Compass Mill

Aka Lititz Mill/Keller Mill

In 1742, Count Nicholas Louis von Zinzendorf, patron of the Moravian Church preached in the newly formed borough of Lancaster. In attendance was landowner John George Klein from Warwick Township.  Klein was so moved by Zinzendorf’s preaching that he joined the Moravian church asked that a minister be sent from Bethlehem to Warwick Township. The Moravians began to make plans for a settlement there. In 1754, George Klein deeded 491 acres to the Moravian church and plans for the village of Lititz were laid out in 1757. Also in that year, Klein purchased a small piece of land along Carter’s Run (later called Lititz Run) on which Johann Bender’s sons had built a small sawmill. Klein converted the sawmill to a grist mill and began operations in November of 1757.

Builtc1775
Structure2.5 Story Stone
Water SourceLititz Creek
TownshipWarwick
TypeGrist
Headrace700 feet
Tailrace900 feet
Dam Height6 feet
Power2 Turbines
Capacity25 bbl / day

On November 25, 1775, a fire broke out at the mill. Despite attempts to extinguish the blaze, the mill and sawmill were destroyed along with 1000 pounds of recently gathered grain. The Moravian Brethren rebuilt the mill in 1776 with the help of millwright Hans Christoph Christensen. Christensen put much effort into rebuilding the mill even though he was in ill health at the time. The mill was completed in December of 1776. Hans Christensen died soon after. When the new mill was built it was laid out by the cardinal points of the compass hence the name Compass Mill. Water from the Lititz Run was channeled to the mill through a 700-foot headrace. The mill was powered by two turbines and was able to produce 25 bushels of grain per day. A 900-foot tailrace returned the water to the creek.

Moravian ownership ended in 1790 when Philip Friedrich purchased the property.  Friedrich sold the mill to John Keller in 1804. It remained in the Keller family for three generations. S. E. Keller sold the property to Benjamin Ritter, Sr. in 1865. He passed the mill to his son, Benjamin Ritter. In 1883 it was the property of A. W. Shober. Benjamin Bitzer purchased the mill in c1886 and in 1899 it was M. B. Weitzel. The mill was purchased in 1905 by S. E. Bushong, in 1925 by W. Martin Hess who closed the mill in 1927.

The mill sat vacant until Sylvan Brandt bought the property in the early 1970s and renovated the mill and other buildings on the property. Brandt also added a 22-foot diameter internal water wheel that was powered by pumps that used public water to turn the wheel. The Compass mill was listed as a site of “outstanding significance” in Lancaster County heritage by the Lancaster County planning commission in 1972. The mill served as a home for various antiques dealers in the 1980s through 2005. In 2013, Andrew Keylor purchased the mill and was working on converting the second floor into a residence when he died unexpectedly in 2015. Andrew’s parents listed the mill for sale in 2017. In 2020, the mill and surrounding properties was owned by Compass Mill Complex, LLC, which plans to renovate the mill into offices and event space. The renovated mill is scheduled to open in 2022.

The mill is located at 817 Rothsville Road, Lititz, PA.