Marine Park Reliquary Dates from Days of American Revolution
Three centuries ago the tidewater mill if the GERRITSON family ground between 
its huge circular stones the flour for its section of old Brooklyn.
Today Park Department officials are planning to restore the ancient structure 
to its early vigor, so that Brooklynites may soon visit Marine Park to watch 
the big water wheel revolve as the tide ebbs and climb the stairway inside 
the building to see the old shafts and pulleys in operation while grain is 
ground to flour between the three sets of grooved stones.


Plans completed this week by architects of the department call for an almost 
complete restoration of the GERRITSON Beach landmark by a master millwright. 
The date when work will start has not been determined. This depends chiefly 
on the development of Marine Park, on which property the mill stands.
With the exception of a lean-to extension, which will contain waiting room 
facilities, the mill will be repaired so that its machinery, its outer 
appearance and its inner galleries will be the same as they were during the 
American Revolution. It was then that the mill's owner, a staunch patriot, 
took the stones from their place and buried them so that the Hessian troops 
marching from Gowanus along Kings Highway to his farm could not obtain the 
flour they sought.


The story, as recalled by Benjamin J. KING, executive secretary of the 
Flatbush Chamber of Commerce which for years has asked for restoration of the 
landmark, ends curiously. The soldiers arrested GERRITSON, held him as a 
hostage pending the recovery of the stones. A son, fearing violence to his 
father, found them, and the mill was put in operation again. The British paid 
handsomely for the service. It was said the GERRITSON family fortune dated 
from that time.
The restoration will not be done by a contractor. The honor deserved by what 
some have called the oldest remaining building in New York State is that the 
work be done by a master millwright. Park Department architects believe such 
men are scarce in 20th century New York, but the officials hope to locate one 
who will be able to put the mill into its early condition and will also 
continue as custodian there.


The grinding stones, 53 inches in diameter, are still in their original 
places. So is the great 20 inch octagonal oak drum on the wheel. The remains 
of shafts, pulleys and the four sets of sifters inside the structure are 
still there after the 300 years, needing only repair and assembly work. The 
face of the building will be reshingled, as will the roof. They will be hand 
split shingles, 36 inches in length, the same size as those the GERRITSON 
family put on their mill. In 1931, six years after the city purchased the 
property from the WHITNEY estate, civic groups began a movement to preserve 
the historic relic from souvenir hunters and vandals. A fence was erected. 
This, however, proved insufficient protection.


Former Park Commissioner sought $20,000 to restore the structure, but the 
Board of Education followed the advice of Acting Mayor McKEE, who called the 
mill "a chicken coop" and the request was denied. Subsequently, at the 
insistence of civic organizations, a watchman was assigned to guard the place.
One of the leaders in the fight to restore the old mill was Roy M. MANN, 
chairman of the League for the Improvement of Marine Park who yesterday 
welcomed plans for the restoration and termed the structure "one of the few 
outstanding Revolutionary buildings." Others who praised the Park Department 
for its efforts were Mr. KING and Frank FRERICHS, president of the GERRITSON 
BEACH Chamber of Commerce.

Plans for the restoration were made by Aymar EMBURY II, consulting architect 
for the Park Department, and H. B. GUILLAN. These call for the replacement of 
the modern windows installed by the WHITNEYS with others such as those used 
by the early Dutch settlers. More than 50 years ago Nicholas KOWENHOVEN, then 
an old man, told youngsters playing near the mill, the story of the GERRITSON 
pirate and those same windows.

Before the mill was built on the east side of the beach and alongside the 
Strom Kil, its site, said KOWENHOVEN, was occupied by the pirate's home. He 
grew older. His trips to sea for booty became fewer. He sent overseas to 
Holland for a bride. She was beautiful and younger than the pirate, much 
younger. The girl was seen for a time by neighbors and then no more.
Later, the story went, the pirate also died and the devil came to cart his 
soul off through one of the windows of the mill. That window could never 
afterwards be closed. Hard as they tried, the children thereabouts were 
always unable to shut the window the devil and the pirate used for their 
exit. At least so the story of the old mill went.

26 August 1934
Brooklyn Daily Eagle