October 04, 2006

Around The Green

Windmill Day is October 7 — rain or shine. This is the 200th year for the Hook Windmill, so called because it is in the section of East Hampton called "The Hook." The reason for this nickname has been lost in the mists of time. It possibly connects with Hook Pond, which is a short distance away. What does the word "hook" mean in medieval English? We need a lexographer to research this.

The Hook Mill was built by Nathaniel Dominy V in 1806. There are three windmills in East Hampton, two built by this Dominy and one by Samuel Schellinger. This was the new type of "smock" mill that was taking over from post mills, an engineering type that was popular throughout England and Western Europe. This new machinery meant that wind-powered energy could run two sets of grindstones that ground wheat into flour for baking and other goodies.

Schellinger built the mill called "Pantigo" Windmill, now behind Home Sweet Home Museum, in 1804. This has the new-fangled cast iron machinery to grind the wheat and corn. This was one of the first smock mills to use cast iron works. The owners of this mill could grind more wheat or corn, and thus gain more money. Mills were owned by a group of men who hired a miller to oversee the day-to-day operations of the business.

Mill foundations were loose stones that kept the wind blowing through the building. This kept any stagnant grain from becoming a moldy mess and destroying the ground grains.

Being set up on large stones made it easy to move the mill structure from place to place, which was apparently common, as seen from the history of the individual mills. The Pantigo Mill, built by Samuel Schellinger in 1804 has been moved several times. It is now at the rear of the Home Sweet Home Museum. The Gardiner Mill on James Lane, a Nathaniel Dominy mill, has not been moved.

The third mill in East Hampton is the Hook Mill, built in 1806 on its original site, an artificial mound at the end of Main Street, south of the cemetery with its picket fence. The Village of East Hampton owns three smock mills, two built by the famous Dominy family, of the chairs and tables, and one by Schellinger of Amagansett, as noted above.

The Dominys built a total of nine smock windmills between 1795 and 1811 in East Hampton, Southold and on Shelter Island and Gardiners Island. Samuel Schellinger also built nine mills with cast iron machinery.

The 1806 mill built by Nathaniel Dominy V replaced a post mill built about 1736. This was the type of wind and water mill built until the smock mill was developed. In a post mill the whole housing sits atop a post and revolved to catch the wind. In a smock mill only the cap revolves, moving the sails into the wind through other mechanisms. All these parts are made of wood. On eastern Long Island there are 11 windmills, the largest regional group of windmills still standing.

On the 200th anniversary of the Hook Mill on Saturday, "Windmill Day," Hook Mill will be open with guides inside. At 3 p.m., there will be a guided tour of the Pantigo and Gardiner mills (both on James Lane). Hugh King says please park at Home Sweet Home, 14 James Lane, for this tour.

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