Restoration completed on 18th-century tide mill in Lloyd Harbor 

A yearlong $300,000 restoration project on an 18th century tide mill in Lloyd Harbor has been completed.

One of only 10 remaining tide mills nationwide, the Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill is considered one of the best preserved of its kind in the United States. The building, on Mill Cove, still retains its original wooden gears and equipment, Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes said.

“Over the years other mills would have updated their equipment but this one never was updated so that makes it unique in that we have this time capsule of an 18th century machine here in the town of Huntington,” said Hughes, who also is a trustee of the nonprofit Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary Inc., which owns the mill.

The project included restoring the dam, replacing beams and roof rafters, a new wooden roof to make it more historically accurate and replacing support for the gears.

What to know

  • Restoration on the historic Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill in Lloyd Harbor has been completed.
  • The dam restoration project started in January 2021 and was completed in March 2021.
  • The building still retains its original wooden gears and equipment.

Tours are conducted through the Huntington Historical Society: huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill in Huntington Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

The mill and dam were built in 1794 by the Van Wyck family to process corn and wheat into flour.

Normally, water-powered mills were operated by springs. A tide mill however uses the power of the tides to operate, so it's easier to calculate when the mill would have power. 

“It’s a much more reliable source of power,” Hughes said. “Every day you know you have tides.”

By damming the end of Mill Cove, a 14-acre pond was created setting the stage for a system for in and out water flow depending on the tides. The innovation of an automated mill was so state of the art at the time that its creator, Oliver Evans, was issued a patent for it.

It was the third U.S. patent ever issued, signed by George Washington, who had one of Evans' mills built on his own property, said Toby Kissam a trustee with the Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary Inc. and a member of the Huntington Historical Society, which offers tours of the facility.

Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes, right, and Toby Kissam, a member of the Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary board of directors, at the mill in Huntington Monday.

Kissam said the Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill's automation was remarkable, and not only for its power to turn the grind stones. He said the mill also had auxiliary power shafts that automated other work on the mill’s three floors, including lifting, grinding, cleaning, drying and separating grain.

“The automation took a mill of this size that could be run effectively by six men and now two men could run it,” Kissam said.

The mill was in operation for eight decades, Hughes said. In its heyday in the mid-1800s, 4,000 bushels of wheat, 500 bushels of corn, and 300 bushels of feed were produced there, according to U.S. census data.

After the last miller died in 1882, the millpond, dam and mill building were purchased by a wealthy Lloyd Harbor resident. It remained in his family until his granddaughter donated the site to the Virginia-based Nature Conservancy in 1968. 

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill in Huntington Monday.

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill in Huntington Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

In 2019, the Nature Conservancy transferred ownership to the Van Wyck Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary Inc.

The restorations were paid for with endowment money that came with the property when the foundation took title, as well as fundraising and a $97,137.50 grant from the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation.