Restoration completed on the 18th century tide mill at Lloyd Harbor

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

One of only 10 tide mills remaining in the entire country, 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 fittings, said Huntington Town historian Robert Hughes.

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

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

What there is to know

  • Catering on the historic site The Van Wyck-Lefferts tide mill in Lloyd Harbor is complete.
  • The dam restoration project started in January 2021 and ended in March 2021.
  • The building still retains its original wooden gears and fittings.

Tours are organized by the Huntington Historical Society:

The Van Wyck-Lefferts tide mill in Huntington on Monday.
Credit: Barry Sloan

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

Normally, watermills were powered by springs. A tide mill however uses the power of the tides to operate, so it is easier to calculate when the mill would be powered.

“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 tidal in-and-out water flow system. The innovation of an automated grinder was so cutting edge at the time that its creator, Oliver Evans, was granted 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, administrator of the Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary Inc. and member of Huntington Historical Societywhich offers tours of the facility.

Huntington Town historian Robert Hughes, right, and Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill sanctuary board member Toby Kissam at the Huntington Mill on Monday.

Kissam said the automation of the Van Wyck-Lefferts tide mill was remarkable, and not just for its ability to spin the millstones. He added that the mill also has auxiliary power shafts that automate other work on all three floors of the mill, including lifting, grinding, cleaning, drying and grain separation.

“Automation took a mill this size that could be run efficiently by six men and now two men could operate it,” Kissam said.

The plant operated for eight decades, Hughes said. At its peak in the mid-1800s, 4,000 bushels of wheat, 500 bushels of corn, and 300 bushels of animal feed were produced there, according to U.S. Census data.

After the death of the last miller in 1882, the pond, weir and mill building were purchased by a wealthy resident of Lloyd Harbour. It remained with his family until his granddaughter donated the site to the Virginia-based Nature Conservancy in 1968.

The Van Wyck-Lefferts tide mill in Huntington on Monday.
Credit: Barry Sloan

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

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