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Historic mill in Roslyn Harbor undergoes another round of restorations

The ornate Gothic Revival mill in Roslyn Harbor

The ornate Gothic Revival mill in Roslyn Harbor was built in 1862 for renowned poet and news editor William Cullen Bryant and is being restored with nearly $400,000 in grants. Credit: Barry Sloan

The nearly 160-year-old structure that stands on the former estate of renowned poet and news editor William Cullen Bryant will become a working mill again as restoration efforts continue.

"The Friends of Cedarmere has long wished to restore the mill as a functioning asset that would permit the public to be able to see the mill with a waterwheel," said John Dawson, president of the nonprofit.

The ornate Gothic Revival mill was built in 1862 for Bryant at his picturesque estate in Roslyn Harbor that overlooks Hempstead Harbor.

The building was used as a summer cottage and a mill to pump water and provide power for machinery. The mill stopped operation in the early 1900s and its main floor was converted into a sculpting studio around 1930 for Frances Bryant Godwin, the poet’s great-granddaughter, according to the book "William Cullen Bryant’s Cedarmere Estate," by Harrison and Linda Hunt.

Bryant died in 1878 and another great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Godwin, donated the property, including the mill, to the county in 1975.

The mill restoration that began last August follows an earlier phase of repair led by the Roslyn Landmark Society from 2008 to 2012. That restoration was funded by the Gerry Charitable Trust.

Tom Powell, Friends vice president who oversees the current restoration, estimated that the work to add the waterwheel and finish refurbishing the interior will be completed by the fall.

Visitors can expect to see a turning waterwheel powered by the water coming down from the nearby pond through a sluice, he said.

"Inside, we will have a viewing area that we are planning for demonstrations with the equipment and the machines that the mill will be operating," Powell said.

Restoration costs are covered by two grants: $147,000 from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation and $130,000 from Nassau County’s capital plan funding, Powell said.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said Cedarmere’s natural beauty and historical value make the 7-acre land well worth preserving.

"If anyone has ever driven past it, it’s really majestic. It looks like a watercolor from [French painter Claude] Monet," DeRiggi-Whitton said. "I think it’s so important to save these parts of history for future generations so everyone can appreciate how we got started and where we are."

Officials behind the restoration also are counting on a working mill to increase public interest when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror. The house museum is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the grounds are open to the public.

"I think it will be a focal point for visitors," Dawson said. "It will enhance the property a good deal, making it more well-visited."

County Executive Laura Curran said she believes that cultural institutions and historical sites like Cedarmere will help the county’s economic recovery.

"I see these sites, these kind of preserves, homes, mansions and museums, in general as really important to our recovery from COVID," Curran said. "When COVID is over, we want to draw more tourists, more people to come see these beautiful gems we have in the county."

​​​​​​BACK IN MOTION

  • William Cullen Bryant built the ornate Gothic Revival mill in 1862.
  • The mill was used to pump water and provide power for machinery. Its main floor was used as a summer cottage.
  • In the early 1900s, the mill ceased operation.
  • Around 1930, the mill’s main floor was converted into a sculpting studio for Frances Bryant Godwin, the poet’s great-granddaughter.

Source: “William Cullen Bryant’s Cedarmere Estate,” by Harrison and Linda Hunt

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