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Roslyn Grist Mill gets grant sparking restoration of historic site

Ann Tinder, executive director of the Roslyn Landmark

Ann Tinder, executive director of the Roslyn Landmark Society; society administrative associate Jennifer Lister; North Hempstead town historian Howard Kroplick; and society president Craig Westergard stand in front of the historic Roslyn Grist Mill on Jan. 17, 2016. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

The historic Roslyn Grist Mill is sagging and its vertical plank siding badly weathered. A tree has grown up through the eroded asphalt roof shingles.

And because Main Street has been built up over the years, the structure now squats forlornly, partially swallowed by earth.

But today, after four decades of false starts, plans for a full restoration seem to be coming together.

With grants from the state, county and a local foundation, the Roslyn Landmarks Society is preparing to seek bids for the first phase of the endeavor. That would be a $1.73 million project to raise the 315-year-old building to street level, stabilize it and restore the exterior.

“We really have a team that is dedicated to getting this done,” said Anne Tinder, the society’s executive director.

The key to getting restoration underway was a $500,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded in December to the Village of Roslyn. The required matching funds will come from a local foundation.

The landmarks group and village are working with Nassau County to obtain $250,000 from the county’s 2006 Environmental Protection Fund earmarked for the project.

“After 39 years of people saying it’s going to be restored, it’s do or die,” said Howard Kroplick, the North Hempstead town historian and member of the society’s 2-year-old gristmill committee. “But we’re pretty confident that will be able to reach out for grants and do fundraising” for the remaining funds needed to complete the first phase.

There will be a $125-a-head fundraiser Thursday at Trattoria Diane in Roslyn.

There is no schedule yet for the work on the building, also known as the Williams-Robeson Grist Mill. But Tinder said the state requires restoration to be completed within three years of the awarding of a grant. A request for proposals will soon be provided to get bids from contractors for lifting the building to street level and straightening and repairing water and insect damage to the 16 interior support beams, replacing the roof and other exterior work, society President Craig Westergard said. Interior restoration would be a second phase.

County and Roslyn officials are working on an agreement to transfer ownership of the mill to the village after the restoration, Kroplick said.

“Nassau County has worked in partnership with the Village and Roslyn Landmarks Society to identify funding sources for the restoration of the grist mill,” County Executive Edward Mangano said. “With $1.25 million in current funding, work can begin on Phase I to restore and preserve this historic site for generations to come.”

Westergard said the society has been working on the plans with the preservation architectural firm of John G. Waite Associates. Roslyn Landmarks will oversee the restoration and then operate and maintain the building under an agreement with the village.

The society envisions the building being used as a museum and community event space during warm weather. But “a group will be put together to best determine how to use the mill,” Tinder said. “A working mill is not likely” because most of the machinery has been lost.

The mill’s story begins with John Robeson receiving a charter from the Town of Hempstead, which then included what is now North Hempstead, in 1698 to establish a mill. He completed it in 1701 and sold it to Charles Mott in 1709. Jeremiah Williams purchased it in 1715. Hendrick Onderdonk became the owner in 1758 and made modifications. His family sold it in 1801 to Daniel Hoogland and Abraham Coles. They sold in 1849 to Joseph Hicks, whose family continued to operate it until 1916. Until 1975 the building was owned by a foundation and operated as a museum and teahouse.

The property was deeded to Nassau County in 1976. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. In 1988, a local committee was established to try to restore the mill and in 2009 the county announced a $2.2 million rehabilitation plan.

With none of the plans succeeding, a year ago the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities added the mill to its Endangered Historic Places registry.

“SPLIA is very encouraged by the excitement and energy from the Roslyn preservation community,” commented Jason Crowley, the organization’s preservation director and a member of the gristmill committee. “After decades of false starts, the Roslyn Landmarks Society, village, Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County have been working together to make the restoration of the gristmill the keystone for a downtown waterfront revitalization.”

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