History

With a new school year around the corner, look back at Port Jefferson alumni through the years

Richard Olson taught U.S. History in the Port Jefferson school district from 1967-2002. He also served as the yearbook advisor from 1988-2014.

During that time, he amassed a collection of photos from events like homecoming, prom and class trips. With a new school year set to begin, take a look back at alumni from eras gone by.

What is left of the foundation of the Brookhaven Sand and Gravel Company in Mount Sinai. Photo by Edna Giffen

By Edna Giffen

When doing a project to benefit present and future generations, a municipality uncovered an item from the past.

As part of a stormwater mitigation project, the Town of Brookhaven has cleared a large area on the northeast corner of Mount Sinai Harbor adjacent to Shore Road. During this clearing, a cement structure was uncovered: the last remnants of the Brookhaven Sand and Gravel Company.

During the early 1900s, cities were expanding and cement was needed in ever-increasing amounts, with Long Island sand being considered the highest quality.

Companies looked all over Long Island for easily accessible quantities of sand, and in February of 1909, The Port Jefferson Echo, the local newspaper at the time, started reporting on activities concerning mining in Mount Sinai.

On Feb. 6, 1909, New York parties purchased a small piece of bayfront for a dock in the northeast corner of the harbor. This group had already purchased a total of 64 acres of sandy hills across Shore Road, and the American Sand and Gravel Company brought in a pile driver to build a 200-foot dock. A mud digger was brought in to dig a channel to the harbor entrance on the northwest side of the harbor to permit barges to come and go as needed. A railroad trestle was started near the mining area.

In 1910, the American Sand and Gravel Company, which had started this process, sold everything to the newly formed Brookhaven Sand and Gravel Company.

The company moved quickly. The railroad trestle was torn down and rebuilt in a more substantial manner to stand 16 feet above Shore Road, and a building for refining the sand was built on the property. The original plan was for the refining plant to help with housing development, but it became apparent that it’s real purpose was a full-scale mining operation.

Equipment was brought in, including a steam shovel, a donkey engine train and cars to carry the sand over the trestle. Crews of men were brought to work on the construction and the sand mining. By 1912, everything was ready to start the mining operation.

While the work was being done, there were concerns as to the benefits of the operation to the village, as evidenced by an item of Mount Sinai news in the Echo dated April 17, 1909.

A piece in the paper read: “The question whether the sand pile operation at Mount Sinai will bring into the village more money than would the desirable resident community, which they may drive away, is still being canvassed by the inhabitants. There is, however, no doubt of the dismay which has been created in the minds of some of those residing near the proposed sand dump, whose property is already seriously depreciated. On the other hand, it is claimed that if the talk of dredging of the harbor should prove to be of such a character as to be of benefit to the public, as well as to the sand company, the villagers will have cause to be grateful.”

Despite this, sand mining finally began in August 1912.

During the night of Sept. 3, 1912, the plant and part of the trestle were destroyed by fire. The cause was never discovered, the company did not rebuild and everything was left as is.

In 1913, local and summer residents petitioned the Town of Brookhaven to have the lease of the Brookhaven Sand and Gravel Company cancelled as the company was no longer in operation.

The steam shovel, donkey engine and cars were taken to the Miller Place Railroad Station and sent to Canada in July 1916.

Finally, in November 1917, the trestle over Shore Road was removed.

Up until a few years ago, the wooden pylons from the dock were visible and the cement was recently exposed. The foundation of the refining plant is all that is left of this once controversial episode in Mount Sinai history.

Edna Giffen is a 12th-generation Miller Place resident now living in Mount Sinai. She is a local historian, archivist and current president of Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

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Port Jefferson’s annual Heritage Weekend celebration took place Aug. 20 and 21 at 19 locations throughout the village. Visitors made stops at the Village Center, Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, Port Jefferson Village Chamber of Commerce and more to take in historical sights and sounds during the two-day event. Funding for the event was provided in part by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

The Noah Hallock House will undergo renovations with Rocky Point Historical Society’s newly received grant money. File photo by Erin Duenas

By Desirée Keegan

Thousands of dollars have made their way to North Shore historical nonprofits, which will help continue to preserve Long Island’s rich history and educate others on it.

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation funds Long Island’s history-based 501(c)(3)s, museums and universities to help with object conservation, historical preservation, education programs and exhibits. The organization was established in memory of Gardiner’s Island, a part of East Hampton town.

“The foundation grants have become highly completive,” Executive Director Kathryn Curran said. “For this round, the board reviewed 43 applicants that covered every form of historic outreach. Projects included restorations, exhibitions, programs and collection digitization.”

Most recently, local historical societies, Friends of Science East Inc., Suffolk County Historical Society, The Nature Conservancy, 3rd NY Regiment Long Island Companies and Stony Brook Foundation, among others, were the 2016 first round recipients.

A volunteer and child practice on a loom at an event at the Huntington Historical Society. File photo
A volunteer and child practice on a loom at an event at the Huntington Historical Society. File photo

Joseph Attonito, chairman of the board of directors, said there were many great groups to choose from.

“It is very gratifying to have so many worthwhile organizations overseeing our local heritage and preserving our history,” he said. “Bob Gardiner would be very pleased.”

Rocky Point Historical Society received $7,500 for restoration use and, according to historical society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel, the funds are being used for repairs and restoration of The Noah Hallock House, built in 1721.

“We feel very privileged to have the foundation choose us for that grant,” she said. “It is important to keep this historic house in good shape. We would’ve had a hard time fundraising that money.”

According to Stiefel, the house, which holds tours on Saturdays between 1 and 3 p.m., was the birthplace of revolutionary soldiers, and had the possibility of being torn down several years ago before Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, stepped in to help.

“We still have staircases that the servants and slaves used,” Stiefel said. “It’s filled with artifacts and photographs from the 18th and 19th century, and there’s even a 20th century room dedicated to the radio history of Rocky Point.”

The Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy received $16,354.09 for it’s annual Heritage Weekend festivities.

Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy used it's funds from the grant to host a larger and more in-depth Heritage Weekend celebration. Photo by Alex Petroski
Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy used it’s funds from the grant to host a larger and more in-depth Heritage Weekend celebration. Photo by Alex Petroski

According to Nicole Christian, a consultant for grant writing for Port Jefferson Village, about 50 percent of the funding from the weekend came from the grant.

“The larger, more impactful exhibits and reenactments that would have lasting public benefit, that’s what they supported,” she said.

“We made sure that we tailored a lot of the activities that you see with the cars and the beach scene — we made sure that it all weaves together to celebrate the history of Long Island, particularly the 18th century.”

All 19 locations around the village that hosted the event covered a particular time period in Long Island’s history. According to Christian, the funding helped Port Jefferson be able to create a larger and grander event than would have originally been possible.

“We had all levels of recreational activities here,” she said. “We’re hoping that [visitors took] away a greater appreciation for Long Island’s role in 18th century history, the colonial period, the Revolutionary War, a recreational pastime. People don’t know that [Port Jefferson was] a magnet of recreation for all families.”

The Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson also received grant money, totaling $22,000 for restoration purposes.

The 3rd NY Regiment Long Island Companies was awarded $12,000 to substitute payment customarily made by collaborators, host sites and venues during the campaign season, allowing those organization to apply those resources to other priorities associated with their missions. The Regiment partakes in re-enactments to educate Long Islanders on the Revolutionary War.

“They are quite an extraordinary group of volunteers who perform a vital role in helping our county’s residents and visitors get a very personal education about colonial life and the role Long Island played in the Revolutionary War,” Richard Barons, the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society, said.

Smithtown 350 Foundation volunteers walk in a parade celebrating the town. File photo
Smithtown 350 Foundation volunteers walk in a parade celebrating the town. File photo

The Smithtown 350 Foundation received a $5,000 grant toward anniversary events, as the town celebrated its 350th anniversary this year. The Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park Preservation Society in Nesconset received $100,000 for restoration and preservation purposes.

The Huntington Historical Society received a $12,728 grant that Executive Director Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano said will be used to purchase new technology products and technical support.

“With the new technology and updated software that [the] funding will provide for, the society can continue to stay relevant in the 21st century,” Fortunato-Napolitano said in an email. “We will be able to stay better connected with our members and donors, while increasing the number of people who we can help with their research… [It] will lead directly to the growth of the organization as the goal is for the society to successfully engage more members of the public and the community. For small not-for-profits like ours with a limited budget, vital technology updates is often an item that can seem too costly to afford.”

The Old First Presbyterian Church in Huntington received $50,000 for restoration and conservation of the steeple.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization was awarded $22,500 for an educational program called Distance Learning.

According to Gloria Rocchio, president of the organization, an instructor will give a lesson, in say, the Bewster House, and it would be filmed and broadcasted onto the Distance Learning website.

The Tesla Science Center in Shoreham is looking to get on the National Register of Historic Places with help from the grant funds. File photo by Wenhao Ma
The Tesla Science Center in Shoreham is looking to get on the National Register of Historic Places with help from the grant funds. File photo by Wenhao Ma

“People from around the world could learn about the rich history we have here,” she said. “We already have the cameras installed in the Thompson House and the Brewster House, and we’re developing programs for them. Once program should be ready this fall, and the other should be ready next spring. It’s very exciting.”

Friends of Science East Inc., more commonly known as Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, received $17,500 for capacity-building technology and $3,800 for collections care.

According to board of directors President Jane Alcorn, the funding will be used to survey the property, especially the lab building and power base, to study its historic nature — identify which parts are historic, have architectural drawings done, and figure out which parts are critical to preserve and protect, and how to do it.

“The funding will help as we continue to protect the site as we work toward getting it on the National Register of Historic Places,” Alcorn said. “We know the history of the project is historic. It has significance because of Tesla’s work there    it’s a scientific site. Its architectural origins, in inspiration of Stanford White, an important architect at his time, [are also significant].”

Alcorn said that every dollar is significant, as the nonprofit looks toward the future of turning part of the site into a museum — and the funding makes the creation of a museum more exciting, if the organization can get the property on the national list.

“We believe in preserving and making the best possible choice in how we use that space,” she said. “Having the grant enables us to develop ideas that bring together the past and the future. We have far more fundraising to do moving forward, so the contribution really helps us realize and achieve the steps necessary to move forward. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation has been magnificent, and we applaud their foresight into giving to organizations such as ours, who want to preserve the best of the past.”

Victoria Espinoza and Alex Petroski contributed reporting.

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The “Culper Spy Adventure,” a special presentation by TBR News Media, is an immersive digital attraction that will allow locals and tourists alike to be recruited into the ranks of General Washington’s secret Setauket spy ring. Accessed by scanning a special QR code on a panel of the Three Village map or visiting www.TBRNewsMedia.com/Culper, you will begin an interactive 45-minute journey that puts you into the starring role of your very own secret spy adventure!

Become a time traveler as you arrive in the year 1780, crossing paths with legends and heroes: Abraham Woodhull, Anna Smith Strong, Caleb Brewster, George Washington himself! Enjoy interactive games between each episode that are filled to the brim with intrigue, action and fun! Created with the whole family in mind, the “Culper Spy Adventure” is great for all ages.

Jonathan Trumbull captures a member of Tallmadge’s dragoons in excerpt from painting.
Jonathan Trumbull captures a member of Tallmadge’s dragoons in excerpt from painting.

Lemuel Cook, one of the last surviving veterans of the American Revolution, died at 106 years old in 1866. He served under the command of Lt. Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, a Setauket native, Culper spy and member of the House of Representatives. He was born in the British Colony of Connecticut in 1759, just two or three years apart from Alexander Hamilton and died in the State of New York as a citizen of the United States of America.

Cook was a cavalryman who rode alongside the 2nd Light Continental Dragoons. He enlisted when he was just 16 years old. His military career took him from the Battle of Brandywine to the war’s end at Yorktown. He was witness to the surrender of General Cornwallis and given an honorable discharge by General George Washington. At the time of his enlistment in 1775, there were just 13 British colonies. By the time of his death there were 36 American states. This centenarian saw his national flag change many times and watched our founders’ dream of American democracy come to fruition.

 Lemuel Cook, American Revolutionary War veteran. Photo from Michael Tessler
Lemuel Cook, American Revolutionary War veteran. Photo from Michael Tessler

He lived through the War of 1812, a conflict his generation called “the Second American Revolution.” He saw his countrymen settle westward achieving new frontiers, and in 1861 he saw our young republic descend into a brutal civil war. By that time he was one of five remaining veterans of the War for Independence. He died five years later but lived to see the Civil War’s conclusion. He lived to see the abolishment of slavery, and we can only hope with it he experienced a great comfort that our American experiment would endure.

Seeing Cook for the first time was an overwhelming experience. In all of my research and love for history, I’ve never seen a real photograph of someone who lived through that extraordinary time in our national story. His eyes look tired but tell such an important story. They witnessed so much: watched as Benjamin Tallmadge led charges against British soldiers, watched as Caleb Brewster carried secret messages to camp, watched the sword of General Cornwallis be offered to George Washington. He was the last direct connection to Setauket’s secret revolutionary history and perhaps to our nation’s first commander-in-chief.

In our textbooks we often forget about men like Cook. His name, like so many others, has fallen into obscurity. His story near forgotten. Yet his bravery and sacrifice remain just as profound and real as they were some 240 years ago. We should not forget them, those brave Continentals and militiamen who risked everything for a dream of a nation that did not yet exist. They epitomized what it means to be American, heck, they defined it.

My greatest honor in life has been paying homage to them by telling their stories some two and a half centuries later. Honor their sacrifice by witnessing it first-hand. See Cook’s unit come to life in our recently released “Culper Spy Adventure” series now available for free at: www.TBRNewsMedia.com/Culper.

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The Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum will be open to the public during Heritage Weekend. Photo by Jill Russell

By Rebecca Anzel

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is this weekend. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of the village that used to be known as Drowned Meadow, and fun, interactive activities.

A Heritage Weekend kickoff event will be held on Friday, Aug. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. aboard the Lettie G. Howard historic fishing schooner. Tickets are $45 per person or $80 per couple. Money raised will support the cultural events featured during Heritage Weekend, as will funds donated by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

This week, check out attractions that will take place at the Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum, Port Jefferson Masonic Temple and Christ Church Episcopal. Check out parts one, two and three of our Heritage Weekend preview series.

Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum

Fire department equipment on display at the Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum, which will be open to the public Heritage Weekend. Photo by Jill Russell
Fire department equipment on display at the Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum, which will be open to the public Heritage Weekend. Photo by Jill Russell

On the second floor of Port Jefferson’s fire department on Maple Place is a museum housing 130 years of history. The collection of equipment, helmets, uniforms and pictures dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s and tells the story of how fighting fires in the village’s four square miles has evolved. The exhibit will be open to the public during Heritage Weekend.

“It’s a small museum — just one room — but it’s got a lot of history in it,” Third Assistant Chief Jim Sarubbi said. “It represents what this department is all about — tradition and dedication.”

Some of the department’s nearly 100 members will be on hand over the weekend to escort event attendees to the museum and around the firehouse to check out the historical artifacts. The museum will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Port Jefferson Masonic Lodge

The freemasons’ purchased their current building, which was constructed in 1854, from the Presbyterian Society in 1912. Photo courtesy of Suffolk Lodge Number 60
The freemasons’ purchased their current building, which was constructed in 1854, from the Presbyterian Society in 1912. Photo courtesy of Suffolk Lodge Number 60

On Main Street, a two minute walk away from the fire department, is the Masonic temple. Also known as Suffolk Lodge No. 60, it was organized in 1796 and chartered in 1797.

The group is hosting an open house and Q-and-A session from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Visitors will be able to learn more about Freemasons and the fraternal organization’s history, and view historic photos and other artifacts while there, former Master of the lodge Gary D. Gudzik said.

Christ Church Episcopal

Christ Church Episcopal’s first service was June 3, 1888; a fire uniform at the museum. Photo from Christ Church Episcopal's
Christ Church Episcopal’s first service was June 3, 1888; a fire uniform at the museum. Photo from Christ Church Episcopal’s

Locals know Christ Church Episcopal as the little white church up on the hill. Built in the 1880s on land purchased from P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus, the members of the yellow pine church on Barnum Avenue will be hosting a yard sale during Heritage Weekend.

Irene Choate, the event’s organizer and head of the church’s women’s group, said housewares and small appliances will be on sale in Christ Church Episcopal’s air conditioned recreation room, where refreshments will be served. Senior Warden Gene Seiler will be answering questions about the church’s history and giving tours to interested visitors.

“We look forward to seeing potential new parishioners,” Joyce Bock, the church’s communications officer, said. “We’re a tiny church, but we have a big heart. All are welcomed and we mean it.”

The yard sale will be on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The church’s services are at 9 a.m. on Sunday.

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Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) in the Uniform of the New York Artillery (oil on canvas) by Chappel, Alonzo (1828-87). Photo from Michael Tessler

By Michael Tessler

The “Culper Spy Adventure,” a special presentation by TBR News Media, is an immersive digital attraction that will allow locals and tourists alike to be recruited into the ranks of General Washington’s secret Setauket spy ring. Accessed by scanning a special QR code on a panel of the Three Village map or visiting www.TBRNewsMedia.com/Culper, you will begin an interactive 45-minute journey that puts you into the starring role of your very own secret spy adventure!

Become a time traveler as you arrive in the year 1780, crossing paths with legends and heroes: Abraham Woodhull, Anna Smith Strong, Caleb Brewster, George Washington himself! Enjoy interactive games between each episode that are filled to the brim with intrigue, action and fun!

Created with the whole family in mind, the “Culper Spy Adventure” is great for all ages.

 Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) in the Uniform of the New York Artillery (oil on canvas) by Chappel, Alonzo (1828-87). Photo from Michael Tessler
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) in the Uniform of the New York Artillery (oil on canvas) by Chappel, Alonzo (1828-87). Photo from Michael Tessler

Long before we started production on the “Culper Spy Adventure,” and long before I listened to the sound track of the musical, Alexander Hamilton was my favorite founding father. He embodied America: brave, innovative, steadfast, flawed yet relentlessly moving toward progress. He was an immigrant who moved to a country that did not yet exist and still adopted it as his own and fought for it both before and after the war. He was perhaps the most famous New Yorker of the 18th century and his brilliant system of banking and government are still alive and thriving today. Our wealth, our luxury, our mantle of “global superpower” can very well be attributed to his foresight and vision.

“Hamilton: The Musical” has ingeniously provided a whole new generation with an incredible medium to learn and love history. Using show-stopping numbers, dancing, and elements of hip-hop, the show’s creator Lin Manuel-Miranda has successfully made history accessible to everyone (or those who can get tickets that is, I’m still waiting for mine!)

Some two centuries after his death, Alexander Hamilton is again providing America with a great gift, a refreshing glimpse into our nation’s founding and the ideals that make America great.

When we started writing the “Culper Spy Adventure” it was very clear that we wanted to include Hamilton in the story. He was just a young man when the Declaration of Independence was signed, not yet a founding father, but one of America’s sons fighting on the frontline for liberty. Though he came from nothing, he used his brilliant tactical mind to achieve the title of war hero. His superiors took note and he was offered various promotions by officers in the Continental Army. He refused them all, that was until General George Washington offered him a position as his “right hand man” as an aide-de-camp and that’s when our stories intertwine.

Hamilton was one of the very few individuals who knew of the Culper Spy Ring and its operations throughout the war. Being one of Washington’s most trusted advisers, Hamilton was tasked with reading many of the intelligence reports created by Townsend, Woodhull, Strong, Brewster and Tallmadge. Though he didn’t know their real names, he knew of their tremendous sacrifice and bravery in delivering those secret messages.

One of Hamilton’s best friends was Hercules Mulligan, another star from the musical. This tailor’s apprentice stayed behind in New York after the British occupation and would gather intelligence for the Continental Army. He and his slave Cato reportedly saved Washington’s life twice and would occasionally work directly with the Culper Spy Ring.

All of this coalesces in 1780 when Hercules Mulligan informs Culper spy Robert Townsend (a.k.a. Culper Jr.) of the British plans to attack the French in Rhode Island. This piece of intelligence drastically altered the course of the war and very well saved the revolution. We serialize this mission in the “Culper Spy Adventure” as you race against time to deliver that message to George Washington at his headquarters, along the way meeting and interacting with Setauket’s spies and some great historical figures.

Though I don’t want to spoil anything, you do get to meet Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton in one of the film’s best sequences. So don’t “throw away your shot.” Begin your “Culper Spy Adventure” today!

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is fast approaching. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of the village that used to be known as Drowned Meadow, as well as fun, interactive activities.

The Port Times Record will preview each of the featured locations around the village leading up to Heritage Weekend. This week includes a look at the attractions that will be take place at the Port Jefferson Historical Society’s Mather House Museum, Port Jefferson Free Library, Belle Terre Community Center and Antique Costume & Prop Rental by Nan during the weekend.

For part one of the series click here and for part two click here.

Mather House Museum

The museum will be open the Saturday and Sunday of Heritage Weekend from noon to 4 p.m. for guided tours of the 1840s home turned museum of shipbuilder John Mather. This year’s exhibit, Hats Off to Port Jefferson, will feature styles of hats dating back to the 1700s, including a helmet that belonged to community member Earl L. Vandermeulen during World War I.

“We’re very happy to share this with the community,” museum curator Laura Warren said.

The museum will also feature a “clock building,” with more than 200 antique clocks. In addition, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, members of the clock guild will hold appraisals to assess the value of clocks brought in by visitors.

“I’m looking forward to bringing more people to our museum,” Warren said. “It’s the best-kept secret in town.”

Port Jefferson Free Library

The historic front doors to the original Port Jefferson Free Library will be open and visitors will be greeted by Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library volunteers upon entering on Saturday. Explore the historic reference desk and view paintings by local artist Leon Foster Jones. Children can enjoy period activities and stories on the front lawn. Story times will be held at 1:30 and 3 p.m. A lemonade stand and refreshments, sponsored by the Friends, will be on the Library’s lawn.

At 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library will also host guided walking tours of the Port Jefferson area. No registration is required. Meet at the Library’s main doors on East Main Street. The 30 points of interest on the tour will begin on Thompson Street, up along High Street and down Prospect Street, returning back to the Library via East Main Street.

Beginning at noon, take part in a geocache hunt around the village. Geocaches have been hidden at different historical sites around Port Jefferson. Stop by the Library for your “Past-Port” Field Guide on how to use your phone to track down each cache.

Belle Terre Community Center

Belle Terre Village Historian John Hiz will give a presentation at the Community Center during the weekend about the history of Belle Terre. From its past as Mount Misery in the early 1700s, to the Strong family’s ownership of the village, which became known as Oakwood during that time, to Dean Alvord’s construction of the village into the contours of the land, Hiz, will provide in-depth facts about the history of Belle Terre.

“I think I’m always excited about people coming and learning the history, not only about Belle Terre, but also about Port Jefferson,” he said. Hiz said he is looking forward to the weekend as a whole. “Opening it up and allowing each individual participant to talk about their unique history — that brings everything together.”

Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan

Nancy Altman Guzzetta has been in business in Port Jefferson since the 1970s. Her antique costume shop will be outfitting models and actors at nearly all of the Heritage Weekend stops. Culper Spy Ring re-enactors at the Village Center, both patriots and redcoats, will be adorned in Nan’s costumes. Children and adults will be dressed in 18th century clothing at the Drowned Meadow Museum and in 17th century attire at the Chamber of Commerce. Waiters and customers will be at Grammas’ in outfits provided by the shop.

“I think it’s much more meaningful,” she said about incorporating elaborate costumes as part of the weekend festivities. “It helps make history come alive.”

At the shop, different props and costumes will be available for photo opportunities along with light refreshments.

Marty Buchman, a cyclist for over 40 years, and owner of Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, rides down a path at Sylvan Avenue Park in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

It has been more than 30 years in the making, but by 2018, cyclists in the Town of Brookhaven may finally have a new 10-mile route to ride from Port Jefferson to Wading River.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to preserve land strictly for recreation and transportation, proposed to use old North Shore railroad track locations and pave the way, literally, for a bike path.

Railroad tracks used to lay behind Sylvan Avenue Park in Miller Place, which is where the proposed trail will run through. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Railroad tracks used to lay behind Sylvan Avenue Park in Miller Place, which is where the proposed trail will run through. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Marty Buchman, who lives in Stony Brook and opened the new Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, has been a member of Rails to Trails for 20 years and cycling for over 40.

“It means everything for us cyclists,” Buchman said of the project. “There is no joy like riding on a bicycle trail. The trail will bring economic development, health, jobs — I can’t understand why it took so long to get this started, but I’m absolutely overjoyed. I can’t wait. I’ll be here the first day.”

He has frequently rode along the Greenway Trail, which connects Setauket and Port Jefferson Station, and said that the usage and the joy people get out of the trail is exciting to see. He added that he knows the new trail, which will connect Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Shoreham and Wading River, will have the same impact.

“If you build it, people will come,” he said. “I’ve been cycling since I was 16, and when I ride, I feel like I’m 16 again. I feel like I’m connected to the world around me. I sometimes ride 30 miles to work.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (R-NY), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) all helped give the proposal life, advocating for the project over the years in an effort to secure funding.

According to Zeldin, converting the rails into a bike trail had been discussed in 2001 when North Shore advocate Mike Cosel spoke to then-legislator Martin Healy about the idea, which has long been stalled since then. Though the projects roots date back much further than that. The previous allocated funding for the project sat for over five years, and was in danger of being cancelled and repurposed, so local officials worked over the past 19 months across party lines to restore the funding so the project could move forward.

Cyclists would no longer have to share the road with cars once the Rails to Trails project is completed. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Cyclists would no longer have to share the road with cars once the Rails to Trails project is completed. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Living on Long Island we are blessed with so many natural treasures, including our renowned parks and beaches, many of which are connected through our scenic biking and hiking trails,” Zeldin said. “Long Island’s trails are an important part of our local community and economy, connecting our residents and visitors to our beaches, parks, local farms, festivals, wineries, restaurants and other destinations, while providing an option of healthy recreational activity and transportation. In addition to improving quality of life and livability, trails help to protect our environment through conservation and by reducing traffic and pollution on our roads.”

The $9.51 million project, according to the congressman, will be 80 percent federally funded, with Brookhaven Town covering the remaining 20 percent.

“We’re going to take this and make this something that people can enjoy,” Romaine said. “This will be a great addition to what we have to offer for recreation in the Town of Brookhaven.”

For experienced cyclists, skateboarders, walkers or even first-time riders, safety was a main concern for all parties involved in approving the trails.

“Unfortunately Suffolk has the very dubious honor of having the highest fatality rates of cyclists on the road,” said Robert DeVito, president of the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association and director of the Nassau-Suffolk Bicycle Coalition. “We constantly go out riding, whether in a group or alone, always concerned [about safety]. With people today utilizing their phones more and more in their car, it’s really become an issue. We need safer areas to ride.”

The project will also provide an economic boost, as shops could set up along the trail. Anker said the goal is to create ecotourism where along the trail, community members and visitors can stop at the various hamlets, whether it be just to buy a bottle of water, to sit and eat dinner or even visit the Tesla Science Center.

Ashley Hunt-Martorano, director of marketing and events for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, talks about her excitement for the Rails to Trails project. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Ashley Hunt-Martorano, director of marketing and events for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, talks about her excitement for the Rails to Trails project. Photo by Desirée Keegan

According to Ashley Hunt-Martorano, director of marketing and events for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-profit organization focused on national policies to address climate change, it will also help create a safer place for cyclists to travel during ozone days, when county or state officials determine it’s not safe for bike riders to be out on their bikes.

“The more people get outdoors and engage in their community, the more they’re paying attention to the changes we’re seeing in our planet,” she said. “I have really fallen in love with riding my bike, and I love riding my bike on Long Island. I visit places I’ve never went before in my car. There are certain areas where it’s just gorgeous.”

Although there’s still more time to wait and see if the plan will come to fruition, for now, many locals are excited to hear there may be a plan in place.

“This project has always had tremendous support from all of the surrounding communities,” said Rock Point resident Jeff Carlson, who is president of the Rocky Point Civic Association. “We’re really happy that this is finally getting somewhere.”

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is fast approaching. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of the village that used to be known as Drowned Meadow, as well as fun, interactive activities.

The Port Times Record will preview each of the featured locations around the village leading up to Heritage Weekend. This week includes a look at the attractions that will be take place at the Village Center during the weekend. If you missed part one, click here.

Historic recreation photo exhibit

At the Village Center, an exhibit featuring vintage photos featuring the fun of bygone summers will be on display. The exhibit, called Not Just Child’s Play — Rewinding Our Pastimes, depicts what Port Jefferson was like as a tourist attraction, weekend getaway spot and community staple nearly 100 years ago. Costumed actors will be present amid the exhibit and on the beach at Harborfront Park outside of the Village Center dressed in vintage swimming attire.

Sue Orifici, who handles graphic design for the Village Center, and Village Historian Chris Ryon each spoke about what to expect from the exhibit.

“It’s just going to be another [chance] to go back in time where you can show your children what it was like to be young in those days,” Orifici said. “That visual is something that people need. It’s more than just telling them.”

Ryon said he hopes the exhibit will dispel some common misconceptions.

“People had fun a long time ago and I don’t now if everybody thinks that,” he said. “We want to show that people did relax. They weren’t working constantly. They weren’t all dying of small pox.”

Orifici said there remains many similarities between the village as it was then and now.

“People love to come to Port Jeff because they can walk around,” she said. “You didn’t have to have a car to get around because everything is walking distance.”

Model A Ford Club of Long Island

Vintage Model A Fords built between 1929 and 1931 will be visible all over the village during Heritage Weekend. The car club will be stationed at the Village Center and the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce for a majority of the weekend, though club member Jon Reiff said the group will circulate around the area to show off their cool rides.

“They’re not museum pieces — we do drive them on a regular basis,” he said.

The club is also planning to head to Belle Terre Village during the weekend for a photo opportunity. Reiff said he expects at least 10 vintage Fords to be on display throughout the weekend, but depending on weather, there could be a fleet of Model A’s flooding Port Jefferson streets for Heritage Weekend.

Liberty Balloon Company

The Liberty Balloon Company will be supplying a 60-by-60-foot hot air balloon to be stationed at the Village Center on Saturday. Carroll Teitsworth, a pilot from the company, will be sending a representative to conduct an educational presentation about the science behind the balloons and what makes them fly through the air.

The exhibition will address the history of ballooning as a means of transportation and the impact weather has on traveling by a balloon-suspended basket.

The display will be followed by a live demonstration featuring the inflated balloon in action.

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