Tuesday, August 13, 2013

WINDMILLS | Beebe Mill, Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Back entrance, the Beebe Windmill.
Built in 1820, it's one of the most
advanced mills on Long Island.
Bridgehampton, admission
 free. All photos by JTMarlin.
Alice and I visited the Beebe Windmill Saturday, August 3, 2013. It is a smock mill in Bridgehampton.

I have a special interest in windmills because my mother, Hilda van Stockum, wrote a book about the life and language of windmills in Holland during the Nazi Occupation in World War II – The Winged Watchman.

The book was optioned more than once for a movie and I got used to scouting possible locations for a movie or television miniseries based on the book. I visited sites in Holland. The Beebe Windmill may be the best single site in the United States.

So I was enthralled by our visit. Alice Tepper Marlin has had no particular partiality for windmills, although she loves Holland, also loved it. You can visit the windmill yourself. Admission is free!

The Beebe Windmill is owned by the Town of Southampton. It is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places as well as being a Town designated landmark. It is located at the John E. Berwind Village Green, on the southeast corner of Ocean Road and Hildreth Avenue, in Bridgehampton. Call (631) 537-1088 for more information.

The Beebe Windmill.

New York State is the state most blessed with windmills in the nation because of its Dutch period and the migration of English farmers who had learned much from the Dutch. I have been told that East Hampton Village has the most municipally owned windmills in the nation (three of them).

History of the Windmill

The Beebe windmill is probably the most important 
one on Long Island. 

The smaller one now in Water Mill was built earlier, in 1800. It has the more traditional pole to turn the dome of the mill and the mill wings, into the wind. Like the Beebe Windmill, it was moved from Sag Harbor.

Front entrance of the Beebe Windmill. 
It has three doors on the ground floor,
 to be sure at least one of them is not 
dangerous to exit from when the 
wings of the mill are turning.
The Beebe windmill was built in 1820 on the north shore of the South Fork, in Sag Harbor, for Captain Lester Beebe, a retired whaling captain and onetime shipbuilder; he hired woodworker Pardon Tabor and Amagansett millwright Samuel Schellinger, to build it.

When Beebe died, Rose Gelston and  Judge Abraham Topping Rose purchased it and moved it to Bridgehampton where it worked for more than 50 years and has remained, though it has been moved within the village.

In 1882, for example, James Sanford bought it and moved it south of the railroad track, installing a steam engine as auxiliary power and hiring millwright Nathaniel Dominy in 1888 to repair it.

The mill was moved again in 1899 after purchase by Oliver Osborne, this time to the north side of the railroad. He sold it a year later to the Bridgehampton Milling Company.

Unique Features of the Beebe Windmill

Working parts of the windmill.
In an issue of Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) the mill is described as:
- One of the first Long Island windmills to have a fly, regulators, and cast iron gears and the only one with its original versions of these innovations.
- The only Long Island windmill to have a "decorative" design - as exemplified by the rounded mill cap.
- The only surviving Long Island windmill that compares with English windmills of the period. 
The windmill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The restoration was supported in
part by the NY State Parks & 
Recreation Dept. 
The Beebe windmill is technically described as:
A four-story smock mill with an ogee cap winded by a fantail. Four common sails are carried on a wooden windshaft, as is the wooden clasp arm brake wheel. This drives a cast iron wallower carried at the top of the upright shaft. At its lower end the cast iron great spur wheel drives two pairs of millstones.
Windmills were vital to the colonists who used the wind-powered devices to grind mill, saw wood, pump water and do other vital tasks.

Restoration of the Mill 2007-2008

Work on restoring the Beebe Windmill has been under way since Southampton Town designated it as an historic structure in 2005 and two years later picked Richard Baxter to do the work.
The mechanism on the top of the 
Beebe Windmill obviates the need
for a pole to move the cap into the
wind. It was state of the art in 1820.

The restoration took more than a year. Replacement parts were reproduced at a woodworking shop in Eastport, NY. The work is complicated because the interior parts combines steel and wood, as was the latest technology in 1820. Baxter was a 13th generation direct descendant of one of the original families to settle Southampton. They came ashore at Conscience Point in 1640.

Memorabilia relating to the
Beebe Windmill.
Baxter began his career as a carpenter in Amagansett in 1970. He learned how to make the old tools that created the old buildings. He created his own home from a 1850s post-and-beam hay barn relocated from Vermont to Amagansett 18 years ago. The Beebe Windmill is Baxter’s third local windmill restoration project, following:
  • The Gardiner Windmill in 1996, just south of Town Pond at the gateway to East Hampton Village, where it sits near the historic Mulford House built in 1680. 
  • The Hook Mill a few years later, at the corner of Pantigo Road, attesting to the central role of windmills in the early South Fork villages, allowing villagers to grind their grain and saw their wood. Windmills also functioned as a social center where settlers exchanged information while waiting for their grain to be ground into a flour or meal. 
When the main shaft turns too fast,
these flyweights slow it down.
The Beebe Windmill is one of 11 windmills on the eastern end of Long Island, built between 1795 and 1820.

The last local windmill to be built and put into use on the East End, the Beebe Windmill was the tallest structure in Sag Harbor when completed, making it a landmark for the ships at sea and a look-out for villagers watching returning boats. The miller flew a flag from the top of the windmill when a ship was spotted on its way into the harbor. Hence the local expression, "Flag on the Mill, Ship in the Bay".
Our tour group walk gingerly around.

Our guide in the blue-checked shirt describes how the mill-
stones work when the windmill wings are turning.
In 1900, the mill - which was on the north side of the railroad tracks - was bought by the Bridgehampton Milling Company.

In 1915 the mill was purchased by John E. Berwind, co-founder of Berwind-White coal company and a summer resident of Bridgehampton. Berwind established the Community House in the Village of Bridgehampton and other local institution. (The Berwinds were to Bridgehampton what the Woodhouses were to East Hampton.) His widow Katherine Murray Wood Berwind in her will left the windmill and the two acres of property on which it stands to the Town of Southampton.

The Beebe Windmill Today

Our guide shows how the turning wings
rotate a shaft that can be used to bring
up buckets of wheat to be milled.
The Beebe Windmill is now owned by Southampton Town and is operated by its parks department. It is located on two acres of land deeded to the Town by John Berwind's widow in memory of her late husband. In the Town ordered more than $354,000 worth of lumber to restore the windmill. Baxter's job was to recreate the damaged sails, replace rotted main beams and reconstruct the fantail. Exterior shingles were also replaced.

A scaled down replica of the Beebe Windmill, at the foot of Main Street and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, is home to the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce during the summer months.
Guide warns us that only a few can go
 to the top floor at a time. 

Aurichio, Andrea. "The Venerable Beebe Windmill To Turn Heads Once More." 2008.

Note the combination of iron and wood in
 these photos. The cogs are iron.
Hefner, Robert J. and Gregory B. Paxton, and Kevin Murphy (April, 1984). "Beebe Windmill", HAER NY-67. Historic American Engineering Record program of the U.S.National Park Service.

Pulling, Anne Frances, and Gerald A. Leeds (1999). Windmills and Water Mills of Long Island. Charleston, SC: Arcadia. pp. 54-56. ISBN 0-7385-0288-X.

Smith, Raymond W.  (September 1978). National Register of Historic Places Registration: Beebe Windmill. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.


Library of Congress Photos

Town of Southampton Document Center