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Mill House Inn

A bed and breakfast dating to the 1700s in East Hampton, New York


One in a series of articles about bed and breakfasts built in the 1700s or earlier.

Mill House Inn
Innkeepers Sylvia and Gary Muller
31 North Mail Street
East Hampton, New York

Tell us a little about the history of your bed and breakfast.

The Mill House Inn has been part of East Hampton history for over 200 years. The Parsons Family originally built the house in 1790 in a traditional Cape Cod saltbox style like East Hampton's famous "Home Sweet Home."

In August 1851, the ship Catherine out of Liverpool was driven ashore off the coast of Amagansett. The Catherine and all her cargo were lost, but luckily all of the 300 Irish immigrants aboard fleeing the great potato famine were saved.

Among them was a young man named Patrick Lynch, bound for the gold fields of California. Col. William D. Parsons stepped up to him on the beach and offered him work on his farm at Fireplace, just north of East Hampton Village. So Patrick settled in East Hampton and shortly after 1860 bought the house now known as the Mill House Inn, then owned by William Lewis Parsons.

In the 1870s and 1880s, there being no Catholic Church in East Hampton, Roman Catholic services were held every other week in the home of Patrick Lynch -- the congregation spilling out into the yard and kneeling under the window to hear Mass.

The house was remodeled in 1898, when the roof was raised to build a full second floor and the porch was added. The house remained in the Lynch family until 1973 and has been operated as a boarding house/bed and breakfast inn at least since the 1940s. We purchased the Mill House Inn in July 1999.

Was much renovation required?

We were lucky in that the couple we purchased the inn from had done the major structural renovation and brought the Mill House Inn fully up to code, adding a sprinkler system, concrete fire stair, commercial kitchen, gas fireplaces and whirlpool baths in many of the rooms. They didn't do everything the way we would have, but it saved us much money and wear and tear.

However, we did have to redecorate the entire inn -- all new furniture, furnishings, linens, dishes, you name it. We also restored all the old windows, stained the exterior, put hardwood floors in the owner's quarters, and new carpeting in all the guest rooms. We replaced the froufrou wallpaper with historic paint colors -- this is not a Victorian!

What's your favorite room in your bed and breakfast?

I think my favorite room is the inn's living room. It has the original (1790) beams, comfortable leather sofas and Oriental antique furniture and mica lights. In the early morning the light streams in and illuminates the large silk flower arrangement on the coffee table.

Our guests feel really comfortable in the room and so do we, on those rare occasions we can just sit back and relax in it. Of course it will be even better when we have converted the fireplace to gas because we can't use it now -- it shares a flue with the furnace -- one of the potential hazards in an old house...

Please tell us a little about the East Hampton area.

East Hampton was founded in 1648 by a group of farmers who came from Connecticut across the Long Island Sound. Farming was the mainstay of the community until the beginning of the 20th century when the town began to attract wealthy families, artists and writers as a refuge from New York City.

Today, East Hampton is known around the world for its beaches, fishing, boating and windmills. But, most of all, East Hampton is famous for being the backyard playground of New York's elite business and entertainment communities.

The village of East Hampton was voted "America's Most Beautiful Village" by the readers of National Geographic. Thanks to a strong preservationist policy, the village has maintained its quaint, small town character. There are majestic old elms, green expanses, windmills -- of the English, not Dutch variety -- and the famous Town Pond with its picturesque swans and a 300-year-old cemetery -- a virtual voyage back in time.

Right in the middle of the village is the Old Hook Mill windmill that dominates the green triangle between Main Street and the Montauk Highway. The Village of East Hampton keeps this historic mill in working order.

The Mill House Inn sits directly across North Main Street from the windmill. Close by are many charming boutiques, antique shops and art galleries, and East Hampton's world-class restaurants and gourmet food shops.

East Hampton is a unique town. Despite its proximity to New York City, it maintains an atmosphere that is both rural and remote. The town is governed by archaic laws, some of which date back to King Charles I, yet is the home to many of America's most prominent "movers and shakers."

It is replete with all the preposterous baggage that comes with inflated egos engaged in the perennial dance of social climbing and posturing, yet for the casual vacationer East Hampton is pure paradise.

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