Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Old Mill in Nantucket

The first sight Glen Weimer pointed out on the drive back to his place was the Old Mill, which is a historic windmill located at 50 Prospect Street in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Built in 1746, the mill is owned and operated by the Nantucket Historical Association as a museum. It is the only surviving mill of the four “smock mills” that once stood overlooking Nantucket town. There was a fifth Nantucket mill called “Round-Top Mill” on the site of the present New North Cemetery.

Smock mills have a fixed-body containing machinery, and a cap that turns to face the sails into the wind. The Old Mill was sold for twenty dollars in 1828 to Jared Gardner in deplorable condition for use as “firewood.” Instead of dismantling it, Gardner, a carpenter by trade, restored the mill to working condition capable of grinding corn. The mill was sold once again in 1866 to John Francis Sylvia, a Portuguese miller, who operated it for many years with his assistant Peter Hoy, until it fell into disuse in 1892. When the mill appeared on the auction block in 1897, the Nantucket Historical Association was able to secure the mill with a successful bid of $885. After multiple restorations, the mill is still in working order today, and believed to be the oldest functioning mill in the United States

Everything is within walking distance in Nantucket, so on my first day on my own, I walked to the Mill. I got to know Nantucket intimately as I walked place to place. Isolated on tan island the islanders are not in as much of a rush as the rest of the world. When the ferry arrives  from the mainland of Massachusetts, thousands of tourists flood onto the streets of Downtown Nantucket. The tourists are all in a rush to get settled and find the nearest beach. It is a flash of chaos that happens every day. I simply mention this because some of the cars roaring past me on my walks, were speeding to their destinations. If everyone took the time to walk where they were going, the island would be a much more peaceful place.

There was no cloth on the windmill's sails. Just the wooden framework was in place catching no wind. A huge pole behind the windmill was hooked up to a wagon wheel to turn the sails into the wind. I didn't think to check if the light breeze was coming from the right direction. I wondered how hard it would be to rotate the roof or cap into the wind. I imagined a team of horses and men pushing and pulling it into place. Then again, the roof might rotate freely with the right parts and lubrication. How cool would it be to build a tiny house from the plans of a Wind Mill and use the sails to help supply electricity? Of course a Florida hurricane could decimate the sails.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: