New England Windmill Tour
April 5th - 9th, 2008
  • Objectives
  • 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.

  • Washington and His Generals at Yorktown
  • 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 Corwith Windmill - Water Mill, Long Island, New York
  • 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 - Bridgehampton, Long Island, New York
  • 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.

  • The Pantigo Windmill - East Hampton, Long Island, New York
  • 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 1978-1979.

    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.

  • Gardiner's Windmill - East Hampton, Long Island, New York
  • 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 Hook Windmill - East Hampton, Long Island, New York
  • 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.

  • The Jamestown Windmill - Jamestown, Rhode Island
  • 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.

  • The Boyd Windmill - Paradise, Rhode Island
  • 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.

  • The Sandwich Windmill - Cape Cod, Massachussetts
  • 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 Eastham Windmill - Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  • 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.

    For additional information, please contact Walt Akers.