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To Protect and Preserve

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The Tide Mill Institute Lends Their Support!

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The millstones in question are treasures of New York’s early industrial history and as such should be preserved in a secure environment with appropriate interpretative, educational information for the public.

It is rare for tide mill millstones of any sort to be preserved complete–and not be shattered, or destroyed. It is rarer still for any such millstones to be associated with a 17th century mill. The Jorissen artifacts must be one of the earliest such tidal millstones in the United States, if not in the Western Hemisphere.

Since 1631, tide-powered water mills were used in Boston, New England and New York to grind grain, cut lumber, grind spices, make snuff, pound iron, and do a thousand other heavy labor tasks that made America the great Nation it is today. These “tide-mills” also supported maritime commerce that linked emerging metropolitan centers along the entire Atlantic Coast. In New York, being given the privilege to build these mills was the historical event that launched your city to greatness–a fact acknowledged by two flour barrels on your city’s coat of arms.

The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE, established in 2008 by Boston’s Dorchester Historical Society was formed to help preserve America’s great tide-milling history and heritage. We believe it important that relics, photographs and memories of America’s hundreds of ancient working tide mills be preserved and used appropriately to inspire and educate new generations.  As such, we vigorously support any action to preserve, display and interpret these stones, preferably in a museum environment.

The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE urges all municipal, county, regional and state entities to join with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, and to support their efforts to host the millstones in a temporary exhibit where their history can be on display for the community. This is the best place to give local residents a better understanding of their heritage and where the millstones themselves could be best made available for historians and scholars to study them.

The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE  is opposed to the questionable proposal to drill holes in the millstones, to mount them on pedestals, or to leave them outdoors in the center of a busy transit hub where they would be exposed to the elements, vibrations, and vandalism. There is abundant evidence that such treatment has already deteriorated their fabric. We believe those plans would place these millstones in serious long–term jeopardy  

The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE believes they should be permanently displayed in a museum–like setting within the community. The historical society and the local community, which in one form or anther, have cared for these stones for over 350 years, should both be regarded as the primary stakeholders in making this determination for a final placement.

The TIDE MILL INSTITUTE urges city and state commissions and elected officials to cut through whatever stands in the way of honoring the heritage of New York’s colonial past and save the Jorissen millstones. We urge the media in New York to play an important role in celebrating your city’s incredible heritage and to stand with the Greater Astoria Historical Society and the local community in their efforts to save these irreplaceable artifacts.

For further information please contact:

The Dutch Kills Community Millstone Blog:

Greater Astoria Historical Society:

The Tide Mill Institute:


The Greater Astoria Historical Society is the Right Place for the Millstones!

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Profile of the Greater Astoria Historical Society / 718-278-0700 /

Temporary Exhibit Space for the Dutch Kills Millstones

The Dutch Kills Millstones, during the renovation at Queens Plaza, belong at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. The society’s Mission Statement declares the organization’s purpose:

To discover, procure, and preserve whatever may relate to the natural, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical history of the … the State of New York, in general, and to the Greater Astoria area in particular, and to establish and maintain collections in art and archaeology; and

To display, present, and exhibit historical data and structures as well as artifacts of personal property for public exhibition and to conduct tours, etc. for public information and educational purposes to people of all ages, but primarily for esthetic or informative values and purposes.

The organization, a 501(c)(3) under a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, is chartered as a museum under the New York State Board of Regents, and is registered as a New York State Charity. It is a member of the Queens Tourism Board and the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. This year, 2010, we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary.

The society renewed a four year lease in a space occupied since 1993. It leases 6,000 sq feet on the fourth floor of the Quinn Building, a prewar reinforced concrete loft at 35-20 Broadway, Long Island City – about six blocks from the millstones’ location. The building has a security alarm and camera system. A security firm that subleases space from us has offered installation of cameras for the exhibit. We have a loading dock, an elevator and are wheelchair accessible. Galleries where the millstones would be on display are open from 8 AM to 8 PM weekdays and 8 AM to 6 PM on weekends; twice those of the public library.

Within four blocks of the facility are two transit lines (Broadway station for the N and Q trains and Steinway Street station for the R and M trains) and a number of major bus lines (including Q104 Ravenswood–Sunnyside, Q66 Long Island City–Flushing, Q18 Astoria–Maspeth and Q102 Astoria–Roosevelt Island.) The proposed library location is far from the subway and has only three bus lines by its front door.

The society’s facility at the Quinn Building includes office space, a library for the collections (housed in appropriate climatic environment), a lecture hall, and several exhibit galleries with both permanent and rotating exhibits. The crown jewel of the exhibit was the Blackwell House door (ca 1700), a nine foot colonial Dutch door from a house in Ravenswood that was deaccessed by the Brooklyn Museum and transported to our facility by the society from a warehouse near the Gowanus Canal. The facility has plenty of foot traffic: we are the premier meeting space for the community with a busy schedule hosting civic and community groups, community board committee meetings and Queens Council on the Arts panels et al. The exhibit would be in a public gallery sharing space with (an already installed) photo exhibit of the 17th Century Lent-Riker-Smith House, a local New York City Landmark that is commonly believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited house in New York City. The two exhibits would complement each other.

The society has regular historical features in four borough-wide newspapers and magazines and is soon publishing a fifth book on local history. For more than a decade, it has conducted weekly factory tours at Steinway & Sons, which have been praised in publications from Reader’s Digest to Forbes Magazine as one of the top such tours in the country.

We also must add that the Greater Astoria Historical Society is referenced by your consultant, Historical Perspectives, as underpinning “the historic facts and information” on the Dutch Kills Millstones in their report to the Economic Development Corporation on the Queens Plaza Streetscape Project.

Our board of directors includes professional educators and museum experts with graduate degrees in the museum sciences and education. We have signed a number of contracts with the city as, for example, the Department of Cultural Affairs for grants and the Department of Education for programs on training local history topics to secondary school teachers. We have a close relationship with the New York City Archives. The historical society has strong support from both the local community and from around the country (for example, the Payntar family, caretakers of the millstones for several generations, support our efforts).

Written by licmillstones

August 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Answers to a question or two

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yes, the Millstones (actually one of them, the other is still embedded in the sidewalk) are in this crate, the one at the center of the shot.

No, there has been not a single move made by any of our elected officials to protect these colonial era artifacts.

Observation tonight (it was raining too hard to risk the camera) showed that a delivery of construction materials has been piled around the crate.

This is kind of a hard issue to evangelize our busy neighbors about, as we are all struggling to make our rent and find time for friends and family, let alone give two ****’s about a pair of 400 year old industrial artifacts. There is something wrong though, in our community, isn’t there?

You can smell it in the air, whether the breeze is coming off the Newtown Creek or Big Allis. A disconcerting sense of change, with long time residents being swept away by progress. What is being lost, and who is profiting from it?

If you’re passing through Queensboro Plaza in the next day or two, why not use the camera on that fancy cell phone of yours and get some evidence of what kind of respect is being payed to our history. Upload it to the web, send a link over to us at licmillstones blog, and to your local city council member. Let them know that community equals constituency, and that the ballot booth is where their fate and career path can and will be decided.

Acrimonious debate over this topic has erupted at Queenscrap, check it out here. On a related QC topic, check out the Dutch Kills Hotel zoning scandal.

(apologies for the crappy quality of the vid, but we’re on a shoestring budget- actually on zero budget- please help, we need volunteers, neighborhood  cranks, and troublemakers-you know- Queens natives- to help raise awareness and to protect and preserve)

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 23, 2010 at 3:49 am