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Story - Education

Jun 18, 2009 10:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Stony Brook Southampton windmill receives $250,000 facelift

Jun 18, 2009 10:46 AM

A 300-year-old piece of history, one in which many famous guests have spent the night over the past century, sits atop a hill on the Stony Brook Southampton campus, overlooking Shinnecock Bay.

In its previous incarnations, the iconic structure has served as a working mill, a guesthouse that once accommodated playwright Tennessee Williams, and a meeting place for students and faculty at the former Southampton College during the 1960s. The interior of the building has been closed for decades after falling into disrepair.

But following the investment of $250,000, including $100,000 in the form of an anonymous grant, and months of renovations, the Stony Brook Southampton Windmill once again opened its doors—this time to students and faculty of the new college.

“It remains a treasure to be enjoyed by the entire Southampton community,” said Stony Brook University President Shirley Strum Kenny during Sunday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the windmill.

The windmill, which originally sat on what is now Hill Street in Southampton Village, was moved to its current location in 1890 to become part of what was then known as the Claflin estate. During that time, it served as a playhouse for the Claflins’ daughter Beatrice, according to “The College Windmill: An Affectionate History,” a booklet authored by Edward Glanz, the founding provost of Southampton College.

The property remained in the Claflin family until it was sold following World War II and was then run as the Tucker Mill Inn, catering primarily to summer visitors. Tennessee Williams rented the windmill one summer in the 1950s and, according to rumor, wrote several of his famous plays while staying there.

Long Island University purchased the property in 1963 and opened it as Southampton College. During the college’s early years, the windmill served as a meeting place for students and its top floor offered overnight accommodations to the school’s more prominent guests. The 82-acre campus was acquired by Stony Brook University and reopened as Stony Brook Southampton in fall 2007.

Following the extensive renovation, the windmill’s ground-floor room has been dedicated as the Glanz-Marmion room in honor of Mr. Glanz and Harry Marmion, a former president of Southampton College. Mr. Marmion also later served as president of Save the College at Southampton, a group that was dedicated to preserving the campus before it was acquired by Stony Brook.

The multipurpose meeting room will now be used by students and faculty, according to Ms. Kenny, who will be stepping down from her post at the end of the summer. She helped spearhead the university’s takeover of the Shinnecock Hills campus in 2006.

The interior of the windmill now features wood floors, two hearths and a working bathroom. The exterior has also been given a facelift and the windmill’s blades have been replaced.

“It looked completely different last fall,” said Darren Johnson, the media relations manager for Stony Brook Southampton.

About 100 people attended Sunday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, which marked the conclusion of the restoration work. Those in attendance included former Southampton College Provost U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton, and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor.

“This was a special place that changed my life,” said Mr. Thiele, who earned his undergraduate degree from Southampton College.

Mr. Bishop took a moment to thank all of those who have worked to help restore the windmill. “You have honored our traditions,” he said. “All of us appreciate that.”

Ms. Kenny also paid her respects to Louis Spero, the 60-year-old project manager who was killed on April 29 after his pickup truck was struck from behind on Sunrise Highway in Westhampton. Mr. Spero was traveling between the Stony Brook and Shinnecock Hills campuses at the time of the accident. The driver of the other car, 35-year-old Paul Nelson of Riverhead, was subsequently charged with driving while his ability was impaired by drugs.

“His untimely passing diminishes us all,” Ms. Kenny said of Mr. Spero.

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The college's windmill was for many years an important gathering spot for students, and the setting for numerous special events and celebrations. During my tenure as a student at Southampton in the late 70s, I remember going there for receptions and parties with college adminstrators. I wonder if the large, and rather odd-looking picture window is still there. The window provided great views of the bay and ocean, but looked wildly out of place on the structure.
By Doug Love (3), Huntington on Jun 19, 09 4:22 PM