History

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The St. James Long Island Rail Road station house was built and funded by residents in 1873. Photo from the Smithtown Historical Society collection

For more than a century, one thoroughfare in St. James has been hustling and bustling. It’s no surprise that the Smithtown town board and St. James residents have been directing their energy toward the revitalization of Lake Avenue in the last couple of years with the nonprofit organization Celebrate St. James. With the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road to St. James in 1872, the avenue and connecting streets quickly became the center of local commerce, especially around the LIRR station house.

The flatiron building in St. James was built in 1908 by Joseph Amey. Photo from the Smithtown Historical Society collection

Smithtown Historian Brad Harris said the station house in St. James located near the northwest corner of Lake Avenue and Railroad Avenue was built in 1873 by community members, who also paid for it. Soon stage actors and other visitors from New York City, including Mayor William Gaynor, who once lived in Deepwells Mansion, were visiting the hamlet on a regular basis, especially in the summer.

“There was activity the town had never seen before,” Harris said.

Local historian Noel Gish said the St. James station house is the LIRR’s oldest one in existence still standing in its original form. In the early 1970s, the railroad considered remodeling it or tearing it down, when it was in need of painting. Louise Hall, who was the director of the Smithtown Historical Society at the time, organized a group of women to paint it, Gish said, and when the LIRR found out, they sent staff members to do the job, and the station house remained as it was.

Harris said as more people traveled to St. James, boarding houses and hotels were built to accommodate them. One hotel was built on the southeast corner of Lake and Railroad where Garguilo’s Bakery is located today. Built in 1905, the Nissequogue Hotel accommodated the visitors vacationing in the area in the summer and coming to hunt in the cooler weather. The hotel, that was renamed the St. James Hotel, was destroyed by fire in December 1962.

“The friendly ghosts of the Calderone Theater have been with me throughout the metamorphosis of this structure.”

— Natalie Weinstein

In 1908, a unique structure was built across the street from the hotel by Joseph Amey. Shaped like the flatiron building in New York City, it still stands today and has been home to various businesses throughout the decades including a soda fountain. Harris said at one point a bowling alley was located toward the back of the building in the basement, and the roof of the alley stuck out above the street.

Through the decades businesses with names such as Harry’s Barber Shop, Riis’s Stationery and Barber Shop, Sam’s Meat Market and Bohack’s Supermarket have lined Lake Avenue. Harris, who is a 50-year resident of the hamlet, said his favorite building is where Uniquely Natalie Quality Consignment is now located on Second Street off of Lake Avenue. He said the structure dates back to the 1930s, and at one time it was the Calderone Theater, which showcased live performances and silent movies. The building now houses the St. James Museum featuring local memorabilia.

Natalie Weinstein, owner of the building, purchased it in 1985.

“The friendly ghosts of the Calderone Theater have been with me throughout the metamorphosis of this structure, since I purchased it with my husband Bernie in 1985,” she said.

In addition to housing Uniquely Natalie and the museum, Celebrate St. James hosts social and cultural events at the former theater.

“It is a pivotal place for this town to regain its love and appreciation of its history, as we begin to revitalize economically and recapture what this small town has to offer,” Weinstein said.

Harris said he believes the revitalization of Lake Avenue will be a plus for St. James.

“I think people are going to discover Lake Avenue more and more,” Harris said.

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Gravestone and marker for Zophar Hawkins and veteran replacement gravestone for Arthur Smith are located in Setauket family graveyards. Photos by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In a Setauket family graveyard set on a hill above an ancient colonial home is buried a young man, Arthur Smith, a patriot who was killed by British soldiers probably in the fall of 1776 simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a South Setauket graveyard along Pond Path is the grave of Zophar Hawkins, a Revolutionary War patriot and friend of Smith whose adventures included a number of brushes with death.

Smith, born about 1740, was the grandson of Benjamin Smith who is thought to be the builder of the circa 1685 home along Main Street in Setauket where Arthur Smith was born. The home just to the north of the Smith homestead was the Tyler Tavern, where Smith was killed.

Hawkins grew up in and eventually inherited his father’s home near the intersection of Pond Path and Lower Sheep Pasture Road in Nassakeag (South Setauket). Earlier in his life, during the Revolutionary War, Hawkins at about the age of 20 was involved in an incident at the Tyler Tavern. This piece of family folklore was recorded by Kate Strong in her “True Tales from the Early Days of Long Island”:

“It was after the beginning of the Revolutionary War and after the Battle of Setauket that word was brought to South Setauket that there were exciting doings down by Setauket Pond. Zophar Hawkins (who perhaps found life a bit quiet after his earlier adventures) and his friend Arthur Smith decided to go down and see what was going on. They found a small party of British soldiers, after having landed from a small whaleboat, had marched to Tyler’s Tavern in search of deserters. This inn … used to stand near the road [at the intersection of Main Street and Christian Ave.] It was later moved [back up the hill] and still shows the bullet holes.

“As the soldiers entered the building, Redfern, a school teacher, rushed upstairs and called to two girls sleeping there that they were safer in bed. He had only returned four steps downstairs when a stray bullet from the British muskets struck and killed him. Two other men were killed and a third escaped by climbing up the great chimney.

“Zophar and Arthur were hanging around outside; the British catching sight of them fired and killed Arthur, and as they thought, Zophar. But Zophar had dropped as they fired and lay as though he were dead, an Indian trick. It is said that when the soldiers had gone, Zophar jumped to his feet and ran so fast for home you couldn’t see his heels for dust.”

Hawkins served as a soldier in the Patriot cause during the Revolution and returned home after the war uninjured. Like his father Samuel, Hawkins was a farmer. However, he did not get married and start a family of his own until he was 43 years old. As recorded by Samuel Thompson in his diary for April 16, 1800, “Zophar Hawkins married to Julianner Bayles last night.” When they were married Julianner was 25 years old. They had six children between 1804 and 1816. Their first child Moses died at the age of two. Their third and fourth children Sarah and Ruth were twins. Sarah died the day of her birth and Ruth died unmarried at the age of 24. The other three children Mary, Elizabeth and Samuel had long lives.

In 1851, Hawkins’ estate was listed on the Town of Brookhaven assessment rolls as 70 acres, with a total worth of $2,200. The estate paid a tax for the year of $5.06. The same year Hawkins’ son Samuel, who inherited his father’s home and farm, was assessed for 300 acres.

Julianner Hawkins died on October 8, 1842 at the age of 67. Zophar Hawkins died on October 26, 1847 at the age of 90. They are both buried in the Hawkins cemetery along Pond Path. On Hawkins’ tombstone is written, “He served his country faithfully in the Revolution, and was a captive among the Indians 3 years. He lived a quiet and peaceful life, Was happy and resign’d in death.”

Hawkins’ son Samuel Hawkins did not marry. He died on May 6, 1879 and the farm passed out of the Hawkins family. It was later known as the Nassakeag Farm.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Reviewed by Leah Chiappino

Long Island beaches have become the Island’s internationally known trademark attraction. Long days surfing at Atlantic Ocean beaches, relaxing at the gentle waters of South Bay beaches coupled with gazing at what seems like meticulously painted sunsets at the rocky North Shore beaches have provided storybook summer memories for Long Islanders for generations.

Yet, how many of us have had the opportunity to understand how the beaches have come to be what they are today, and the stories of past residents and visitors who enjoyed them so long ago?

Kristen Nyitray, the director of Special Collections and University Archives, as well as a university archivist at Stony Brook University, takes readers along for the story of the history of beaches in Nassau and Suffolk counties in her book, “Long Island Beaches” or what she describes as “a facet of Long Island’s social and cultural history and lure of picturesque beaches.”

Published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Postcard History Series, the 128-page paperback book details coastal Long Island history beginning with the Native Americans, who had respect for its beauty and used it to live off the vast resources of the coast, often engaging in whaling and fishing. Beach areas became desirable for land ownership in the 16th and 17th centuries and were an asset during the 18th century with lighthouses and stations opening up to combat shipwrecks.

Long Island beach destinations became commercialized during the mid- to late 1800s, with hotels, restaurants and attractions popping up in response to increases in transportation efficiency, even becoming a major source of illegal prohibition transfers. Environmental activism took hold by 1924 when Robert Moses worked with the New York State Council of Parks and Long Island State Park Commission to build beaches and parks throughout the island, along with bridges to link the barrier islands of Jones Beach Island and Fire Island to the South Shore coast.

Nyitray organizes her book by county, then shore and community. Black and white photographs, along with vintage postcards, gleaned from local libraries, historical societies, museums and private collections are sprinkled throughout, beautifully display the coastal culture so ingrained on the island.

Above, a real-photo postcard, c. 1907, depicts summer boarders of Pine View House in Stony Brook enjoying Sand Street Beach; right, the cover of Nyitray’s book. Images courtesy of Arcadia Publishing

It begins with a survey of Nassau County North Shore beaches, showcasing historic hotels and the wealth of those who resided on the coast. For example, Nyitray tells the story of John Pierpoint Morgan Jr., the benefactor of Morgan Memorial Park in Glen Cove in honor of his late wife. It featured seven miles of coast, and as reported by the New York Times in 1926, was one of the first breaks in elitist private estates and chances for the public to access the sound.

Nassau’s South Shore was also populated by hotels and home to the Long Beach Boardwalk and Jones Beach State Park. The Moses-led endeavor at Jones Beach was made accessible to the disabled in 1883 when Strandkorbs, rolling beach chairs, became available. Made of wicker, people were pushed along the boardwalk in them, a major stride in accessibility.

Suffolk’s central beaches consisted of Lake Ronkonkoma and Shelter Island, with the latter being home to the Prospect House Hotel, consisting of a two-story bathing pavilion and a relaxation haven for guests in what is today the Shelter Island Heights Beach Club. The North Shore beaches were home to exclusive communities such as Belle Terre and Greenport.

Albert Einstein even vacationed with his friend David Rothman in Cutchogue, after Einstein visited Mattituck to lease a home for sailing, later renting a home in Nassau Point.

Suffolk South Shore beach history consists largely of Montauk and Fire Island. Nyitray speaks of journalist Margaret Fuller, who tragically drowned with family near Point O’Woods after the ship she was sailing on, The Elizabeth, sank after hitting a sandbar. At the request of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau traveled there to search for her, but to no avail.

These stories are just a sampling of the anecdotes that Nyitray lays out, and by the end of the book has the reader walk away with an immense sense of pride in being a Long Islander, along with better appreciation for being able to live in a place of such indisputable beauty, history and culture.

“Long Island Beaches” is available locally where books are sold and online at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Donna Smith, director of education at the TVHS, welcomes every fourth-grade class in the Three Village school district to the Setauket Elementary School’s auditorium, surrounded by murals painted by Vance Locke that portray a time line of Setauket’s history, on Founders Day in April. Photo courtesy of TVHS
Tara Ebrahimian, education coordinator for the Three Village Historical Society, in front of artist William Sidney Mount’s gravesite at the Setauket Presbyterian Church with students from Setauket Elementary School during a recent Founder’s Day event. Ebrahimian is holding up an image of one of Mount’s most famous paintings, ‘Eel Speering at Setauket,’ 1845. Photo courtesy of TVHS

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) recently announced that the Three Village Historical Society is the recipient of an Award of Excellence for Founders Day.

TVHS historian Beverly C. Tyler fields questions from the fourth graders on Founder’s Day. Photo from TVHS

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 74th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Founders Day, an annual event for fourth-grade classes of the Three Village school district, is an exploration of the depth and diversity of Brookhaven’s original settlement in Setauket.

The program is designed to complement the New York State curriculum and enhance students understanding of their local history. It includes a comprehensive presentation about the founding and development of the settlement, as well as guided walking tours of historically significant landmarks.

“This honor was made possible through the efforts of TVHS Historian Beverly Tyler, TVHS Education Director Donna Smith, volunteer Katherine Downs-Reuter, Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell and the entire education team,” said Steve Healy, president of the TVHS.

Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2019 AASLH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 30.

How Eisenhower made the choice that would lead to the end of the Third Reich

General Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses American troops before the D-Day invasion. Photo from the Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli

In the early morning hours that led up to the D-Day landings, former general and later president Dwight D. Eisenhower had to make one of the most vital military decisions to determine the fate of plans to invade Normandy, France. While tens of thousands of men were waiting on ships that were being loaded with everything from blood to tanks, Eisenhower was delayed by hazardous weather. It was determined that the water conditions were too rough to launch and land the soldiers who were expected to make it ashore with tons of gear and against the fire of the German army.  Senior officers Gen. Omar N. Bradley and Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, and chief of staff Gen. Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, watched as Eisenhower was completely alone in determining if the Allies should carry out this attack.

Troops off the boats at the Normandy Invasion. Photo

As Eisenhower walked around the room, he was briefed by his meteorologist about a brief break in the weather that would possibly allow the Allied landings to reach the beaches of Normandy. The general heard Montgomery’s beliefs that all should be risked at this point. He also learned that if they did not go at this moment, it was likely that the Allies would have to wait until July to attack the shores of France due to poor weather reports. While these forces waited in large numbers, Eisenhower fully understood that Hitler was bound to learn of his plans to attack Normandy. He refused to allow noted Field Marshal Erwin Rommel the time to strengthen the French coastline with additional armaments, fortifications and resources to halt this Allied assault. Even as Eisenhower watched the success of Operation Fortitude’s ability to deceive Hitler of the Allies’ false accounts to attack the French location of Calais in the south and Norway in the north, this was too much of a secret to hold on to much longer.

In Germany, Hitler refused to listen to his generals in allowing flexibility within the deployment of Panzer tanks situated in Calais. Eisenhower tricked Hitler into believing that he would attack Calais, which was the closest French landing spot on the English Channel, but as he prepared for D-Day, the American general continually worried about this information being leaked out to the enemy. These fears were presented through a West Point classmate of Ike. Maj. Gen. Henry J.F. Miller was the commander of the 9th Army Air Force Service Command. He made a serious blunder that could have been extremely costly. Drunk, he was overheard speaking about these sensitive invasion plans in a busy English restaurant.  It was described by a younger officer that Miller spoke in an arrogant manner and that he showed no discipline in loudly addressing top secret plans to civilians. Right away Eisenhower questioned him and quickly sent his good friend home to the United States, where he was demoted to his previous rank of colonel. 

As he was surrounded by the likes of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the deposed President of the French Republic Charles de Gaulle and Montgomery, his thoughts were never far away from the rank and file who were tasked to carry out his directives. Although Eisenhower was confident of success against the German army, he feared that his men were bound to suffer heavy casualties against the enemy that was waiting for them at Normandy. At this time, Eisenhower’s son graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant on June 6, 1944, during the very moment that the Allies carried out this risky operation. He was always troubled that he was ordering soldiers younger than his own boy to their possible deaths. To soothe the stress that he felt from his heavy burden of command, Eisenhower smoked almost five packs of cigarettes a day.

There is a famous picture of Eisenhower meeting members of the famed 101st Airborne Division, taken in the hours before he approved the invasion. He was alarmed over the estimated reports that the paratroopers would endure heavy losses. Most of these fears were put to rest when Eisenhower personally asked the airborne where they were from in America, the college teams they followed and their lives before the army. This commanding general always searched for soldiers who were from his own hometown of Abilene, Kansas. Whereas Eisenhower was immensely powerful, he was a well-rounded officer, who enjoyed playing cards and sports, and was extremely well-liked. These junior service members calmly told Eisenhower not to worry about the air drops, as they were determined to defeat the Germans.

Miller’s behavior was contrary to the views of Eisenhower, who preached that every member of the armed forces from private to general was needed to operate as a team to win this war in Europe. The moments leading up to D-Day were perhaps the most difficult that he had to handle through his extensive time in the military and his two-term presidency. Whereas Miller flaunted his rank, he failed to understand that World War II impacted every type of American. Higher command figures like Gen. George C. Marshall lost his stepson during the fighting. Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s younger son Ted was a brigadier general who landed at Normandy and died five weeks after this assault of a massive heart attack. Even FDR’s four sons were all in uniform, where they saw combat duty in Europe and the Pacific.  

As he pondered this vital decision, Eisenhower was constantly reminded of the poor conditions as the rain was heard hitting his headquarters in England.  With his arms folded behind him, Eisenhower looked at the American and British officers and stated, “The question is, just how long can you hang this operation on the end of a limb and let it hang there?” With the risk of the weather, Eisenhower continued, “I am quite positive we must give the order. I don’t like it, but there it is … I don’t see how we can do anything else.” This directive by Eisenhower cut the tension in the room, as his key air, naval and army officers carried out their D-Day responsibilities. Eisenhower wrote a detailed letter accepting the failure of this operation if his forces were pushed back into the English Channel.

Eisenhower was a spectator observing the military might of this machine that he molded to destroy the might of the German military that waited behind the “Atlantic Wall.”  This decision encompassed almost a year of intense training by the United States military and continuous day and nighttime bombing missions that targeted resources, bases, railroad lines and key targets that were able to support the enemy at Normandy. By June of 1944, Eisenhower was a seasoned leader who had learned from his own failures in North Africa and during the hard campaign to take Italy. He was extremely determined to defeat Hitler and drive the final nail in the German war machine to destroy their forces in France and move into Germany to gain a final victory. It was at this moment some 75 years ago that Eisenhower made the successful decision that led to the end of the Third Reich’s reign of terror in Europe.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

From left, Maryanne Vigneaux, Frank Turano, Holly Griesel and Orlando Maione at last year’s event. Photo by Anthony White/ Three Village Historical Society

By David Luces

There’s something about the 1920s that to this day many people are fascinated by. Life during that time seemed like one big party. The Three Village Historical Society and The Jazz Loft plan to bring some of the magic of the time period back for its third annual Prohibition Night fundraiser on June 21.

This year’s theme, titled Booze, Bootlegging and Jazz!!!, will have an emphasis on  bootlegging and speakeasies, also known as blind pigs.

“We’ve been collaborating with the historical society for the past two years [on this event] and I think we’ve hit it out of the park,” Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft said. “For this year we thought what can we do better.”

Guests will be attending a mock funeral service and given a pass code to access a secret back room party filled with booze and jazz music. The historical society will have a Prohibition era bootlegging exhibit set up where guests can peruse old photos and other items from the time period.

“We really want to try to bring some of that history to life,” explained Manuel.

Tara Ebrahimian, education and volunteer coordinator for the historical society, spent weeks researching the Prohibition era and bootlegging as well as Long Island’s history during the 1920s. In a recent interview, she said her inspiration for the mock funeral came from reading accounts of actual funeral homes having speakeasies and parties in the back of their buildings.

“We want [the event] to be historically accurate,” she said. “We wanted to make this scene for the guests,” she added. “Like you’re stepping into this world, we want them to be fully immersed.”

Ebrahimian also researched how people spoke back in the 1920s and the lingo used during Prohibition. Re-enactors from Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will be on hand to aid in the immersive experience and will be acting as if they were from that time period.

Sandy White, office manager at the historical society, said she is excited for this year’s event. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said, adding that there will be a garden bar for guests with beer donated by Sunrise Ales and Lagers.

Steve Healy, president of the historical society, said the event is a great way to incorporate history and jazz music in a fun setting.“We want to make history interesting, and I think people have a soft spot for this era. There is something really fascinating about this time period,” he added.

Healy said that besides antique items from the period there will be a 1929 banana colored convertible parked outside the venue. “It’s going to be a fun night and it supports two great local nonprofits,” he said.

Just as booze and parties were synonymous with the 1920s, jazz music was just as important. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be playing time period music from mid to late 1920s live music for guests at the event. “We want it to be authentic as possible,” explained Manuel, adding that the band will be playing with instruments that were used to make jazz music back then like the piano, guitar, clarinet and trombone among others. They will also be performing with some vintage instruments.

Manuel is grateful to the historical society for creating a wonderful partnership for the past couple of years. He said when The Jazz Loft first opened two years ago, the historical society was one of the first organizations to collaborate with them.“We wanted to partner with people in the community and each time we’ve collaborated greater and bigger things happen for the both of us.”

Guests are encouraged to dress in period attire and Manuel said he is blown away every year by how committed the guests are to dressing up for the event. “I’ve been really impressed … it has really taken a life of its own,” he said.

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the third annual Prohibition Night on Friday, June 21 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

By Donna Deedy

Few D-Day veterans are alive today, but you can find three of them at Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, where an award ceremony was held June 6 in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious operation in military history.

One hundred World War II veterans were presented with the Governor’s Proclamation for the occasion, while Phillip DiMarco and Frank DePergola were decorated with the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross and Charles Cino was decorated with the New York State Medal for Merit. All three men participated in the Normandy invasion.

Ninety-seven-year-old DiMarco was among the first wave of soldiers to storm the beach. “I’m just grateful to have survived,” he said.

Two-thirds of his fellow troopers perished in the first 30 minutes of battle, according to information provided by the state. DiMarco’s group suffered from wounds, hunger, exhaustion and trench foot and survived on green apples and stagnant water doped with halazone tablets, a chlorine-based water purifier. 

“Our World War II heroes and heroines who came of age during the Great Depression, gave new meaning to the words, duty, service, sacrifice, courage and honor,” said Fred Sganga, executive director of the veterans home. “They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs.”

War veterans often are understandably reluctant to talk about their horrific war experiences — it’s clearly too painful to relive. At their advanced ages, speaking also requires tremendous effort. Their stories live on through oral history and past memorials. But these men have stories to share from which history can be garnered. After 75 years, their summaries of what happened are often succinct and to the point. 

“There was this man who didn’t like Jews, and we got him,” 96-year-old DePergola said. DePergola was part of D-Day plus 10, meaning his troop arrived 10 days after the initial invasion. He was one of only four people to survive the war out of a platoon of 20, his daughter Jean Pulizzi said.

In his campaign in Germany and Poland, DePergola encountered what they thought were abandoned buildings, only to discover upon entering about 30 captives: Jews, Catholics and Muslims. It was essentially a concentration camp. The stench inside, he said, was intense and unforgettable. The people, he said, were emaciated and wore black and white striped uniforms.

“They were glad to see us,” DePergola said.

While on assignment from headquarters to retrieve maps, DePergola encountered two German soldiers in the woods in Metz, France. He took them captive with a German Luger pistol he had taken off another German officer earlier, since he forgot his issued rifle at headquarters, and returned to base with the captive soldiers. For this, he was awarded a Bronze Star, a military badge of heroism.

For Thursday’s ceremony, DePergola insisted on wearing his favorite cap, which bears the Purple Heart badge, an emblem that recognizes war injuries. DePergola was shot in the knee during battle, but back then, he said, you remained on active duty.  

Cino was 18 years old when he stormed the Normandy beaches. He was responsible for transporting under the cover of darkness thousands of troops in a landing ship tank, or LST, an amphibious boat capable of landing on shore carrying tanks, cargo and troops. Cino, when he heard it was the 75th anniversary of D-Day nodded, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He could utter only one full sentence, “I was there.” Then he closed his eyes. 

Both DePergola and DiMarco, in addition to their experience at Normandy, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive of World War II during the harsh winter in 1945.

The D-Day ceremony included color guards and live musicians, who sang patriotic tunes and played the bugle. About half of the veterans in attendance were in wheelchairs, and despite their limitations, tapped their toes to the music. Many were able to salute the flag. Some veterans wiped tears from their eyes, particularly when the room sang the lyrics to “God Bless America.” 

During World War II, 900,000 New Yorkers went to the battlefield; 43,000 did not come home. 

The nation’s largest population of World War II vets live at Long Island State Veterans Home

 

All photos by Donna Deedy

The Setauket Neighborhood House when it was known as the Lakeside House

By Beverly C. Tyler

While the wooden shipbuilding era was ending on Long Island and in the Three Village area in the 1870s, the Long Island Railroad was completing the North Shore line. The coming of the railroad made it possible for people and products to travel quickly overland.

Until the railroad came, most travel and commerce to and from Long Island ports was conducted by ship. As the railroad became more efficient and reliable, tourism began to increase, especially during the summer months. Hotels, tourist homes and summer cottages opened in Stony Brook and Setauket, as they did throughout Long Island, to accommodate the influx of visitors.

Beverly Swift and Edith Griffin Tyler at West Meadow Beach around 1912

By 1902, there were six hotels or tourist homes in Stony Brook and ten in Setauket-East Setauket that offered weekly rates. In Stony Brook, the Pine View House run by Israel Hawkins was advertised as a family recreation summer boarding house with accommodations for 25 guests. Guests at the Pine View had the use of a beach house at West Meadow Beach.

In East Setauket, Shore Acres was a large boarding house overlooking Setauket Harbor. Shore Acres was run by Mr. and Mrs. William D. Oaks and had 30 rooms and one bathroom with a washbasin in each room. “In the large dining room on Sundays, the meal was usually chicken, slaughtered on Saturday evening, fresh garden vegetables and homemade ice cream.” (Long Island Museum 1981 exhibit Summer at the Shore). Boating and bathing were popular activities during these summers, and Shore Acres had docks and boats for the use of guests.

In Setauket, the Lakeside House, now the Setauket Neighborhood House, had accommodations for 25 guests at $6 to $8 per week. The Lakeside House was run by my grandfather Captain Beverly Swift Tyler. In 1879, he was master and 3/8 owner of the Willow Harp. She was a coastal schooner and carried coal from New Jersey to East Setauket. Beginning about the turn of the century Captain Tyler, who then spent much of his time running the Lakeside House and general store, would take guests on sailing outings on his catboat Madeline, which was anchored in Setauket Harbor.

The catboat Setauket rigged with a canopy and engine to take Lakeside House guests on excursions.

After he married my grandmother Edith Griffin in 1912, who first came to Setauket to stay a week at the Lakeside House with her sister Carolyn, she became the Lakeside hostess and manager of the kitchen and boarding house staff. Lucy Hart Keyes, born 1900, commented that she worked at the Lakeside house as a young girl and that Mrs. Tyler was “an easy person to work for.”

In 1906, my grandfather built the catboat Setauket in an area behind the Lakeside House. The Setauket was the second boat he built — the first being the Madeline — which, according to Roger Tyler, Captain Tyler’s nephew, “was built with the comments and help of friends and neighbors whose advice he took and later regretted. When the Setauket was being built and comments were again offered, Captain Tyler this time pointed out that the Madeline was their community boat and that he was building the Setauket by himself.”

Sailboats and the harbors and inlets of the Three Village area were part of the attractiveness of the community at the turn of the century. Captain Tyler used the Setauket to take guests on excursions on the Sound and around Setauket and Port Jefferson harbors. The Setauket was also built to race in local competitions in Port Jefferson Harbor. When the Setauket was built, Captain Tyler sold the Madeline, which was a fairly good racing catboat. Roger Tyler said that the Setauket was raced in Port Jefferson and was a consistent winner against all competition including the Madeline. Tyler commented that, “it got to be so that they wouldn’t tell Bev when a race was to be run and a few times he found out about them only just an hour or so before the race, but raced and won anyway.”

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

By David Luces

Over 500 school kids from six different schools gathered on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society on May 17 as they were brought back to a pivotal time in our country’s history.

The Smithtown organization hosted its annual Civil War re-enactment as visitors were taken back to the 1860s and got a chance to experience how life was for soldiers and civilians during this time period.

Re-enactors and living historians from the 67th New York Company, 9th Virginia Infantry, Company C and 30th Virginia Infantry, Company B, dressed in authentic wool uniforms, spoke to the students about life during the 1860s, showed them how meals were prepared, ran military drills, displayed different types of weaponry from the era and demonstrated a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops.

Guests were also able to visit and talk to a battlefield doctor and were shown a cavalry demonstration by Boots and Saddles Productions. The cavalry showed students how different types of weapons were used while riding into battle and members took turns slashing at balloons tied to a wooden pole with a sword and then showed the difficulty of shooting a firearm while on a horse.

“I think it’s great that the students are here and they seem really excited,” said Smithtown Historical Society trustee Brian Clancy. “It’s a day off from school for them and they are learning something.”

For more information on the Smithtown Historical Society and its educational programs, visit www.smithtownhistorical.org.

Photo by Darren St. George

Preservation Long Island will host an open house at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm, 55 Old Post Road, Setauket on Saturday, May 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Actor David Burt will portray William Jayne II aka Big Bill the Tory and lead a tour of the home which dates back to1730. Tours will be held throughout the day. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children and seniors. For more information, call 631-692-4664.

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