The Grist Mill boasts a more than 325-year history. In 1688, Joseph Haviland was granted the right to build a tidewater mill at the end of Ocean Avenue. The mill prospered and became the hub of business, social and church activities among the early settlers. In 1818, Alexander Davison purchased the structure, which became a regular stopping place for packet boats and for sloops which transported cargo to Spain and other destinations.
The mill and "Near Rockaway", as it was then known, gained added importance following the establishment of New York City's Customs House, which left Near Rockaway and Raynortown (Freeport) as the area's only free ports of entry. The extension of the Long Island Railroad to Long Beach signaled the beginning of the end for the mill. The Davisons turned it into a lumber yard, and the property was eventually sold to the A&P Company.
Rather than see it demolished, civic minded residents came to its rescue and the Village of East Rockaway acquired the building in 1962. The Mill was moved to Memorial Park at Atlantic and Woods Avenues, and a committee was appointed by the village to operate the structure as the Grist Mill Museum.