As early as 1664, a mill operated along this edge of the Setauket Pond that flows into Conscience Bay. The structure located here now is a re-creation built in 1937 as part of the Frank Melville Memorial Park. This is a private park that was dedicated by his son Ward Melville, and is maintained by the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation.
Much of the character of the Three Village area (Stony Brook, Setauket, Old Field) is the result of Ward Melville who was instrumental in preserving, restoring, and re-creating many of the colonial buildings here. When I first learned of him years ago, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. One of my pet-peeves has always been the suburbanization of America and the abandonment of it's downtowns and village centers.Ward Melville appeared to be an early advocate for the preservation of American towns.
Scratching too deep can sometimes lead to disappointment. While Mr Melville was adamant about maintaining an historic aura in his hometown, he was simultaneously destroying much of the nation's architectural character. His Melville Corporation (Thom McCan, and later CVS as well as others) paved heavily the destruction of the American landscape. He outsourced jobs before outsourcing was even a word; and he replaced town centers with generic shopping centers. Wal-Mart would be proud! Every vacant downtown, every ugly strip of chain stores, and every abandoned factory is partially the result of Ward Melvilles "pioneering".
Meanwhile, back at the Setauket Grist Mill, I took in the beauty of the freshly fallen snow and the peaceful surroundings. Robert Frost could have composed a poem, and Norman Rockwell, a painting;.... this is one of the most charming sections of the North Shore thanks to Ward Melville. But as much as I enjoyed the scenery, my mind kept drifting off to Paramus, Rockville Center, and every other town that lost it's soul to the Miracle Mile half a century ago.