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Lassiter Mill Park
Hear the water pound. Breathe in the clean air. Stop and spend a moment in this slice of outdoor heaven.
By Carla Turchetti
Photos by Gary Moe
Tucked away in a tiny corner of Midtown, near Aldert Root Elementary School, where Lassiter Mill Road meets Lassiter Falls Circle, is the historic Lassiter Mill Park. It’s a city of Raleigh park that has become part of the greenway system and celebrates a chapter of Wake County history.
The centerpiece of the park is a dramatic waterfall that is unexpected in the middle of an Inside the Beltline neighborhood. It’s a dam that was once known as the “Great Falls of Crabtree”, and it’s where the Crabtree Creek spills next to what was once the old Lassiter Mill.
The Lassiter Mill was in operation as early as the 1700s, when John Giles Thomas owned it. Raleigh’s Isaac Hunter of tavern fame was also an owner. Several versions of mills on the property were destroyed by fire along the way. In 1908, Cornelius Jesse Lassiter bought this property and built a grist mill for wheat and corn. He eventually expanded into running a lumber mill and a cotton gin, and like so many other grist mills at the time, the mill became a watering hole full of summer fun that included swimming, diving and picnicking. Lassiter Mill was just one of the mills that could be found across Wake County. Think of other roads you know like Edwards Mill, Yates Mill and Ligon Mill. All have their roots beside working grist mills.
The old grist mills were located near a natural body of water that was propelled into a waterwheel to provide power to rotate the giant millstones that crushed the grains. That was the case with the Lassiter Mill and Crabtree Creek.
A 1959 fire destroyed the Lassiter Mill, but the family held onto the property for decades. Homes now dot the perimeter of the old mill site, but it is still a place for water fun. Fishermen cast their lines here. There’s a spot to lower a canoe into the water. There are picnic tables to enjoy a lunch or a snack.
But you are also just as likely to find photo shoots happening at this pristine nature point. Engaged couples wrapping their arms around each other and smiling. High school seniors praying for a good hair day even in the mist of the falls spraying water all around them. And small children gazing up at their parents and the majesty of the falls with wonder in their eyes and the urge to leap from the rocks.
Old Lassiter Mill Park is steps away from a vibrant Midtown community, but a world away in terms of its relaxing feel. Hear the water pound. Breathe in the clean air. Stop and spend a moment in this slice of outdoor heaven. And remember just for a moment what it was like in this neighborhood back when grist mills were king.