For the past several months, work to rehabilitate East Rockaway’s historic Grist Mill Museum has escalated.
Mayor Bruno Romano and the village’s board of trustees have worked with the Department of Public Works, the village’s Building Department and the clerk’s office to make sure the rehabilitation has run smoothly, said Kevin Conklin, the superintendent of the DPW. At the Sept. 12 meeting of the county legislature’s Rules Committee, a resolution was also passed to authorize an inter-municipal agreement between the Town of Hempstead and the Village of East Rockaway to complete the project.
Conklin said that since the spring, he has worked closely with village engineer Juan Garcia and local craftsman and historic building enthusiast Dan Warren to assess the structure and generate a plan for repairs. Conklin lauded Warren’s work, noting that he is known as the “Wood Doctor,” for his master craftsmanship while working with Nature’s Way Artistic Architecture.
“Dan brings a wealth of knowledge and skill,” Conklin said.
Warren, who joined the DPW’s maintenance staff, called it “a dream come true to work on this building that I used to play in as a kid.”
Built in 1688, Joseph Haviland was the Gristmill’s first owner, before Alexander Davidson purchased it in 1818. According to the Historical Society of East Rockaway and Lynbrook, Haviland built the mill to help create a shipping and trading center. The Village of East Rockaway acquired the mill in 1960, and soon after, it was restored and moved from Mill River to its current location in Memorial Park, at Woods and Atlantic avenues. Eventually, it became a museum. The site was destroyed by an arsonist in 1990, but has since been fully restored.
Aspects of the rehabilitation project that have been completed include the installation of a new roof and new fire alarm and security systems. Conklin said that there has been a strong emphasis on preserving the historic nature of the building, while making sure that the structure is sound.
Conklin said that exterior repairs, including wooden siding panels, door jambs, window sills, shutters and Yankee-style gutters will be implemented on an as-needed basis, and that work will include cleaning, scraping, pressure washing and repainting and staining the interior and exterior to keep its integrity. In addition, surrounding grounds and agricultural items will be replanted and there will be a refinishing of the hardware in the building.
Before repairs, all aspects of the project were photographed, Conklin said, to ensure that there are records of what it looked like before and what it will look like after the rehabilitation. Conklin noted that the project would also be in line with various codes and guidelines within the village and the Town of Hempstead.
Conklin did not disclose how much the project would cost, but Deputy Village Clerk Cindy Lark said the village has received funding through grants, from the county and by fundraising. Legislators Denise Ford and Howard Kopel also secured a $60,000 Community Revitalization Program grant, and Kopel had previously secured $10,000 for the project. In addition, the annual Huckleberry Frolic, held each June at Memorial Park, also raised money for the museum’s rehabilitation. There is no definitive timeline for the project’s completion.
Charlene Fried, who organizes the Frolic, emphasized how vital the renovations were. “It is important to our small community to keep its’ history ongoing for future generations,” she said. “It is an honor to be a part of this 50-year-old tradition. I am hoping our 2019 Frolic weekend is a well-supported, successful event that will aid the continuation of the necessary restoration.”