By Edna Giffen
For those who live in or visit Miller Place, when driving through our elegant historic district, stop and take a look at the notable changes in our showcase home, the William Miller House located at 75 North Country Road in Miller Place. The façade of the 1920 flagship home shines with bright, newly painted restored windows.
On Dec. 5, Jeremiah McGiff of antique restorers Wild Boar Restoration, with the assistance of his cousin Mike McGiff, began this carefully rendered, crucial project. The sash was removed and taken back to the original wood. Thankfully, the windows were in relatively good condition and only needed minor repairs. Frames were also taken back to bare wood and repaired as needed (which again proved to be minimal). The sills sustained the most severe damage. As part of this contract the doors on the east end of the house and the first-floor window on the east side of the house were also restored. Old glass was used for the window panes except for one pane in the east room that was old and had some indecipherable writing on it. Copper was added above the windows and doors to prevent water from getting behind them. The window in the east door was left crooked as it had been found.
The William Miller House was first restored in the early 1980s shortly after the Miller Place Historical Society had purchased it. The windows were part of the restoration and at that time they needed few repairs, but time and the weather were not kind to the windows. The panes face the south, thereby receiving sunlight for much of any day of the year. Trees, which once occupied the front lawn and had protected the house, had all been removed due to disease by the late 1990s. Rain and snow continually contributed to the deterioration of the windows over time.
In 2020, the William Miller house will be 300 years old. The historical society has been working on repairs to ready the home for this momentous event. A new roof replaced the old one in early 2018. The windows had been chosen as the next major project to be tackled. Through the years the windows lost putty around the glass and panes would fall out and need to be replaced. None of the front windows could be opened because it was feared they would fall apart.
Fundraising commenced, including sending out information to the communities of Miller Place and Mount Sinai. The first job to tackle was the six main front windows. However, the cost for the restoration of these six was considerable at $16,800. It would be necessary to do two windows at a time. Then one day, current historical society Treasurer Gerard Mannarino received a phone call from a family in Miller Place who wished to donate the total cost of restoring the six front windows. The members of the board were stunned, ecstatic, and relieved. Work could now begin.
Additional funds from two donors, Jack Soldano, of Comics for a Cause fame, and fundraisers sponsored by the historical society were available to restore the remaining front windows, the east side window and the doors on the east end.
The change has been truly dramatic. All the windows but one date from the 1720s, 1730s or 1750s.
Thirteen windows remain to be restored, and fundraising is ongoing. We remain hopeful that these too will be brought to their original luster.
Meanwhile, we invite you to enjoy a freshened view of history. Come and see how a labor of love and generosity has placed a new lens and stunning façade on a shining landmark in our community.
Edna Giffen is a 12th-generation Mount Sinai resident. She is a local historian, archivist and current record keeper and recording secretary of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.