Welcome to the historic Old Mill Inn, a former gristmill completed around 1820. Today, the Old Mill Inn is proud to be part of the North Fork's living history, featuring fresh local produce and Long Island wines.
A Bit of the Past
Upon returning from the War of 1812, Samuel Cox constructed a "Tidal Mill" on Mattituck Inlet. It took five years to complete the dam, mill, and gates that were in operation day and night. The incoming tide forced open gates at mid-stream. When the tide went out, these gates closed and an auxiliary gate opened through a tunnel, turning the mill once again. Cox and his sons ran the mill successfully for years. It was later included in the Library of Congress as a "relatively rare engineering structure." The millstone still exists on a corner of the building.
In 1902, the mill was sold for $300 to Yetter and Moore of Riverhead and converted into a popular tavern. One satisfied customer was quoted as saying, "So much for the grist mill, it will now be known as a gin mill."
Otto Magdefrau became manager, encouraging patrons to carve their names on the beams and sides (still visible in the pub today), and amusing the clientele with his collection of animals. Stories and pictures still exist of the beer-drinking monkey who lived in the bathroom of the water tower.
The storm of 1906 destroyed the tidal dam. The Southold Town Board replaced it with a bridge that could swivel, allowing boats to continue up-creek. Patrons of the tavern often helped in moving the bridge for yachting traffic. In 1955 the bridge was condemned and blown up.
During Prohibition Mattituck Inlet's proximity to New York City made the creek a popular drop-off spot for rumrunners, and tales of bootlegging in the area are legend. There is still a drop door in the kitchen of the Old Mill, which allowed boats to receive "hooch" during low tides. The Old Mill Inn also became a romantic hideout for certain celebrities. There are reports that a New York film studio regularly protected Clark Gable and Carole Lombard whenever they would escape to the Old Mill, seeking privacy... and booze.
In 1939 George Naugles opened the restaurant and bar, with Mr. and Mrs. Bert Lipton, of the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Holmes took over in 1958, and with headwaiter James Primus, ran the place until 1975. Mrs. Holmes stills cuts quite a figure here. Though many years deceased, she continues to keep her hand in: the ice-scoop has been known to fly across the room, trays move, and more than a few patrons have felt her cool presence as they cozied up to the bar.
Since the eighties, David Bascola, David "Rosie" Rosenberg, Bruce Acker, and Walter Stockton have owned the Inn. In 1994, Jerry Daly, a former policeman and owner of Bobby Vans in Bridgehampton, brought the Old Mill Inn with his wife Judy.
Committed to reviving its history while bringing great food and drink to the Inn, old friends Elaine Lafferty, a former war correspondent and Time magazine reporter, Bia Lowe, an author, and Barbara Pepe, a television executive, became the new owners in July 2006. Joined by a team of dedicated professionals, we have one goal in mind: to bring you a wonderful dining experience in our waterfront restaurant, and a fun time in our pub, whether listening to live music or relaxing by the fire.
Dock your boat, perhaps give us a hand unloading our lobster pots, and listen carefully for Mrs. Holmes. Because history is alive here and we welcome you to join in.
Photos: Southold Historical Society, 1830s
Drawings and Research: Audrey Wigley