Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tulips and Windmills

A steady drizzle has reduced the size of the snow mounds, revealing the tips of tulips.  Another harbinger of spring, the application for the Guild Hall Member Show came in the mail this week, prompting a visit to the Guild Hall web site. I was struck again by the beauty of Thomas Moran's painting Midsummer Day, East Hampton, which features a windmill on the horizon.
A Midsummer Day, East Hampton
Thomas Moran, 1903
Oil on canvas board, 13 1/3" x 19 1/2"
Guild Hall permanent collection
The Hook Mill, built in 1806, is an East Hampton landmark much like the Empire State Building in NYC or Eiffel Tower in Paris. You see it, admire it, but don't really think about it much. New York State has the largest number of traditional windmills in America, with 11 of them in the Hamptons. Built between 1795 and 1820, they commemorate a long gone age and are a reminder of our beginning as New Amsterdam.
Hook Mill, photo from here
Gardiner's Mill, East Hampton, 1933
Samuel H. Gottscho photographer, photo from here
The mill not only functioned as a place for farmers to bring their grain to be ground into flour, but was also a place for the members of the community to meet and catch up on the local news. Later on, artists where inspired by the their graceful skirted design
Windmill at Sundown, East Hampton
Childe Hasssam 1898
Oil on canvas, 29" x 22 1/4"
Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia
Windmill at Sundown, East Hampton portrays the Hook Mill. Hassam painted it in 1898, the year of his first visit to the Hamptons. In 1919, Hassam purchased a home in East Hampton and began spending May through October in the country. (references here and here) He painted the Hayground Mill in a later work, Bending Sail on the Old Mill.
Bending Sail on the Old Mill
Childe Hassam, 1920
24" x 30"
private collection
The windmills were part of the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey and the Historic American Engineering Record. You can find old photos and architectural drawings here.  The engraving Grist Mills at East Hampton depicts the Hook Mill and the Pantigo Mill when they were both located near each other. Many of the mills have been moved. Some more than once.
Grist Windmills at East Hampton
published by D. Appleton and Co. NY
wood engraving, c.1870
Image from here
Hook Mill drawing from the Library of Congress
The Discover Long Island web site  has a complete list of the Hampton's historic windmills. The windmill in Sag Harbor is not on this list. It was built in 1966 as the home for a tourism information booth. A 2012 editorial on the Sag Harbor windmill in Dan's papers gives a brief summary of its history here. Despite it's lack of a lengthy pedigree, Sag Harbor residents love their windmill. It was recently refurbished with new shingles. Something that I don't think would have been done if it was one of the antique models.
Sag Harbor Windmill
Pretty as a postcard, the Sag Harbor windmill also inspires local artists. Hugh began a painting of it over the holidays. He is allowing me to give you a preview, its not done yet!
Sag Harbor Windmill, Hugh Gallagher
beginning sketch, oil on canvas
The "Home Sweet Home" Museum is the current location of the Pantigo Windmill built in 1804, which was moved there in 1917.  The Museum is the home of John Howard Payne the lyricist of the song "Home Sweet Home". A version of the song here. The museum is across from the Town Green and near the Guild Hall museum as well as the soon to be renovated Thomas Moran home and studio.

Pantigo Mill photo from here
Google stalking the windmills of Long Island has gotten my curiosity piqued. A windmill pilgrimage may be in my future. A visit to the "Home Sweet Home" Museum is definitely something I must do. Perhaps painting en plain air when the trees are in bloom?
Home Sweet Home Cottage, East Hampton
Childe Hassam 1919

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating Gail! I had no idea that there were so many windmills in the US!

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