Positive future seen for Saddle Rock Grist Mill

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A historical postcard and a photo of the Saddle Rock Grist Mill from afar. (Photos courtesy of Alice Kasten)
A historical postcard and a photo of the Saddle Rock Grist Mill from afar. (Photos courtesy of Alice Kasten)

As Alice Kasten, the president of the Great Neck Historical Society, prepares to move to Connecticut to be closer to family, she’s also readying a parting gift: matching up to $5,000 for the Saddle Rock Grist Mill, which could soon see some restoration.

“I think that the grist mill is our most important landmark in Great Neck,” Kasten said on Monday. “It has been standing since the late 1600s and it played a really vital part in the commerce of Great Neck.”

“I just hope it spurs people to contribute,” Kasten also said.

The matching grant donation drive comes at a time where the Nassau County-owned Saddle Rock Grist Mill, whose wheel needs to be rebuilt and floorboards are upended, may be seeing a turnaround.

Kasten said that the Grist Mill had once been the subject of renovations. It has been closed for at least 10 years though and it seemed that “money dried out for those kinds of purposes” because of “hard economic times,” Kasten said.

Now Nassau County has grant money allocated for making some repairs to the gristmill, Kasten said. The historical society is also “in the process” of filling out paperwork with the county to become its official partner when it comes to utilizing the gristmill, she said.

The Saddle Rock Grist Mill has seen better days – but may soon be the subject of some repairs. (Photos courtesy of the Great Neck Historical Society and Legislator Ellen Birnbaum's office)
The Saddle Rock Grist Mill has seen better days – but may soon be the subject of some repairs. (Photos courtesy of the Great Neck Historical Society and Legislator Ellen Birnbaum’s office)

Nassau County plans to borrow $1 million in fiscal 2020, according to the county’s 2019-2022 capital plan approved in October, which would be on top of $395,000 in “non-county funds.”

This would go toward repairing the foundation, southwest corner of the front wall, and restoring the waterwheel, bearing blocks, and gearing to “return the mill to operating condition,” the capital plan says.

“They do seem interested in the grist mill working and we have agreed that once they get it working, the historical society will provide the docents – the people who show people around museums,” Kasten said.

Kasten is matching what other people give up to $5,000 total. Only donations received before March 7 will count toward that.

Checks should be marked for the mill to Great Neck Historical Society PO Box 234483 Great Neck, NY 11023. It is also recommended to email greatneckhistorical@gmail.com to let the group know to expect a donation, which is tax deductible.

Saddle Rock Elementary School also seems interested in supporting the mill, Kasten said, much like John F. Kennedy School does with the Steppingstone Lighthouse off the tip of Kings Point.

Saddle Rock Assistant Principal Sarah Goldberg said school administrators first met with Kasten and Jay Mancus, the historical society’s vice president, in July to discuss “the situation the mill is in” and raised the idea of raising awareness and potentially getting the students involved.

“The big vision is to raise awareness to the students and hopefully then it will get their parents and community members to be wondering what’s going on with this gristmill and how they can help,” Goldberg said.

Now, fourth graders will be taking on grist mill-related projects in persuasive writing, where they would try to convince people to save the grist mill, and another would be in informative writing, where they teach people about it, Goldberg said.

There are also plans for students to “work collectively” to create working grist mill models, posters and jars, Goldberg said, as well as visit the Saddle Rock Grist Mill in May.

“I think it’s wonderful for students to have history right in their backyard and there’s so many instructional components we can incorporate with the projects,” Goldberg said.

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