Since the early 1960s, according to lifelong Sag Harbor resident and former village mayor John Ward, an homage to the Beebe Windmill — which is now located in Bridgehampton, but was once in Sag Harbor — has stood at the face of Long Wharf, overlooking Main and Bay streets, as well as the bridge to North Haven, a beach and harbor filled with bobbing sailboats behind it.
The windmill, designed originally to serve as an office for the Old Whalers’ Festival gives visitors a place to seek information about the village from a booth run by the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, but also provides a glimpse into Sag Harbor’s past, when a flag on the Beebe Windmill, then located on Palmer Terrace, the highest elevation in the Village of Sag Harbor, would signal a whaleboat had arrived in the harbor.
Close to 8,000 visitors stopped by the windmill this summer, according to one of the directors of the chamber, Dede O’Connell, but as the windmill ages it is in dire need of window replacement, she added.
On a recent tour of the windmill, the interior smelled dank, with windows held in the structure by rotting wood, plastic placed on the exterior of the windows to prevent further damage from the rain.
“The problem is mainly the leakage,” said O’Connell. “The windows are about to fall in. Everything has to be covered with plastic because it gets so wet in there. The floor is starting to rot and the electric work is not up to par. At this point, we have had to take everything out of there.”
During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, October 12, Nada Barry, The Wharf Shop owner, member of the chamber and president of the Sag Harbor Youth Committee, asked the village, which owns the windmill, to intercede and begin making repairs before next summer.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the village would look into the matter, but wondered, given that the windmill was once owned by the chamber, if the body would be willing to donate any funding for the repairs.
Last week, O’Connell said it did not, but following the board of trustees meeting, Gilbride said he did reach out to her, and that the village will move forward with replacing two of the windows before the department of public works begins its focus on the fall leaf pick-up. The remainder of the window repairs will take place after the leaf pick-up is finished.
According to Gilbride, before labor, the project will cost between $1,500 and $1,800.
“I would like the Lions, who used the area to sell Christmas trees, and the Chamber to contribute, but this is a piece of our history and it was built by local people with a lot of the materials donated, and I can’t let personal thoughts get in the way,” said Gilbride last week.
He added that the windows would be replaced in-kind, with custom ordered replacements that mimic the historic character the original builders tried to capture in the design.
“We will fix this right, in honor of all those people who helped build it in the first place,” said Gilbride.
Builder and former village mayor, John Ward, with friend John Steinbeck, had a literal hand in the windmill’s construction. Built for the Old Whalers’ Festival in the early 1960s, Ward said its construction cost nothing.
“I had all free help,” he said. “I was a builder at the time and I had it all donated. You sure couldn’t find that today.”
Ward said he copied the design of the windmill in Water Mill, but wanted it placed on Long Wharf in homage to the Beebe Windmill.
“It was part of the whaling days, part of our history,” said Ward. “That is what we are selling here, history.”