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Sep 28, 2011 1:34 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton's Hook Mill Returned To Its Base

Oct 4, 2011 5:25 PM

“All righty? Let’s do it. Comin’ down!” Guy Davis called out last Wednesday, September 28, as he prepared to release hydraulic jacks to ease Hook Mill back down onto its base.

“Hold it!” Richard Baxter said as he fine-tuned a post bottom with a mallet and chisel, a pencil tucked behind his ear. “I think we’re OK, guys. Ready, Paul?”

Paul Hamilton of Baxter Restoration was also crouched under the mill making last-minute adjustments.

You could hear the ancient wood creak as the 80-ton structure—including about 8 tons of supporting I-beams—prepared to descend. Workers had already removed some cribbing and were stacking 6-inch-by-6-inch beams. Tarps flapped around the mill tower like a rustling skirt.

Among a small crowd of spectators, some leaning against a split-rail fence, were Hugh King, the East Hampton Village historian, Barbara 
Borsack, an East Hampton 

Village Board member, and David Brown, a former Village Board member and clerk of the works for the East Hampton Town Hall renovation project.

“Hold it, Dick,” said Mr. Hamilton.

“You mean that stud?” Mr. Baxter said, grabbing a handsaw to adjust a post bottom. Robert Hefner, East Hampton Village’s historic preservation consultant, held it steady.

“All right, Dick?”

“I guess.”

“We’re down!” said Mr. Davis after releasing the jacks with a control panel in his construction truck as the posts’ tenons slid into mortises below.

“It needs a little time to set into place,” Mr. Davis said of the mill tower, which he had raised from its foundation about halfway into 2010. “To relax.”

Now that the mill was standing on its own, workers were unclamping steel beams and preparing to slide them out from below it.

Hook Mill was built in 1806 and is owned by East Hampton Village, which until recently has had to make few repairs to it. However, Mr. Hefner said, a couple of years ago the mill started leaning to the east because of damage to its foundation.

“The rot was occurring for a long time,” he said. “It got to a point where it went down very quickly on the east side … It got to a point and then it just gave up.” Floorboards started popping up inside, he said.

In the late spring of 2010, Mr. Davis, who specializes in moving buildings, lifted Hook Mill from its base, the first-floor frame was replaced, and Mr. Baxter started repairing eight corner posts, splicing new sections of oak onto their bottoms, which had rotted out. The restoration work is “very finely crafted,” Mr. Hefner said, using traditional methods like interlocking wood joints “very closely fitted” to compensate for wood shrinkage.

Not including materials, the project will cost about $200,000, which covers the services of both Mr. Davis and Mr. Baxter.

They did “an excellent job—it’s a lot of work,” Scott Fithian, who heads the East Hampton Village Public Works Department, said at the mill-lowering last week. He and his crew will take over most of the remaining work, which is substantial.

Mr. Hefner said they need to put the flooring back and sheath and shingle the mill, in addition to moving the machinery back in—the mill’s works have 
been in storage at the village highway barn, the Gardiner Mill and a garage on the Ladies Village Improvement Society grounds.

“There’s a lot to put back,” Mr. Hefner said. He added that Mr. Fithian’s crew might be called away from the mill to take care of other projects for the village.

“It would be nice to have it done by Christmas,” Ms. Borsack had said at Hook Mill last week.

The hope is that the windmill’s sails will be back in time to string them with holiday lights, but the village may have to resort to illuminating what Mr. King 
last week called “the baby windmill,” a replica at the foot of Hook Mill, while the work is finished up.

“There’s quite a lot to do,” Mr. Hefner said, but he added, “We’ll keep a positive outlook on it.”

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what a waste of money that could have been put to good use somewhere else!
By montaukgirl (2), east hampton on Sep 29, 11 11:30 AM
First off, it is a major landmark and an integral part of our local history that should be maintained (you know, "historic preservation?).
Second, it's the Village's money, that's only going to be spent in the village, so what do you care?
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Sep 30, 11 4:15 PM
Guy Davis "Davis Building Movers" the absolute best!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Oct 2, 11 9:15 AM