Whenever I see a windmill, “Man of La Mancha” pops into my head, and I imagine myself as Don Quixote astride a gallant steed. Never the damsel in distress, I instead rush, steadfast, into the sunset to battle a dragon, only to run my imaginary lance into the windmill’s base. Okay. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Though I can’t help but think of this when I happen upon the stunning Pantigo Mill.
An old-fashioned English windmill, Pantigo has been moved around Long Island since its construction in 1804, and now rests on the grounds of the Home Sweet Home Museum in East Hampton, NY. Repairs were made to the mill, and the grinders can turn, though it no longer operates. Home Sweet Home offers a quiet look into East Hampton’s history, focusing on the home’s original occupant, John Howard Payne, who wrote the song for which the museum is named. You can listen to the music here.
Although we show up just before closing time, the museum curator is happy to walk us through the site and give us a guided tour of the mill. He demonstrates the grain lifts and the turning of the mill while we watch in awe at the power of the large stone grinders overhead. If you’ve never been inside a windmill, you’re truly missing out on a fascinating moment in history. I can still smell grain in the gears and hear the creaking backs of men who worked long hours at the grind.
The curator gives us directions to other mills across the east end and recommends a wonderful history book, Windmills and Water Mills of Long Island, by Sr. Anne Frances Pulling and Gerald A. Leeds. He is kind enough to copy the cover, while orating a brief history of the mills. I purchase a small paper replica of the Old Hook Mill, which will rest on top of my bookshelf. The blades even turn on a sewing pin.
We walk up the road about three minutes and take in the natural beauty of the Gardiner Mill, also built in 1804. The mill towers close to the roadside, fenced in by plain planks. Gardiner Mill is maintained by the village and tours are provided by appointment. The serene pasture behind conjures a glimpse into the past, before paved roads and convenience stores populated the town.
The Old Hook Mill stands just outside of the town center, and in front of the oldest cemetery in East Hampton. Some graves date back to the 1600s. A monument to fallen soldiers rests alone outside the cemetery walls, and can be seen in the photo below at the lower right. Originally built in 1806, The Old Hook Mill is fully restored and operational. Though its sails only turn once a year, the mill is open to the public during the summer months.
Not far from these mills we find the James Corwith Grist Mill, in Water Mill, NY. Built in 1800, the grist mill now stands in the heart of town to the right of several old grist stones converted into war monuments for fallen locals.
To learn more about the history of these and other mills across Long Island, check out the article “Against the Wind” on the History Channel Club Website.
Or course, our trip isn’t over here. For what is a tale of windmills without a sword fight? On the back roads of southern Long Island, we find just that. The Castle, built by Theophilus Brouwer circa the early 1900s, was the site of his pottery studio. The grounds display his sculptures, ranging from horses to a fairy to a gilded lion. But what catches our attention are the guardians at the entrance.
Beneath the massive stretch of swords, you can view The Castle’s walkway, now a paved path to the high walls. Tim sets the ground rules for a duel before we proceed.
Brouwer’s Castle is in need of repair, the walls and statues crumbling from weather and time, but the view is still beautiful to behold.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the structure itself is the massive blue door. Its curves and wide wood planks are reminiscent of an age where lavish attention to detail was the norm.
Brouwer designed many works throughout his life, including a monument commemorating those who fought during World War I. The statue is located in Moriches, NY. The center medallion lists the names of local soldiers and nurses who died during the war.
As our journey comes to a close for the day, we find a slain dragon — er, windmill with its blades removed — on the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University. The converted mill was built in the early 1700s and can be viewed from the exterior only. Don Quixote might pity the wingless creature, as this historical building now looks more like a home than a mill, though it reminds us of the rich history which can be found around every corner.
Have you ever battled a dragon, or a windmill? Where has your latest journey taken you?
Know of another relic nearby? Contact us and tell us where to go next.