Chelsea was formally established as a town in 1739, not long after this Grist Mill was constructed on the shores of the Chelsea Creek. The new town’s charter stated, “This mill must at all times hold itself in the readiness to grind corn for any citizen of Chelsea, provided that the corn is raised in Chelsea.” Powered by rising and falling tides, it was used to grind the corn grown in the area. During the American Revolution it stood witness to the Battle of Chelsea Creek, the first naval battle of the war, when farmers and other colonists took the British schooner Diana, which had run aground just outside the mill.
Chelsea was once made up of four farms, one of which was purchased by Henry Slade. Beginning in 1827 Henry Slade also began grinding tobacco at the mill to make snuff for sale. He was later joined by his sons who used the mill to grind spices, starting with cinnamon. At the time, cooks would purchase spices whole, grinding at home only what they needed for that recipe. Prepared ground spices proved to be a popular innovation.
By 1846 the site of the Mill was part of the newly established town of Revere and the Slade family owned the mill. Taking over their father Henry’s business, sons David and Levi launched D & L Slade Co. that became the largest spice company in New England for more than 100 years.
The company is best known today for Bell’s Seasoning, a blend of rosemary, ginger, oregano, sage, and marjoram used for poultry. When the owner of Bell’s Seasoning died suddenly in 1918, D & L Slade Co. bought Bell’s company, keeping the brand name and formula to market alongside their other products.
The mill carried on for two centuries exclusively using tidal power before installing an electric powered mechanism in 1932. The site continued to operate into the 1970s before finally ceasing operations. The site is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
After a period of dormancy, renovations to the structure in 2004 created the Slade’s Mill Apartments. A museum on the ground floor exhibits original machinery, photographs, and a spice cabinet with glass and metal Slade’s and Bell containers.