Lifestyle: Spotlights

Gardiner Home Lot and Mill in East Hampton Village

By Richard Lewin - December 16, 2020

If you are driving or riding on Route 27 to a destination East of Wainscott, beautiful tree-lined Woods Lane in East Hampton will be your last street traveled before the forced left turn at the Ocean Avenue traffic light. If you take a moment to look across the pond as you turn, you will see a narrow lane, called James Lane, only three blocks long, that borders the other side, intersecting only Jefferys Lane, Maidstone Lane and Dunemere Lane. On James Lane are some of the most important historic properties in East Hampton Village, including Home Sweet Home Museum, the East Hampton Historical Society’s Mulford Farm Museum and the Gardiner Mill Cottage and Mill.

Among these, the Gardiner property at 36 James Lane, owned by the Gardiner Family (also owners of the fabled Gardiner’s Island since 1639) has gone through the most transformations during their nearly 400 years of ownership. According to East Hampton Village’s Director of Historic Services, and Preservation Consultant, Bob Hefner, when the Town was founded in 1648, each Founder received one of the 34 “home lots” along Main Street and James Lane. Most of these lots consisted of a house near the street, with a several acre tract of working farm land behind. The Gardiner Home Lot was an eleven-acre parcel fronting on James Lane, including a nine-acre farm field that sloped down towards Hook Pond. At that time, only owners of home lots had the right to vote, and each lot represented the owner’s share in the 30,000 yet undivided acres of the Town. 

In 1804, prominent woodworker and builder Nathaniel Dominy V was commissioned to build Gardiner Windmill on the property, serving as a grist mill for local farmers. All timber used in the construction was white oak felled on Gardiner’s Island. In 1996 the Mill was purchased by East Hampton Village, and was restored the following year. In the mid-eighteenth century, another structure was added, Gardiner Mill Cottage, which may have been used originally as a house, but was later turned into a barn. In the 1880’s the Gardiners, foreseeing the financial opportunities in the increasing popularity of summer property rentals, and with the Long Island Rail Road soon to reach East Hampton (1895), Jonathan Thompson Gardiner had the barn moved closer to James Lane, converting it to an elegant home suitable for summer rentals.

The next milestone in Gardiner Home Lot history was in 2014, when East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach, Jr. brokered a deal with Bill Gardiner. The East Hampton Village Board arranged for the Town of East Hampton to purchase the Lot with Community Preservation Fund monies.

By 2018 the Gardiner Mill Cottage was renovated, under the supervision of Bob Hefner, to become “Gardiner Mill Cottage Gallery” in 2019, featuring a museum-style collection of historic artwork, many in their original frames, curated by Richard Barons, Chief Curator for the East Hampton Historical Society and Curatorial Consultant to East Hampton Village. (see Richard in the above photo, next to the Memorial sarcophagus to Lion Gardiner in South End Cemetery across James Lane from Gardiner Mill). 

Only time will tell what the future holds for the Gardiner Home Lot, historically being reinvented and in a state of flux.

Special thanks to East Hampton Village Site Manager and Historian Hugh King for sharing his expertise.

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