Grist Mill’s timber frame to be reconstructed with $500K grant

Grist Mill’s timber frame to be reconstructed with $500K grant
Construction on the historic Roslyn Grist Mill. (Photo courtesy of the Roslyn Landmark Society)

A $500,000 state grant secured by former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi will be used to restore the Roslyn Grist Mill’s Dutch timber frame, an integral part of the structure that has undergone renovations over the past few years.

Howard Kroplick, co-president of the Roslyn Landmark Society, said the building will be lowered to street level so that the timber can be reinstalled to its precious style. Steel beams currently in the building will be removed before the building is put on a new foundation, he said.

“This could not be done without the community getting involved and government officials supporting the project, so thank you so much,” he said. “It’s just wonderful.”

A rare surviving Dutch framed watermill built between 1715 and 1741, the mill acted as Roslyn’s economic foundation for centuries. It was converted into a tea house and museum in 1920, remaining open for 54 years before it was closed and ownership was transferred to Nassau County for a future restoration. 

The National Register of Historic Places currently recognizes it as a historic site.

More than $1.6 million had been raised for the restoration of the Grist Mill as of August, Landmark Society officials said. The Roslyn Grist Mill Million Dollar Match Challenge was launched in December 2021 by Kroplick and his wife Rosalind.

By early 2023, these funds will help finish the first phase of the historic building’s repair. This phase includes fixing the building’s original timber beams from the 1700s onsite, putting the restored timber frame back in place and lowering the structure onto a new base.

The $1.64 million raised exceeded the intended target of $1.5 million. Grist Mill Executive Director Jennifer Lister said she was grateful for the overwhelming support.

“We’re especially thankful to the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, Gerry Charitable Trust and the Kroplick family,” she said. “[They] have answered the call to restore the mill and preserve an important piece of Long Island history.”

After over 40 years of planning and four years of fund-raising, restoration began in 2018, highlighted by the lifting of the building above street level on Jan. 23, 2020, in preparation for a new foundation.

In May the Landmark Society hosted a virtual presentation, “The Magic of the Old Mill,” which focused on the mill’s time as a tea house from 1920 to 1974. The program featured a film of rarely seen archival photography narrated by Carol Clarke and Ariel Morabito.

“The voices you’re going to hear belong to individuals who knew the tea house intimately during the 50 years that it operated as the Roslyn Mill Tea House,” said Morabito. “They reveal little-known details about the mill and about the tea house.”

People interviewed in the film included former tea house proprietor Alice Titus and Peter Lynch, a one-time Nassau County fire marshal. Born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they spoke about their ties and stories of the mill.

In one excerpt, Eda Hicks Seaman, a Roslyn resident, shared a story about the circus passing by.

“I was told that the circus was moving from New York to the eastern end of the island. When the elephants reached the mill dam, they very gingerly put their foot out and felt the structure and refused to go over [the road],” she said. “They knew it wouldn’t hold them and they had to go around the ponds.”

The Roslyn Landmark Society is a non-profit organization that was created in 1961. Their mission is to educate people about the history of Roslyn and its surroundings.

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