Tag Archive | "Gardiner’s Island"

A Long History of Wind Power in East Hampton

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Historic photo of the Hook Mill on North Main Street in East Hampton. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Historic photo of the Hook Mill on North Main Street in East Hampton. Courtesy Library of Congress.

By Tessa Raebeck

With the reemergence of wind power on the East End, the area has come full circle, harkening back to the days as early as 1650 when early settlers relied heavily on the wind to help grind their grain into flour.

“They started right at the beginning,” East Hampton Town’s historic preservation consultant Robert Hefner said of windmills in the town, which was one of the first English settlement in New York.

Watermills were not suitable for the region’s flat topography, so the windmill became the logical choice for energy. Although modern windmills—wind turbines—are used to generate electricity, windmills were originally developed for milling grain for food production, evolving to supply power for many additional industrial and agricultural needs until the early 20th century.

East Hampton’s colonial settlers came from an area of England that used windmill technology for grinding grains. Although most windmills in early East Hampton were used as gristmills, grinding wheat, corn and rye, there were also a handful of wind-powered sawmills in the town.

The inside of the Hook Mill in East Hampton. Courtesy Library of Congress.

The inside of the Hook Mill in East Hampton. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Mr. Hefner estimates there were some three windmills in the Village of East Hampton and two or so in Amagansett at any given time.

Gardiners Island, which was given as a gift to Lion Gardiner in 1639 by the Montaukett people, had its own windmill.

Out of 43 traditional windmills built in New York State, 33 were on the East End. Fourteen of those were in East Hampton. Sag Harbor has had two in its history.

The English-style windmills of the East End, which vary from the Dutch style used on the western part of Long Island, are smock mills. They use sails that are pitched so that when the wind strikes them, they turn. As the sails turn, they rotate what’s called a wind shaft, a giant wooden timber the sails are passed through.

Mounted on the wind shaft inside the cap of the mill is the brake wheel, a large wooden gear some 7 feet in diameter. That gear, in turn, rotates another gear, transferring the motion from a horizontal to a vertical direction down into the mill. In the center of the mill is an upright vertical shaft that turns and on top of that timber another gear is mounted, which, in the case of a gristmill, turns the millstone.

“The gears are calibrated so that…they don’t turn very fast,” Mr. Hefner said Tuesday. “But the gears are set out in such a way that the slow motion of the sails eventually produces a faster rotation of the millstone.”

A “very famous craftsman,” according to Mr. Hefner, Nathaniel Dominy built the Hook Mill in East Hampton in 1806 and the historic Gardiners Island Mill in 1795.

Samuel Schellinger of the Amagansett Schellingers, a family that has lived in East Hampton continuously since colonial times, was another skilled millwright in the town.

“It was definitely a specialized skill, which came from England to America, and then on Long Island, they sort of developed some things themselves that are different here than anywhere else,” Mr. Hefner said of Mr. Dominy, Mr. Schellinger and other local craftsmen. “There are little things that sort of develop in each particular region.”

The sails must face into the wind in order for the windmill to operate, but the wind, naturally, comes from all different directions. So, the cap on top of the tower needs to be turned to face the sails into the wind.

Settlers first turned the cap—and thus the sails—using a big pole and lever, but Mr. Dominy of East Hampton invented a way to turn the cap using gearing inside of the mill itself instead.

The inside of the historic Hook Mill in East Hampton. Courtesy Library of Congress.

The inside of the historic Hook Mill in East Hampton. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Many gristmills fell out of use in the 1850s, when flour started to be made in steam-powered mills, one of which was built in Bridgehampton.

“It was easier, less expensive,” Mr. Hefner said.

Gristmills were pushed further out of use when the railroad was extended to the East End during the 1870s and flour began being shipped out from New York City.

“But the mills operated here—some of them into the 1920’s for animal feed,” Mr. Hefner said. “And then some people, just by habit I guess, preferred to grind their own wheat in the windmill, so it did hang on for quite a while after manufactured flour was available from the steam-powered mills.”

Some of the first summer colony houses in the town, Mr. Hefner said, had their own wind pumps, “little towers with a water tank and a little windmill on top that would pump the water up for household use.” That technology was also commonly used on farms.

Mr. Hefner estimates gristmills, the original East Hampton windmills, were still in use in East Hampton until about 1920. The iconic Hook Mill on North Main Street operated regularly until 1908.

“There was a period then when electricity took over for electrical pumps, and then there’s the interval where there really were no windmills, before the most recent use of them to generate electricity,” he said.

After a nearly 100-year hiatus, it appears wind power is coming back to East Hampton.

“It makes sense, right?” said Mr. Hefner. “There’s a lot of power in the wind, so it makes sense.”

Cookbook Revolutionaries: East Hampton Chefs Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey

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“The grandest picnic of all time” on Gardiner’s Island with (left to right) Pierre Franey, Jacques Pépin, Roger Fessaguet, Jean Vergnes, and René Verdon, 1965. Photo courtesy East Hampton Historical Society.

“The grandest picnic of all time” on Gardiner’s Island with (left to right) Pierre Franey, Jacques Pépin, Roger Fessaguet, Jean Vergnes, and René Verdon, 1965. Photo courtesy East Hampton Historical Society.

By Tessa Raebeck

In the early ’90s, Pierre Franey hit a deer while driving in Springs. Always dedicated to using the freshest ingredients in his cooking, the famous chef tossed the carcass in his trunk and brought it home to make venison. When he opened the trunk when he arrived home on Gerard Drive, however, the deer that was supposed to be dinner jumped out and ran away.

Although it didn’t work out that evening, Mr. Franey and best friend and collaborator Craig Claiborne are widely credited as being the fathers of the fresh food movement.

The duo, who wrote weekly food articles, restaurant reviews, countless recipes and co-authored 10 books over a 20-year collaboration, will be honored by the East Hampton Historical Society at a new exhibition, “Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey: Cookbook Revolutionaries in East Hampton,” which will have an opening reception next Friday, May 30.

Although they came from vastly different backgrounds, Mr. Franey having grown up in Burgundy, France, and Mr. Claiborne in Sunflower, Mississippi, the friends found common ground in their love for cooking, fresh ingredients and the East End. Mr. Claiborne and Mr. Franey both lived in Springs, surrounded by famous friends and creative spirits.

Mr. Claiborne, raised on southern cuisine in the kitchen of his mother’s boarding house, used his G.I. Bill benefits from serving in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War to attend school in Switzerland. In 1957, he started a long-time career as food editor and restaurant critic for The New York Times. In addition to vastly broadening the scope of the paper’s dining coverage, his columns and cookbooks introduced ethnic cuisines, such as Asian, Cajun and Mexican food, to a generation of Americans known for their love of frozen TV dinners. His “New York Times Cookbook” became “one of the most bought and sought cookbooks of its generation,” according to society director Richard Barons.

“People are still using the recipes,” he added. “It’s not like some cookbooks that just sort of disappear. The “New York Times Cookbook” is still a viable force in the kitchen.”

Best known for his popular TV cooking shows like “Cuisine Rapide” and his “60 Minute Gourmet” column, also in The New York Times, Mr. Franey first came to the U.S. to cook in the French Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. He stayed stateside, working for various companies, and was hired by the Times in 1975 to be a core figure in its brand new Living section (now the Dining section). His column was a huge success, ultimately appearing in over 360 newspapers worldwide. Mr. Franey authored or co-authored (most often with Mr. Claiborne) 15 cookbooks and a memoir during his lifetime and had several television shows, including “Cooking in France,” which won the James Beard Foundation Award for best cooking show in 1995, shortly before his death.

The pair, who became fast friends, met in the 1950s when Mr. Franey was working at Le Pavillon, “one of the great restaurants in the history of New York” according to Mr. Barons.

“They began to talk and it just sort of developed into this wonderful relationship where they would share ideas, share restaurants, share recipes,” Mr. Barons said.

Together, Mr. Franey and Mr. Claiborne championed fresh ingredients, diverse dishes and, in essence, good, nutritious food.

“The 1940s and ’50s was not an era of particularly creative cooking,” said Mr. Barons. “It didn’t stress fresh things, it was an era that was still captivated by canned goods and, particularly by the 1950s, the whole wonder of frozen vegetables and frozen food… it really was a Wonder Bread world.”

“They were very free form in thinking in their food. They weren’t stodgy in any sense of the word; they kept very up to date, which is probably the reason they did so many cookbooks,” Mr. Barons said, adding that there are some 50 cookbooks between the two of them, including salt-free and low calorie recipe books and those that contain recipes that take less than an hour to prepare.

Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne cooking in Mr. Claiborne's kitchen in the Clearwater neighborhood of Springs in the late 1970s. Photo courtesy East Hampton Historical Society.

Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne cooking in Mr. Claiborne’s kitchen in the Clearwater neighborhood of Springs in the late 1970s. Photo courtesy East Hampton Historical Society.

“We just assume that these things have always been done, but we begin to realize that so much of it was codified during that period,” he added.

They brainstormed recipes at Mr. Claiborne’s house—a gigantic kitchen with bathroom and bedroom attached as an afterthought—and hosted meals in Mr. Franey’s backyard overlooking Gardiner’s Bay.

One of the most famous gatherings prepared by the pair was a picnic on Gardiner’s Island hosted by Mr. Claiborne on August 1, 1965. Often called “the grandest picnic of all time,” the event was held for Robert David Lyon Gardiner and attended by a smattering of celebrity chefs and famous friends.

“These were extraordinary events,” Mr. Barons said, adding that Jean Vergnes, Lauren Bacall and Danny Kaye were some of the guests.

Photos from the picnic, weddings and other events, as well as cookbooks, newsletters, the French copper weathervane that hung in Mr. Franey’s kitchen, the French china Mr. Claiborne served meals on and an early American wooden bowl that Mr. Claiborne gave his friend as a housewarming gift when he moved to East Hampton will be on display at the exhibition, as well as many other artifacts.

“Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey: Cookbook Revolutionaries in East Hampton” will be on exhibit from May 31 through July 13 at Clinton Academy, 151 Main Street in East Hampton. An opening reception will be held Friday, May 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit easthamptonhistory.org or call 324-6850.