SPLIA has taken a thematic approach for its 2015 list of Endangered Historic Places, focusing on endangered industrial heritage. Across the entire region industrial heritage is present in the form of wind and tide mills that once ground grain into flour, commercial waterfronts where boat yards built ships to transport goods and people, as well as aviation sites that built and tested the first airplanes now dominating the skies. Industrial heritage contributes to the identities of communities ranging from Port Jefferson to Patchogue, Riverhead to Glen Cove, yet few examples of the industrial buildings have survived to the 21st century. 2014 experienced the destruction of the Glenwood Landing Power Plant, built in 1923 by a consolidated Long Island Lighting Company. The plant that helped generate gas and electric power for the region until operations ceased in 2012, perched over the eastern edge of Hempstead Harbor for more than ninety years. While other communities in the nation have been able to witness old infrastructure repurposed into exciting centers of redevelopment, Long Islanders who fought to save the Glenwood Landing plant must now stand idly by while the massive white smoke stacks and brick structure are slowly carted to the landfill.
With so little industrial heritage east of Kings and Queens Counties on Long Island, the surviving examples of Long Island’s industrial history is all the more important to preserve and interpret for the future. The Bulova Watchcase Factory in Sag Harbor, one of the last surviving examples of large scale industrial architecture, recently completed a major transformation from neglected shell to luxury condominiums after an extensive multi-year adaptive reuse project. The 2002 proposed redevelopment of the former Bluepoints Oyster Company sent the West Sayville community into action to preserve their commercial waterfront, enabling a new owner to purchase the property and adapt the site for new maritime uses. The Village of Port Jefferson successfully reused certain industrial maritime buildings, such as the former J.M. Bayles & Son shipbuilders complex, today the Village Center. However, countering the success stories are boundless losses of Long Island’s industrial heritage, like the exuberantly designed Brooklyn Waterworks pump house in Freeport that moldered away until its remaining shell was torn down in 2011.
SPLIA has chosen two in-house nominations representing Long Island’s Industrial Heritage at Risk. These examples are early industrial buildings threatened by neglect and a lack of use.
Roslyn Grist Mill (c. 1720)
Village of Roslyn, Nassau County
A rare surviving early-18th century industrial building featuring unique Dutch framing methods, the Roslyn Grist Mill has been vacant and threatened by demolition by neglect since the 1970s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, community members and local preservation groups have been in the planning process to restore the structure for over a decade. Owned by Nassau County, funding is earmarked for restoration of the Grist Mill, yet numerous false starts and lacking a clear vision for what the building could be repurposed for has delayed restoration. Located in the center of the village at the head of the harbor, the Roslyn Grist Mill is ready to become the keystone for a downtown and waterfront revitalization initiative. Community support is necessary to strengthen the partnership between the County, Town of North Hempstead, Village of Roslyn, and Roslyn Landmark Society in order to establish a viable new use for the structure.
Fordham Saw Mill (1859)
Remsenburg-Speonk, Town of Southampton, Suffolk County
Designated a Town of Southampton Historic Landmark in 1985, the building has been vacant since 2008. Once a center of industry in the area, the mill served as a location for carriage, wheel, and coffin-making throughout its history. Pressure has been placed on the owners by the community to maintain and rehabilitate the former saw mill. The owners claim the use is so restricted because of landmarks designation that they cannot find someone to purchase or lease the space, and instead, have let the property slowly deteriorate. The property is ideal for multiple uses, the site could become the East End’s version of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s artisanal manufacturing center.