Historic stone mill restored

One of the city’s most historic buildings is once again open for business.

The pre-Civil War era stone mill at the New York Botanical Garden has been restored and is now open to the public for weddings, parties and celebrations. Although several weddings have been held there already, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, September 8.

For the past two years the interior and exterior of the facility have undergone an extensive, $11 million overhaul to both modernize the building and restore its historic nature.

“Because of the seriousness of the New York City government this is the building’s finest hour in its 170-year history,” said Gregory Long, president of the NYBG. “These elements and the sustainable designs have created a state-of-the-art facility.”

Although the building has retained its historic look and feel, the newly renovated facility is a far cry from the original stone mill that the Lorillard family built in 1840 as part of a tobacco processing complex.

Over the years the processing complex was taken down, and only the stone mill was left standing. However, it remained abandoned and out of use until the Botanical Garden bought the facility in 1930.

The building, which overlooks a pristine section of the Bronx River, was originally used by the Garden for parties and special events. It was renovated only once, in 1950.

The latest renovation project was funded in part by the city and the Lillian and Amy Goldman Foundation, for which the mill is now named after.

“This is a special part of the community,” said Congressman Jose Serrano. “It was abandoned for so long, but when we have leaders that never abandon the neighborhood, this had to happen eventually.”

To bring the interior of the aging building back to life, the kitchen, bathrooms and false ceilings were removed, exposing the original mid-1800s stone framing and masonry work.

Outside the building, cement-based mortars were taken down and replaced with lime mortars, which were the original construction materials. The roof was also be replaced with cedar shingles, which was original building material as well, and windows and doors were replaced.

The hillside garden was also graded for easier access, and a state-of the art storm-water filtration system, which brings the facility into harmony with its pristine surroundings, was also installed.

“We are delighted with the way this renovation employs the river,” said Linda Cox, executive director of the Bronx River Alliance, after the ribbon was cut. “Helping to filter the storm-water that would otherwise damage the system, now it will contribute to the health of the river.”

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