LIC millstones Blog

To Protect and Preserve

We Need Your Help!

with 6 comments

Damaged millstone at foot of stop sign in staging area at Queens plaza

This blog was established to express our concerns regarding a set of 17th century artifacts that are in immediate danger.  There is a pair of colonial-era millstones in Queens Plaza that have been embedded in a traffic median there for decades.  These stones were originally used in a grist mill constructed around 1657 by Burger Jorissen and are an important part of Queens County’s history.

 One of these stones is already damaged from the last time it was moved.  Worse, the stones are currently surrounded by heavy machinery and construction materials from the nearby Queens Plaza reconstruction project.  One careless mistake could destroy these irreplaceable artifacts.  (See the photo, above.  The damaged stone is in the ground at the foot of the stop sign covered by plywood.) 

According to a recent Daily News article, Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman Janel Peterson claims that the stones are safe where they are.  We do not agree.  If our information is correct, these stones were churning out flour fully 75 years before George Washington was born.  They belong in the hands of a museum or an historical society or some other qualified group, at least until their new home in an as-yet-to-be-constructed park can be completed. They don’t belong in a sidewalk! 

A recent shot of the crated millstone (with traffic barrels on top). The EDC says everything is fine? Dutch Kills Civic agrees. What's wrong with this picture? Where are the community's representatives? Can State Senator George Onorato, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Assemblymember Cathy Nolan and/or newly-elected Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer step up to the plate or do they agree with this very small group that our history is in good hands?

In the worst case, the stones are in danger of being damaged by construction activity.  In the best case, they are valuable educational resources that are being squandered.  During the time they are sitting hidden on a construction site (perhaps as long as two years!) they could be studied and exhibited to the community.

An examination of photographs indicates that these stones have suffered significant deterioration in the last 40 to 60 years.  In fact, it seems that they have worn more in that period than in all of their previous 300 years of existence.  These stones have never been the subject of serious study, and have been anonymously crumbling in the sidewalk for too long.  We need to get these stones off the street and out of harm’s way before they weaken any further.      

The Greater Astoria Historical Society (so far, the only organization to do so) has generously offered to host them temporarily as the center piece of an exhibit. G.A.H.S. wrote a profile of the old mill and its stones for an archaeologist hired by the landmarks commission.  They have plenty of material about the stones, and would be an excellent choice as temporary guardians.  Rather than simply warehousing the stones, G.A.H.S. would give residents the opportunity to learn about the treasure that has been literally under-foot for many years.  Additionally, G.A.H.S. would arrange for study of the stones by various scholars and other experts.

The stones would remain city property, and would be returned to their new installation as soon as it is ready.

 There are also questions concerning the proposed new installation.  According to plans we’ve seen, the installation is outdoors, exposed to the elements and adjacent to a bicycle path.  The plans call for the insertion of several steel pins to secure each stone to a pedestal from which they will over-hang approximately six inches.  This is NOT our idea of a suitable installation for irreplaceable antiques.  It is our hope that the city can be convinced to encourage community participation in designing a permanent indoor exhibit within the community where they will be safe and accessible.   

We hope, through this site, to offer those interested the resources they need to get involved and convince their elected officials to help.  It is only by dumb luck that we still have these precious windows into our past, since they have been outdoors and all but neglected since at least the Civil War era.  Rescuing these artifacts is a matter of extreme urgency, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Please follow the various page links to the right to learn more about the stones, the local history of Long Island City and what you can do to help.  If you do nothing else here today, please sign up for email updates and

**Please note that after signing, the petition website may re-direct you to a donation request page.  This is not our doing.  WE DO NOT WANT YOUR MONEY! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DONATE ANYTHING!  Simply click the “home” icon on your browser to exit this page.  We are sorry for the inconvenience and sincerely thank you for your support!)

We would like to thank all of our friends at G.A.H.S., The Hunter’s Point Merchant’s Association, Forgotten NY, The Historic Districts Council, The Long Island City Alliance, the Newtown Historical Society, and the Newtown Pentacle, The Norwood Neighborhood Alliance, the Rego Forest Preservation Council, the Prospect Cemetery Association and many others for all of their help and support in extablishing this site.  Please visit all our friends (G.A.H.S., Forgotten NY, LICityGuide, liQcity, Newtown Historical Society, Newtown Pentacle, Our LIC, and Queens Crap) under “blogroll” at the right for local news and scuttlebutt.

Many Thanks!

LIC Millstones


Written by licmillstones

December 27, 2009 at 11:04 pm

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The Millstones are an important part of our cultural beginnings as a country. They truly need to be preserved for posterity.

    Maureen Ward

    January 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    • They are truly part of American Colonial History and the community’s leaders need to treat them as such. If you look at the history section of this site, you will see how important these stones were to the economy. They truly jump-started the areas development.


      January 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm

  2. Why doesn’t anybody do anything? Doesn’t the local civic association care?

    Ann Onymus

    February 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm

  3. Look at the videos on the millstone meeting page. In GAHS 4 towards the end you’ll hear the head of the local civic association saying that “a millstone is a millstone.” These are the sort folks that are in charge over here. Unfortunately, everyone believes that they speak for the whole community when in fact they represent a very small faction.


    February 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

  4. i have done some letters to various city agencies in support of what you are trying to do to save these millstones and will be happy to send copies to your organization if someone contacts us where they can be sent, the city has not been very responsive and assured us that all is well, after seeing the pictures i think it gives us some evidence that more has to be done, appreciate all the work you are doing and happy to be of assistance, thanks cathy nolan


    March 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: