The historic and iconic windmill on the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University has won designation as a Literary Landmark from United for Libraries, formerly known as the American Library Association. Landmark status was granted to the windmill based on playwright Tennessee Williams having lived there during the summer of 1957 while he was writing his experimental play, “The Day on Which a Man Dies,” in response to the death of his friend Jackson Pollock the summer before.
In recognition of the landmark designation, a dedication ceremony will be held at the windmill on Saturday, July 13, with a reading of a new one-act play, “At Stanley’s Place,” by MFA in Creative Writing and Literature faculty member Frederic Tuten. The Stanley of the title is Stanley Kowalski from the Williams classic, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” In addition to the characters of Stanley and Blanche DuBois from that play, men and women from other major American plays populate the cast of “At Stanley’s Place.”
A plaque that will be struck to identify the newly minted 300-year-old landmark. It will read:
In the summer of 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) lived in this windmill and wrote an experimental play, The Day on Which a Man Dies, responding to the death of his friend, Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. Author of the American classics A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie, Williams also wrote short stories, poetry, novels, screenplays, and essays. His poetic realism continues to inspire writers, actors, directors, and filmmakers.”
Reopened in June 2009 after $250,000 worth of renovations and restoration were completed at the behest of Stony Brook University’s then President Shirley Strum Kenny, the windmill has played host to campus and community events in the years since, including an annual holiday lighting ceremony and a number of special dinners and receptions. Considered a local landmark long before the recent designation, the windmill is now once again an integral part of the vibrant Stony Brook Southampton campus.
In 2012, Stony Brook invested another $50,000 to replace the massive yoke, the shaft on which the windmill’s vanes, or sails, are mounted.
The windmill, which originally sat on what is now Hill Street in Southampton Village, was moved to its current location in 1890 to become part of what was then known as the Claflin estate. During that time, it served as a playhouse for the Claflins’ daughter Beatrice, according to “The College Windmill: An Affectionate History,” a booklet authored by Edward Glanz, the founding provost of Southampton College.
The property remained in the Claflin family until it was sold following World War II and was then run as the Tucker Mill Inn, catering primarily to summer visitors. Long Island University purchased the property in 1963 and opened it as Southampton College. During the college’s early years, the windmill served as a meeting place for students and its top floor offered overnight accommodations to the school’s more prominent guests. The 82-acre campus was acquired by Stony Brook University and reopened as Stony Brook Southampton in fall 2007.