Thursday, July 29, 2010

Southampton Village Windmills

Above: The Old Mill House, Postcard Courtesy Eric Woodward Collection (Thanks Eric!!)

There are Windmills scattered all over the Hamptons. Actually, I think there are 11 remaining on Long Island, but have you ever noticed any in Southampton Village? Most have been “removed” now; relocated to other areas for others to admire. One remains down on Gin Lane (which is not on any windmill list), another is at the college, and another is now all the way out in Wainscott.

Above: Windmill at Southampton (Stony Brook) College

Historically windmills were bought and sold and moved around quite often. In addition to being very attractive machines, windmills provided a good living for millers and were a very necessary and practical part of live. They were gristmills, grinding grain into feed for animals and flour for people. When there was no wind some of them had engines to spin their domes around to do the grinding, and before that oxen would pull them around.

Familiar Southampton historian, William S. Pelletreau, write about the Wainscott Windmill in The Bridgehampton News on Oct. 30, 1915:

“This mill was originally built on the west side of Wind Mill Lane or the west street, of Southampton village, a little ways south of the North Sea Road. At this point there was an old fort built during the Revolution and on its site were erected three wind mills. One was blown down, another was burned down in 1812, and the wind mill now under consideration was built on the same site in 1813. The owners were Jeremiah Jagger and Obadiah Foster, and the cost was $304. As we were born in a house not very far distant, this mill is one of the recollections of our early childhood. The miller at that time was Obadiah Howell, well known as ‘Uncle Oby.’ About a quarter of a mile south of it, at the junction of Hill street and Windmill Lane, was another mill, standing on Mill Hill and for many years a very conspicuous feature of the landscape. This mill was owned by Capt. Barney R. Green in 1849, and he conceived the idea of purchasing the north mill and having it removed to Mill Hill by the side of the other and having one miller tend both. This was done about 1850. The miller was Richard Dunster. When the wind was regular, it was all well enough, but when the wind was ‘flawey’ or blew a gale it was amusing to see the miller running like a shuttle to and from each mill. It was soon found to be impracticable, and about 1852 Captain Green sold the mill to parties from Wainscott, and it was moved to that place.”

Above: Wainscott Windmill

Here’s a great link listing all 11 Long Island Windmills, their locations, and a little bit about them: There’s also a great book called “Windmills and Water Mills of Long Island,” part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Press. It would make for a great weekend of sightseeing. Many of them host tours.

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