History

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Courtesy of the Erie Canal Museum An 1852 Abbot map of the Erie Canal.

By Beverly C. Tyler

Farming on Long Island has changed significantly over the past 350 years. The early settlers in Brookhaven used horses and oxen, raised cows, pigs and sheep and grew a wide variety of crops including wheat, Indian corn, barley, rye, flax, grasses, apple and pear trees. As wheat and Indian corn were the largest and most important crops, the local gristmill became the vital connection between the farm field and table.

For farmers, the miller and the blacksmith were the vital craftsmen. Brookhaven’s colonial blacksmiths worked in iron to produce farm tools and hardware. They made horseshoes and shod horses, oxen and occasionally cows. In 1681, John Thompson, Brookhaven’s blacksmith, made all the iron and steel work for a new Setauket gristmill run by John Wade.

By the end of the 18th century, increased agricultural productivity was becoming vital to Long Island farmers. By enriching the soil with seaweed, shells and manure, Suffolk County farmers increased the yield of each acre of wheat and other grains by two to three times. However, the dominance of wheat in Long Island agriculture was soon to change.

At the start of the 19th century, New York City had a number of tidal gristmills along the East River to grind grain. Grain and flour came from Long Island and as far away as Ohio. Grain from the west, transported by wagon, was more expensive than Long Island grain. This, however, was also soon to change.

With the end of the War of 1812, trade with Europe and Great Britain resumed. Europeans remained willing to pay high prices for American cotton and wheat. Great Britain passed the “Corn Law of 1815,” placing a tax on the import of grains. This was to keep the price of grains up and preserve the profits of the “landed gentry” (the British noblemen who owned most of the land).

In 1812 the United States exported 1.3 million barrels of flour to Britain. In 1816 that fell to about half (620,000 barrels). Long Island farmers still earned their living by raising grain and herding livestock, as they had since the 17th century. Now they began to have a wider market through New York City.

The Erie Canal forever changed Long Island’s relationship with New York City. Begun in 1817, the Erie Canal was fully completed in 1825 from Buffalo to Albany — a distance of 363 miles — establishing a water commerce route between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes.

The effect of the canal on Long Island and New York City population and commerce was dramatic. By 1826, 42 barges a day carried 1,000 passengers, 221,000 barrels of flour, 435,000 gallons of whiskey and 562,000 bushels of wheat. Shipping costs from Lake Erie to Manhattan plummeted from $100 a ton to less than $9.00.

By 1830, due largely to the Erie Canal, New York, which had always been behind Philadelphia and Boston in exports, was exporting four times as much as Philadelphia. By 1850, New York’s exports had grown another 160 percent.

On Long Island, wheat, barley, corn and rye proved unable to compete with cereal grains from the West. By 1836, with a population that more than doubled to over 275,000 since 1820 and shipping that tripled over the same period, Long Island farmers, seeing their market disappear, switched to raising potatoes, cabbage, peas, beans, asparagus and tomatoes for booming Manhattan and Brooklyn.

To be continued next time: A trip on the Erie Canal.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket, NY 11733. Tel: 631-751-3730. WWW.TVHS.org.

Firemen salute the American flag during the East Northport Fire Department's 9/11 memorial on Sunday, Sept. 11. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Rich Acritelli

It was 15 years ago this week, Sept. 11, 2001, that Americans were putting their children on school buses and going about their daily routines when our nation was attacked. Terrorists boarded and later commandeered passenger planes that were fully loaded with fuel and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The terrorists that took over Flight 93 originally planned to strike the Capital building or the White House, but cries of “Let’s roll” rang out, and the passengers fought back against the perpetrators.

While Mike Piazza of the New York Mets was an exceptional baseball player, he also served as a leader for his team and the community, and even helped with a humanitarian drive that was based out of Shea Stadium to aid the recovery workers. He spoke about that day during his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech in July.

“To witness the darkest evil of the human heart and how it tore many loved ones from their families will forever be burned in my soul.”

— Mike Piazza

“Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that forever changed our lives. To witness the darkest evil of the human heart and how it tore many loved ones from their families will forever be burned in my soul,” the transplanted New Yorker, who was born in Philadelphia, said. “But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and, eventually, healing. Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run on the first game back on Sept. 21 to push us ahead of the rival Braves. But the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders, who knew they were going to die, but went forward anyway.”

The New York Yankees, who were in pursuit of another World Series title, visited firehouses, and players had tears in their eyes moments before they played in games.

Today, Americans are watching a hotly contested election. It was 15 years ago that many citizens put aside their political beliefs to be unified against a common enemy. Rescue crews traveled from all over the nation to head toward the remains of the World Trade Center, yellow ribbons were tied on trees across the United States and the undeniable will of our people was quickly demonstrated to the world. While it seems like yesterday that we watched these horrific events occur, there are current high school students that may have lost a parent that day. It is these boys and girls who were so young that they do not easily recollect their loved ones that were amongst the almost three thousand Americans killed tragically. This is not just another historic day to briefly remember — it is still with our citizens on a daily basis. Our children have lived under the heightened security at our airports, infrastructure centers like Pennsylvania Station and the George Washington Bridge, and during major sporting events. During every home game since 9/11, the New York Yankees invite veterans and rescue workers to be honored, as both teams line up to listen to “God Bless America.”

Our North Shore communities were a considerable distance from the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. But unflinchingly, local rescue and support workers from these towns traveled every day and spent hours away from their families to be at ground zero. May we never forget the sacrifices of members of these numerous agencies that are currently suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. It should also be remembered that while our North Shore towns are miles from the city, these communities and schools lost residents and graduates as a result of these acts of terrorism. Thank you to all our rescue workers and military branches that continue to protect the security and values of the United States, at home and abroad.

A Rocky Point Middle School student draws symbols associated with 9/11 during class. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Alex Petroski & Victoria Espinoza

The world changed Sept. 11, 2001. For those who were alive and old enough to grasp the enormity of the event, what happened that day is very complicated and difficult to comprehend, even 15 years later. For those who weren’t born yet or were too young to remember the events, it’s even more challenging to comprehend. That is the task facing North Shore global and American history teachers welcoming eighth- and ninth-graders into their classrooms for the 2016 school year.

Student artwork done after a 9/11 lesson. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Student artwork done after a 9/11 lesson. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Wendy Blair-Braxton, an eighth-grade history teacher at Elwood Middle School, planned several days worth of lessons to help her students get an in-depth understanding of the events that transpired on 9/11.

Blair-Braxton started her lesson Sept. 9 by showing her students photos of 9/11, without telling students what the photos depicted.

“They had different reactions, some students said terrorism, some didn’t even realize we were talking about 9/11,” she said in a phone interview.

Blair-Braxton said after the students realized what the subject was, she showed videos about 9/11, to help put the students in the shoes of those at Ground Zero.

“I tried to teach the emotional aspects of 9/11,” she said. “It really did hit home for a lot of the students. I also explained to the kids, once you live through this type of history, all the emotions come back every time you revisit it. You get the chills, and the goosebumps down your spine.”

She said many of her students became emotional after seeing the video and photos of the Twin Towers falling, and the classroom became “dead silent.”

The eighth-grade teacher said many students didn’t realize just how many aspects of their lives were affected by the attacks.

“They didn’t realize added security now at airports was because of this,” she said.

The Elwood students’ lessons eventually went into further detail about the Patriot Act, terrorism and the Department of Homeland Security, as Blair-Braxton said she tried to show the students how 9/11 was a turning point in the United States.

Students were asked to write reflections on index cards, as Blair-Braxton played songs like “My City of Ruins” by Bruce Springsteen, a popular ballad that took on new meaning after 9/11 and helped raised funds for first responders.

After the lesson, students wrote down their thoughts on reflection cards.

“We had a child who was actually questioning if there were people in the building when it went down. So a lot of them really don’t have any clue.”

— Erica Alemaghides

“I feel like I shouldn’t be that affected by what happened on 9/11, since I had no personal connection to anything that happened,” one student wrote. “Then why do I feel like it does affect me? It’s probably because of a mixture of shock and sadness realizing that it affected our country and everyone inside of the country is the country.”

Grasping the subject wasn’t any easier for a classmate.

“I feel that I can’t describe 9/11 in detail,” the student wrote. “I know all the videos, and people’s stories of how they reacted, but I wasn’t there. I don’t have any personal experience with the incident. I think 9/11 had the largest negative impact in the history of the U.S. New York City is known as the city that never sleeps, but for long after the incident the city slept. The whole city was silent. I feel horrible for all the people who lost their lives, and the people who lived on, carrying the crestfallen emotions of the deceased. 9/11 will never be lost in history.”

Erica Alemaghides, a social studies teacher at Rocky Point Middle School, said she tried to approach the lesson from a different perspective this year compared to years past.

“I feel it’s important to teach them about everything, all the facts having to do with it, because they really don’t know anything,” she said. “We had a child who was actually questioning if there were people in the building when it went down. So a lot of them really don’t have any clue. They’ve heard of it, but a lot of them didn’t even really know what terrorism is, or they just don’t understand it.”

She said some students didn’t realize how many planes were hijacked that day, and weren’t aware of the attack on the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania.

Alemaghides’ new lesson plan required students to choose an artifact that might have been found in the rubble, which they then replicated and explained in a personal reflection.

She said she wanted students to understand how the nation changed after the deadly attacks, and what was done to make America safe.

“You don’t want everyone thinking every time you go into a building you have to worry about that happening,” she said.

A Rocky Point Middle School student draws symbols associated with 9/11 during class. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
A Rocky Point Middle School student draws symbols associated with 9/11 during class. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Port Jefferson high school global history teacher Jesse Rosen, who teaches ninth grade, said in a phone interview that his goal in teaching about 9/11 hasn’t changed much over the years. He prefers to approach the subject from a humanistic point of view, with minimal discussion of the global implications.

“I feel like it’s still so close and people still know someone who was affected that the humanistic aspect of it is where I want to stick,” he said in a phone interview.

Rosen teaches the lesson around a story originally revealed in an ESPN piece for the show “Outside the Lines” about “the man in the red bandana.” The piece tells the story of Welles Crowther, a former lacrosse player at Boston College, who carried a red bandana with him everywhere he went. Crowther died in the attacks, and his family later learned of his heroism on that day when they heard stories about a man with a red bandana helping to save people trapped in the building.

“I feel strongly that positive can come out of negative,” he said.

Rosen shared student responses following the lesson.

“Everything we have learned about Welles shares a common theme: he was a hero,” ninth-grader Katelynn Righi wrote. “For someone to risk their life to help other people shows a lot about that person. It shows their courage, bravery and that they will do anything to make sure others are alright. He decided to be a hero because that’s who he was.”

The wedding of Marcia Lawrence, a descendant of Richard Smythe to Verne LaSalle Rockwell, an army colonel in the 11th U.S. Calvary during World War I, in 1910. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

By Rita J. Egan

Benjamin Newton’s wedding vest and his wife’s slippers, 1854. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society
Benjamin Newton’s wedding vest and his wife’s slippers, 1854. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

Romance is in the air at the Smithtown Historical Society. The organization is currently hosting the exhibit Smithtown Gets Married: Weddings Past and Present at the Caleb Smith II House.

Curator Joshua Ruff said the exhibit, which examines the changes in wedding traditions throughout the centuries, presents a universal theme that provides the historical society the perfect opportunity to display some of its collection pieces that the public may not have seen before.

“The story and topic is one thing, but if you have the objects and the photos and the clothing that really can do justice to the story, then you have the making of a good exhibit,” the curator said. Ruff said the society has a great number of wedding-oriented artifacts in its collection, and among the pieces on display are items that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Items from 1854 include a wedding vest of Benjamin Newton, who ran a livery service, and wedding slippers worn by his wife Ellen.

A wedding slipper from 1755 belonging to Martha Smith. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society
A wedding slipper from 1755 belonging to Martha Smith. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

A wedding slipper from 1755 belonging to Martha Smith, who was married to Caleb Smith I, the original owner of the home located on the property of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown, is also featured. “It’s pretty amazing that it survived,” the curator said.

Ruff said the historical society borrowed a couple of artifacts from the Smithtown Library including the wedding invitation of Bessie Smith and architect Stanford White, who designed the second Madison Square Garden as well as local structures including All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Stony Brook and Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham.

“It’s a small gallery, a small space, so I think it’s always good for us to have a little gem of an exhibition, something that has a few really great artifacts. You also have to realize that you can’t do a great, huge elaborate exhibition in the space,” Ruff said.

Marianne Howard, the historical society’s executive director said, “I think the exhibit is beautiful. One of the reasons why we were excited about the exhibit is because we wanted to have those partnerships with community members and with other organizations like the library who have a collection that is deep in this history, in this topic in particular,” she said.

In addition to the small artifacts, the exhibit features seven dresses from different periods. Gayle Hessel of Kings Park donated a 1980s wedding dress worn by her daughter Mary in 1985. “This is the kind of thing that people save and at a certain point after handing it down generation after generation, they start to think, ‘Well, what do I do with it now?’” Ruff said.

Two of the wedding dresses on display at the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society
Two of the wedding dresses on display at the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Historical Society

The curator said the gown by Laura Ashley has the princess style that was popular during the era due to Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding. “It’s timeless. You can tell it’s modern because of the material, and the overall look, and how low cut it is, but at the same time it really is this throwback, and it just looks great,” he said.

On the same side of the room as Hessel’s dress is one from 1882 worn by a Julia Strong. Ruff said it features a lace filigree neckline, and the dress is so small, it looks a child wore it even though the bride was 23 years old when she married. Ruff said he first attempted to put the dress on a regular mannequin, then a child’s mannequin, but finally had to carve a form for it. Ruff said it’s a perfect example of how people were smaller in the past, and the tight bodices and corseted waistlines worn in those days, too.

While at the museum, visitors can watch a 2½-minute video featuring wedding announcements of Smithtown residents in 1961. Ruff said it’s interesting to see the choices couples made as far as venues before the big catering halls of today. He said he chose 1961 because “the video is just a good way of returning to one moment in time, a moment that’s both long ago to feel like history, and maybe modern enough also to have some relevance and connection to people that come to see the exhibit.”

Howard hopes with the exhibit that attendees will not only learn about local history but also realize they can contribute to future exhibits, when they see the artifacts that are on loan. “I want people to learn about the history of Smithtown and the history of Long Island as well. And, I also want people to know that this is a place where they can have a say and have an impact and be a part of something bigger, and that’s what we’re really trying to do,” she said.

With the historical society’s museum located at the Caleb Smith II House on North Country Road slightly north of the Smithtown Library, Ruff said he hopes library patrons will take a few minutes to visit the museum adding, “They can step right next door and see a wonderful little exhibit with really unique little treasures that they’re not going to see anywhere else.”

The Caleb Smith II House, 5 North Country Road, Smithtown will present Smithtown Gets Married: Weddings Past and Present through Nov. 29. Hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the exhibit is free. For more information, call 631-265-6768 or visit www.smithtownhistorical.org.

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.