William Cullen Bryant’s Cedarmere Mill wheel turning once again

William Cullen Bryant’s Cedarmere Mill wheel turning once again
The Cedarmere Mill, located in Roslyn Harbor, has a newly restored water wheel which will ring the restoration project to near completion. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Powell)

The Cedarmere Mill, a historic landmark in Roslyn Harbor built for notable poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant, added a new water wheel that signals the near end of its restoration project.

The gothic-revival-style Cedarmere Mill was constructed in 1862, serving as a mill and summer cottage for Bryant. The mill worked to power the machinery used to maintain Bryant’s land.

President of The Friends of Cedarmere Thomas Powell said Bryant was integral in “creating American culture,” and that his history in Roslyn should be preserved.

“He was an important figure,” Powell said.

The newly restored water wheel. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Powell)

The water wheel is made from white oak, which is authentic to the original mill. Powell said the material is the most resistant to rot from being constantly wet.

Powell said the original water wheel is “long gone,” which was replaced in the 1880s with a turbine. That turbine was recovered and will be on display.

But before the wheel could be restored, the rest of the mill had to be finished to support it.

“So all this work on the structure had to be done before the wheel,” Powell said.

The exterior of the mill was the first element restored for the mill, which features “intense ornamentation” akin to the gothic revival style of the original mill, Powell said.

The restoration of the exterior was conducted between 2008-2012 and was aided by funding from the Gerry Charitable Trust. This first step in restoration was managed by the Roslyn Landmark Society.

Powell said the Roslyn Landmark Society was instrumental in assisting to get the restoration nearly complete, helping to end a 10-year hiatus on the project. Howard Kroplick, co-president of the landmark society, said he considers the Friends of Cedarmere a sister organization.

Powell said work was halted in 2013. Work resumed about seven years later in 2020, led by The Friends of Cedarmere. This phase began with restoring the stone foundation.

“The mortar comes out of the bricks, it just turns to powder and sand,” Powell said. “Inside, that was very noticeable.”

He said the pandemic slowed things down in 2020.

“But we kept going,” Powell said.

He said the foundation was put back together with the proper mortar, which is “old- fashioned” and does not harden as much as modern mortar.

“But you have to use it on a historic structure because otherwise the two don’t go together, old bricks and the new mortar,” Powell said.

He said the entire interior of the mill also had to be restored, with the wood deteriorating and elements crumbling.

Today the mill is nearly restored in its entirety. The final project of restoration will be connecting the original machinery to the water wheel, like a water pump and a grindstone, which is fueled by the energy the wheel generates.

Once the machinery is connected, Powell said they will finally be able to have displays in the mill for viewers to learn about its history.

The Cedarmere estate in Roslyn Harbor. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Powell)

Powell said restoration of the machinery elements will begin in early November.

The restoration cost approximately $400,000, Powell said, of which $300,000 was contributed via grants.

The restoration was made possible through grants, Powell said, with donors including the Gardener Foundation and the Nassau County Parks Department.

Individuals can see the wheel in action at the Plein Air Art Contest held at the Cedarmere estate from Oct. 7-9. The contest will feature original artwork created at the Cedarmere grounds. Tickets for the event can be purchased online.

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