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Funding for Grist Mill, Cedarmere Restoration

Grist Mill Project May Begin By Early Summer

Funding for renovation on the building that has been called the “touchstone of Roslyn” has been secured through a combination of public and private funds.

The funding plans not only for the Robeson Grist Mill on Old Northern Boulevard, but also Cedarmere and the Jerusha Dewey house on the Bryant Preserve were announced in a Tuesday, Oct. 13 press conference at the Grist Mill.

Numerous dignitaries were in attendance for the announcement, including Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, State Senator Craig Johnson, Town of North Hempstead Councilman Wayne Wink, plus John Durkin, the mayor of the Village of Roslyn, and Yvette Edidin, mayor of the Village of Roslyn Harbor.

“Revitalization of downtowns is essential to any village,” said Mayor Durkin at the event, which was attended by about 50 people enjoying the sunny day. “I am excited about the development of the Grist Mill. This will help to restore downtown Roslyn to the thriving area it was 20 years ago.”

Mayor Edidin praised the beauty of the 5-acre land where Cedarmere stands, while urging more people to visit and also urging the county and the private sector to do more to renovate the area.

In all, up to $2.2 million will be available in renovating the Grist Mill, in partnership with the Roslyn Landmark Society and with some funding from the Gerry Trust of Roslyn. The funding breakdown, according to county officials, is as follows: Nassau County, $1.5 million, with $1.25 million from the capital budget and another $250,000 from the Environmental Bond Act. The Gerry Trust will contribute up to $700,000, including $200,000 for design.

The work, county officials said, will involve raising the building to street level, restoring the exterior, which will apparently involve taking the building apart piece-by-piece.

The rehabilitation project on Cedarmere will involve the exterior of the main house and the mill that sits by the pond. In addition, Nassau County and the Roslyn Landmark Society will embark on a renovation of the Jerusha Dewey house on the Bryant Preserve, which also houses the Nassau County Museum of Art.

In addition, Nassau County and Gerry Trust will be committing up to $1.5 million to these efforts, split about half and half, with county funding, officials said, coming from a mix of capital budget and hotel-motel tax.

Cedarmere was the home of William Cullen Bryant, the famed poet and New York Evening Post editor, who lived on those grounds from 1843 to 1878. Dewey was a longtime friend of Bryant’s. Up to $700,000 will be spent to renovate the exterior of Cedarmere, a project that will include cleaning the roofs, doors, and gutters, plus work on the mill that sits by the pond near the house. Up to $850,000 is earmarked for the Dewey House. For the renovation of these two houses, around $450,000 of the $1.5 million will come from Nassau County.

According to Nassau County officials, the design plan for the Grist Mill is complete and the contract bids for the project are expected to be extended over the next four to six months. Construction work may begin by early summer.

Work on the Cedarmere mill can begin as early as the spring or summer of 2010, county officials added. In addition, work on the Bryant house at Cedarmere could begin in the late summer of next year. The Gerry Trust of the Roslyn Landmark Society is funding renovation work on the Dewey cottage. That project is also in the design phase.  

In addition to Mayors Durkin and Edidin, other brief talks were given on the big day. Senator Johnson announced a New York State grant of $50,000 toward the projects. Senator Johnson added that he is trying to secure even more funds. Indeed, County Executive Suozzi acknowledged that the entire project would still need more money for completion.

Several of the talks by Roslyn Historical Society and Roslyn Landmark Society members touched on the history of the buildings and the arduous effort to secure the funding.

Bob McKie hailed the Grist Mill as the “touchstone of Roslyn,” noting that the “beginning of Roslyn all started here.”

Franklin Perrell called the announcement a “day for celebration, a day for joy,” adding that it represented a “momentous occasion for our relationship with Nassau County,” while hailing the “fabulous partnership” between the county and the private sector.

George Williams gave a particularly moving talk, recalling that the entire project began in 1994. The late Roger Gerry, a longtime leader in renovation projects that have brought nationwide fame to Roslyn, was Williams’s partner in Grist Mill renovation plans.  

Williams also told the story of Hendrik Onderdonck, the proprietor of the Grist Mill during the late 1700s. Onderdonck’s son was a colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War who was also involved in espionage work. The Onderdonck’s entertained George Washington when the latter made his triumphant tour of Long Island following the successful conclusion of that war.

“Roger Gerry would be very, very proud,” Williams said of the day’s events.