ROSLYN, N.Y. - Workers restoring the historic Roslyn Grist Mill made this discovery of a lifetime buried away in the structure's concrete floor by two men 103 years ago: Intact and unscathed letters and four vintage coins, including an 1863 Civil War Army and Navy token, tightly tucked in a weathered glass milk bottle.
"One was a carpenter who had a building across the street and the other was a mason, Romolo Caparrelli," said Howard Kroplick, president of the Roslyn Landmark Society.
The two were part of a team tasked by poet William Cullen Bryant's grandson to preserve the building originally built in 1715.
"For 150 years, it was a successful gristmill and then in the late 1890s it was abandoned as new technology came in," Kroplick said.
Part of Caparrelli's perfectly penned letter touted his planking-style concrete roof and walls. His initials RC can still be recognized on the outside of the building today.
The 18th-century Dutch-framed watermill has been under restoration since 2018 thanks to the help of private and public donations.
"Here we are restoring history and we come about a piece of history that documents how much this gristmill meant 100 years ago and how much it means to the community today," Kroplick said.
The restoration process is on hold for the winter but the work, which is expected to take two years, will pick up this spring. It will serve as an educational center to preserve history — with the bottle, messages and coins at the center of it all.
"To understand the history of the Roslyn gristmill and to understand the history of the Roslyn community is going to be a great educational center," the Roslyn Landmark Society's Jennifer Lister said.
The men asked to be remembered and the goal is to do just that.
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