New England Windmill Tour||April 5th - 9th, 2008|
During the March 2008 meeting of the Yorktown Foundation, the Board determined that the
documents, plans and photgraphs that we had did not provide sufficient detail to properly
reconstruct the Yorktown Windmill. Fortunately, there are many of these old mills in the
northeastern United States and a review of them will provide many details about the
design and construction of these ancient machines.
As an additional benefit, while search the web we discovered that an early painting of the Yorktown Windmill was on display at the Museum of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. This would be the first stop on our trip.
Painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1784, 'Washington and His Generals at Yorktown' provides
one of the earliest representations of the Yorktown Windmill. The painting features George
Washington flanked by the Marquis de Lafayette on his right and the Comte de Rochambeau to his
immediate left. In the central background of the image, one can see the windmill standing on
the hilltop overlooking the York River. The windmill shown in the painting is a standard, three
floor smock mill with a four sail configuration.
the first windmill that we encoutered on the trip was the Corwith Windmill in Water Mill,
New York. This mill has been placed in a central park at the main crossroads of the town
and is meticulously maintained by the village. This mill was constructed in 1800 by
James Mitchel and purchased by the Corwith family in 1813. The mill continued to grind
corn until 1887.
The Corwith Windmill measures 29 feet 4-1/2 inches from the first floor to the apex of the cap, making it the shortest surviving windmill on Long Island. Likewise, at 23 feet 3/4 inches, the sails of this mill are the smallest of any found on an extant Long Island windmill.
The Beebe Windmill is a transitional mill and many of its features demonstrate the
beginning of the millwright's evolution from wooden engineering to iron and steel.
Located in a common's area in Bridgehampton, we discovered the Beebe Mill to be
under repair and renovation.
The fantail had been detached from the cap and most of the steel work was laid out for maintenance. A freshly hewn windshaft was available for inspection - a quick measurement found it to be 16 feet long and made from a single trunk of white oak.
A quick examination of several of the timbers that had been pulled from the mill showed evidence of a insect infestation. In the attached photos one can see that one of the beams has been nearly hollowed out by pests.
Samuel Schellinger began building the Pantigo Windmill on Mill Hill for
Huntting Miller in March 1804. The Mill Hill had been built up from a
natural rise in 1729 on the common at the south end of East Hampton.
Ownership changed over a period of years and the mill was moved to the
corner of Pantigo Road and Egypt Lane where it stood for 72 years until
1917 when Gustav Buek purchased the mill and moved it to his 17th Century
house, known as Home
Sweet Home. The village undertook extensive repairs to the mill in
Like many of it's counterparts, this mill does not have a full foundation. Instead, the mill sits atop cornerstones and relies on the weight of the mill and the stones to provide stability during storms.
Like the Beebe Mill, we found the Pantigo mill to be down for repairs.
A few months after the Pantigo Mill was built, a second mill was commenced
on the east side of Town Pond. This mill was built by Nathaniel Dominy V
for John Lyon Gardiner and several other sponsors. The mill was completed
on September 28, 1804 and cost 528 Pounds, about $1,300 which was more than
any other residence in East Hampton at the time. The mill continued to
operate until 1900.
The owners of a post mill at the north end of town commissioned Nathaniel Dominy V
to build a new smock mill with two pairs of millstones. The mill was built in 1806
and incorporated the main post of the 1736 Hook Mill. Nathaniel Dominy VII's "Register
of Wind, Weather & Doings" documented the mill as being surprisingly active from 1887
through 1908 when it ceased operation. The Village of East Hampton bought the mill
and the lot in 1922 and restored the mill to working order in 1939.
Notably, this was the first mill that we had the opportunity to tour. Although it was off season, Museum Director Hugh King gave us a personal tour of the mill and provided a comprehensive explanation of it's components and history.
Set on a quiet hilltop on Jamestown Island, the Jamestown Windmill was one of the first
mills that was reviewed by the Yorktown Foundation. Mrs. Rosemary Enright of the Jamestown
Historical society was gracious enough to walk us through the mill and describe the work
that had recently been completed to renovate it.
Still located on its original site, the Jamestown Windmill is as captivating as it is picturesque.
We stumbled upon the Boyd Windmill almost by accident. While spending the evening in
a Rhode Island hotel, we were thumbing through a list of local attractions when we
found this mill. One of only two left in existance, this eight armed windmill was
capable of grinding flour even in the most subtle winds.
The mill is tremendously tall and sits alone in a high field. Consequently, lighting rods have been attached to each of it's sails to reduce the likelihood of fires resulting from lightning strikes.
When we started our trip, we had not intended to travel as far north as Massachusetts.
However, when a planned trip to Slater's Mill in Rhode Island fell through, we decided
to use the time to our advantage.
The Old East Mill of Sandwich stands as one of the great historical structures at Heritage Plantation. Built in 1800 from the left over pine and oak wood from a church expansion, Sandwich Mill originally known as the Old East Mill, was constructed on the top of Snow’s Hill in Orleans. The mill continued to produce ground corn, barley and rye until 1893.
After several relocations and renovations, in the fall of 1968 Robert Hayden rebuilt the Old East Mill at its present location at Heritage Plantation. As part of the renovation a motor was installed to run the mill when there was no wind. During our visit we were fortunate enough to see the mill in action.
The last mill on our journey was the Eastham Mill on Cape Cod. While we had
only expected to view it from the outside, upon our arrival we found the mill's
caretaker who offered to take us for a tour of the inner workings.
In addition to being one of the local millers, Jim Owens has also worked as an art teacher and a commercial artists. Many of the drawings and animations on these pages are his work.