wide selection of flour mill products, jams, jellies and unique gift ideas such and candles, cards, cookware, vintage Christmas decorations, candy and more.
Clifton Mill Operations
Although the Little Miami River originally powered a woolen mill, saw mill, paper mill, barrel mill and another grist mill, the Historic Clifton Mill is one of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence. The public is invited to visit the Clifton Mill for tours in the spring and summer to see exactly how it works.
The Clifton Mill has two separate milling areas, the Red Meadows Mill for corn grinding and the Gray Meadows Mill for grinding wheat and rye. The various grains are crushed as it moves through the stones and grinds up to 1,000 pounds an hour. The corn is ultimately bagged in bulk after sifting and separating into corn meal and corn bran. Belt bucket elevators run from the bottom of the mill to the top floor. They move grain to holding bins and grinding areas.
On display in the mill is a wooden case which contains the original stones used in the mill in 1802. The main beams in the mill were cut from local trees, which was also the construction material for the other mills along this stretch of the river. The “Art Gallery” is a collection of flour bags, some of which are from mills that no longer exist and are over 100 years old.
Tours of the Mill are available in the Spring and Summer and must be scheduled with the Mill tour guide at 937-767-5501. For more information and directions to the mill, see their website www.cliftonmill.com. For more information about Greene County and to request a free Visitors Guide contact Greene County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1221 Meadow Bridge Dr., Suite A, Beavercreek, OH 45434 or call 937-429-9100. You can also find specific information about sites in Greene County, Ohio on their website www.greenecountyohio.org.
The Lights of Historic Clifton Mill