History

Ward Melville at the Stony Brook Village Center in the 1970s Photo from WMHO

By Heidi Sutton

I’m sitting on a bench on the Village Green at the Stony Brook Village Center. I’ve come to see the sun set over the harbor. It’s mid-June and there’s still a slight chill in the air. Behind me are the quaint New England style shops and restaurants; across the street Hercules sits in his Pavilion, tall and regal with a lion’s pelt wrapped around his shoulders while kayakers and paddle boarders row silently behind him.

Down to my right I spy the little stream that I used to play in as a child and beyond that the Three Village Inn, the spot for so many family gatherings. I hear a familiar sound and turn to catch the mechanical eagle on the post office flap its wings. It’s 8 p.m. and the chimney swifts above me make their last rounds in search of insects as the sky turns orange and purple and pink. The scene is peaceful and beautiful; a community treasure.

One man’s vision

According to Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, this exact spot was the focal point for Ward Melville’s vision to build the nation’s first planned business community. Originally Melville’s mother, Jennie, came up with the idea of rebuilding the village after the Great Depression and started purchasing properties in the area. When she died in the summer of 1939, “Mr. Melville took up the gauntlet” and envisioned opening the whole village to the harbor. 

After establishing The Ward Melville Organization (then known as the Stony Brook Community Fund) on Dec. 31, 1939 the philanthropist presented his grand plan, a crescent-shaped Village Center with connected shops grouped around a Federalist-style post office, to the community in January of 1940 at a special dinner at the Three Village Inn. The project was well received.

“He officially opened [the Stony Brook Village Center] on July 5, 1941 but the last tenant, the hardware store, opened on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day,” said Rocchio during a recent interview, adding that the mechanical eagle was there from the first day. “The idea of attaching buildings together and having the road network where the deliveries went in the back – all of it was very unusual and unique,” she said.

Now known as the Harbor Crescent section, the shops featured big show windows with identical signage. Full-size trees were planted in the grassy area in front of them (probably to keep them from blocking the storefronts as they grew, theorizes Rocchio), with green metal garbage cans inscribed with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives,” placed next to them.

Melville then turned his attention to restoring historic properties in the area dating back to the Revolutionary War, including the Stony Brook Grist Mill and the Thompson House and Brewster House in Setauket. “Each time he did that he deeded it over to the Stony Brook Community Fund, now the WMHO, and here we are,” Rocchio explained.

In the 1960s, Melville saw that the community was changing, and to go along with the times, he built the second section of the Stony Brook Village Center, Market Square, which featured a Bohacks.

When he passed in 1977, his wife Dorothy became president of the board and headed up the third phase of the Village Center with the addition of the Inner Court. Rocchio worked for Dorothy Melville from 1979 until she died in 1989. “I worked very closely with her and she taught me a lot; I learned how [the Melvilles] thought and that was very important.” The final phase, the Educational & Cultural Center, located behind the Inner Court, was completed in 2002.

According to Rocchio, the Stony Brook Village Center was part of a larger vision. “[Ward Melville] loved history – American history. He bought all these properties as it relates to the history of this area,” she explained, adding that Melville’s goal was to have Stony Brook look similar to Colonial Williamsburg.

“[Melville] saw it as a master plan, the Williamsburg concept,” which included donating 400 acres of land for the development of Stony Brook University. “This [shopping area] was supposed to be the road that leads to [The College of] William and Mary,” Rocchio explained, and a lot of the homes on Main Street were purchased by Melville who removed all the Victorian architecture and brought them back to the Colonial style. Slate sidewalks were installed to complete the look.

“This was a place that you lived with history … So you just lived with the Grist Mill where it always was, you lived with the Thompson House where it always was – and to think that this one man had the vision to save all of this and to create this for the residents is such a treasure,” said Rocchio. “The legacy and the foresight that he had is just amazing to me, amazing.”

Continuing the legacy

Today, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization continues its mission to protect and preserve historic and environmentally sensitive properties deeded to it by Ward Melville including the Stony Brook Grist Mill, Thompson House, Brewster House, the 11-acre T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park and two-acre Upper Pond, the Hercules Pavilion, and the Ernst Marine Conservation Center and 88-Acre Wetlands Preserve.

The organization also leases WMHO land and buildings to the Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and the Three Village Society Lending Aids for the Sick for $1 per year with the stipulation that they are responsible for maintenance and operations. This was Ward and Dorothy’s vision of creating a community where art, music and history are an integral part of daily life.

Every year the organization offers free summer concerts in front of the post office, a scarecrow contest in October, a holiday festival and Promenade of Trees in December, educational programs for children, Master Classes for adults, cultural exhibits, musical theater luncheon and Wetlands Discovery Cruises. In addition, the WMHO hosts the Long Island’s Got Talent competition and Walk for Beauty.

The Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook is a  lifestyle shopping center with specialty shops and services, restaurants and year-round events including its annual outdoor summer concerts, Halloween Festival and holiday tree lighting.

 

 

The Brewster House, 18 Runs Road, East Setauket was built in 1665 and is considered the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven. Home to six generations of Brewsters, it was operated as a tavern and general store during the American Revolution by Joseph Brewster. Open on Culper Spy Day every year and by appointment.

 

 

The Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook is Long Island’s most completely equipped working mill. Listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places, it is open to the public for guided tours with a miller on weekends April through mid-October from noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children.

 

Hercules Pavilion on Main Street, Stony Brook, houses the figurehead and anchor from the U.S.S. Ohio, the first ship launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1820.  Sharing the Hercules Pavilion with the historic figurehead is the Polaris whaleboat, thought to be the only surviving artifact from the Charles Hall expedition to the Arctic in 1870.  

 

 

 

Discovery Wetlands Cruises depart from Stony Brook Marine Services across from the Three Village Inn through Oct. 20. The 27-passenger vessel cruises through the organization’s 88-acre wetlands preserve for a 1½-hour tour. A naturalist on board will highlight and describe the wildlife and flora that the passengers will see. Visit www.wmho.org for full schedule.

 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook is a state-of-the-art venue that offers a wide variety of events throughout the year including cultural exhibits, musical theater performances and children and adult programs. Home of the Heritage Gift Shop.

 

 

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook offers a treasure trove of memorabilia from some of the greatest jazz musicians of their day and even an orchestra stage that was constructed from the original Roseland Ballroom dance floor. The venue includes a full calendar of musical performances, as well as sensory-friendly programs. 631-751-1895, www.thejazzloft.org.

 

The Mechanical Eagle at the Stony Brook Post Office, 129 Main St., Stony Brook, was hand carved and has a wing span of 20 feet. It flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as it has done since 1941, welcoming visitors to the Stony Brook Village Center.

 

 

The Thompson House, 91 North Country Road, Setauket is one of the largest houses in the Town of Brookhaven. Built in 1709, this five-room saltbox farmhouse was home to five generations of Thompsons, including patriot, farmer and physician, Dr. Samuel Thompson.  WMHO education programs are held here by appointment and the house is open for tours on Culper Spy Day

 

Time to celebrate

In honor of its 80th anniversary, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization plans to celebrate with a series of exciting family events kicking off with its Summer Concerts on the Green from July 7 to Aug. 18. Titled Music Through Time, every concert will represent a different decade. “We’re going to be counting down backwards so we’re going to start off with today’s music and work our way right down to the 1940s,” said WMHO Director of Development Gabrielle Lindau.

From July 14 to Sept. 29 the WMHO will present an exhibit at the Educational & Cultural Center titled Journey Through Time. Working in collaboration with Newsday and the Kings Park Heritage Museum, the exhibit will show how society has changed since 1939 because of national, regional and local events and the advancements in technology. “Each panel will represent a different decade,” explained Rocchio. “Newsday is giving us national news, then we have Long Island news and then we have what’s happening here. It’s been a big project.”

The celebration continues from July 20 to Sept. 14 with Walking Through Time, one and a half hour walking tours that will feature costumed actors from St. George Productions portraying historic figures performing in the first person. 

“For this tour we are specifically featuring local women … and you’re going to get to meet people who really lived here and owned some of the properties,“ said Lindau, explaining that participants will meet “Mrs. Devereux Emmet” who owned the Stony Brook Grist Mill and built All Soul’s Church and then head over to the Hercules Pavilion with “Mrs. Jonas Smith” who will speak about the U.S.S. Ohio as well as the legend behind Hercules. The group will then walk over to the Three Village Inn to learn about Captain Jonas Smith, Long Island’s first millionaire. Next the group will meet “Miss Louise,” Dorothy Melville’s longtime driver who will move the group to The Jazz Loft to discuss the history of the building. The tour will conclude in front of the Stony Brook post office just in time to see the eagle flap its wings.

See below for additional details on these special anniversary events.

On Sept. 28 the organization will present The Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War. “[Participants] will have the opportunity to visit the Educational & Cultural Center, the Brewster House, the Thompson House, the Hawkins-Mount House and the Stony Brook Grist Mill,” explained Lindau. “In each of the houses there is going to be a living history performance and you’ll meet ‘residents’ who actually lived in those houses during the Revolutionary War,” she said. “There will be things revealed during this tour that most people have never heard before.” Transportation provided by WMHO to all sites. 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will also team up with The Jazz Loft to present the John Monteleone Art of the Guitar Festival from Sept. 11 to 14 and the Harbor Jazz Festival from Sept. 25 to 29 and collaborate with the Long Island Museum to present a program titled William Sidney Mount & the Sounds of the 19th Century on July 20 from 2 to 5 p.m.; Hawkins-Mount House tours on Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and a Carriage Show and Ride Demonstration on Oct. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

The community gathers for free outdoor concerts at the Stony Brook Village Center every summer.

MUSIC … ART … HISTORY, 1939–2019

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is celebrating a milestone in its history with a variety of events for the entire family.  Mark your calendars for these not-to-be-missed happenings throughout the summer and fall that will literally take you on a historical and musical journey.

MUSIC THROUGH TIME

Music Through Time free summer concerts will take place each Sunday evening 7 to 9 p.m. in front of the Stony Brook Village Post Office from July 7 through Aug. 18. 

Take a musical journey through the decades:

July 7: Sound Chaser Band (2000s-today)

July 14:Tom Manuel & Guests (’90s/Motown)

July 21: Six Gun (’80s/’70s country rock)

July 28: Left Jab Band (’70s/’80s)

Aug. 4: Just Sixties (’60s)

Aug. 11: NY Exceptions (’50s)

Aug. 18: The Jazz Loft (’40s)

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Journey Through Time summer exhibit will open July 14 and run through Sept. 29 at WMHO’s state of the art Educational & Cultural Center daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See how our lives have changed since 1939! Enjoy vintage items such as a WWII Army helmet; a fire engine red T-Bird; Marilyn Monroe, Popeye and Wizard of Oz dolls; a rotary phone as it compares to an iPhone; and so much more! General admission is $8 per person; seniors and children under 12 are $5 per person. Call 631-689-5888 for more info.

WALKING THROUGH TIME

Walking Through Time historic walking tours will begin at the Stony Brook Grist Mill at 1 and 3 p.m. and introduce visitors to a variety of historic figures performing in the first person. Enjoy fun facts and historical happenings from the 18th to the 21st centuries! “Mrs. Devereux Emmet,” c. 1940s, an Astor orphan, who was from Stony Brook, will tell you about why All Souls Church stands here in Stony Brook Village.  “Mrs. Jonas Smith,” c. 1850s, will tell you about how her husband became Long Island’s first millionaire through shipbuilding; and “Miss Louise,” c. 1980s, will talk about Dorothy Melville and her interests and activities during this period.

Tour dates are: 

July 20 (rain date July 21)

July 31 (rain date Aug. 1)

Aug. 10 (rain date Aug. 11)

Aug. 21 (rain date Aug. 22) 

Sept. 14 (rain date Sept. 15)  

Regular admission is $15 per person; a Premium Ticket is available for $20 per person, which includes the Journey Through Time exhibit and refreshments; children ages 5 and under are free. Reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888 or 631-751-2244. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

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The boarded-up house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The vines inch up the side of the house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. The grass was recently mowed, but only enough to keep the shrubs and the weeds from overtaking the lawn, and a unsecured Christmas tree light strand dangles from the front porch like a loose appendage. To the right-hand side of the one-acre property is a small, gazebo-like structure where old faded paintings cover the windows in flowers, hearts and what seems to be the names of children. Inside that structure, debris is strewn about, windows are broken and the back wall is caving in.

An outside building at 49 Sheep Pasture Road is filled with debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Long Island, zombie homes like this are a dime a dozen tragedy, but local historians look at the home along Sheep Pasture and see an even greater misfortune, since the house has real historical significance, having been built in the pre-Revolutionary War period by the famous Tooker family, which gave the house its name. 

“It’s one of the oldest homes still on its original location in the village,” said Nick Acampora, the president of the Port Jefferson Historical Society. “We have zombie problems with the Island, of course, and if it’s a house that was built later on, that has no historical value, people are quick, let’s get it out of here. When you have a 200-year-old building, it’s a little different.”

At a May 20 village board meeting, village officials voted to have the house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road demolished, citing the general state of the building and complaints of the residents.

At the May meeting, acting Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute helped present a number of pictures to those who attended the meeting. This included images of needles, used alcoholic bottles and other obvious signs of vagrancy. 

The village has yet to put out bids for the demolition, and Mayor Margot Garant said the village has paused in any further action on the building while continuing to take care of the grass and state of the property, all the while hoping to see what may come out of trying to communicate with the property owner.

“I’m glad we’ve brought awareness to the property because it hasn’t been in good repair for 18 months,” Garant said. “If they can purchase it, that would be great.”

The largest issue at hand is the property is privately owned, and it does not exist on any current historic registries. The village has reached out to the current owners, Jericho-based Tab Suffolk Acquisitions LLC, with no success. 

“I don’t think anybody’s been ignoring this, it’s just been a difficulty with the owner,” the historical society president said.

In the book “The Seven Hills of Port” by the late Robert Sisler and his wife Patricia, the house is referenced as “the only 18th century house still intact today in our village sitting in its original footprint on its original foundation,” being dated back to the 1740s.

In fact, the manner in which the book, written more than three decades ago, describes the house could not be any more distinct than how the home looks now. The book references Roman numerals on the attic rafters of hand-hewn post-and-beam construction. The building also contains a beehive domed oven in the fireplace and an old coat cellar in the east end of the building and an additional 20th-century modification to the living room for hiding liquor during the prohibition era, according to the book. Additional later modifications include added dormers and a porch. The book says even the original windows exist on the building’s north face. 

“We do have a couple of houses from that time that have been moved, but this one is still on its original property,” said Catherine Quinlan, historical society trustee. 

However, comparing then to now is staggering. A number of local residents who attended the May meeting asked for the building to be razed, saying they knew it had been broken into and used by vagrants in the past.

“To have a house from the 1700s, with this kind of context, is extraordinary.”

— Steve Englebright

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he had been in touch with both the village and historical society, adding the preservation of such a venerable home would be a top priority for him and his staff. He said there should be a chance to bring in a historical architect to verify the real historical nature of the location, and he would be working to identify funds necessary to take over the building from the current owners and creating stewardship over the building with a nonprofit.

“To have a house from the 1700s, with this kind of context, is extraordinary,” the assemblyman said.

Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit historical preservation organization, posted June 6 about the house to its Facebook page.

“Instead of a village-funded demolition, perhaps the village could fund an independent engineering assessment for a second opinion on the condition?” it reads. “Long Island’s oldest houses are surprisingly resilient thanks to old growth timber-frames and incredible craftsmanship.”

The mayor and other officials were hesitant to allow people into the building since she said the engineers who studied it had told her there was major structural defect in the building.

“We’re really concerned about people going into the premises and literally falling through the floor,” she said.

In the book, it references the owner as of 1992 when the book was written as Tony Chiarini, saying he was rewiring the house at the time. 

Acampora said he understood the position the derelict property has put the village in, and only hopes that the historical society is contacted before the building is demolished or condemned in order for them to see if they can acquire any and all historical items from the house.

“They have to answer to the folks around it,” Acampora said.

A trade card advertising a New York confectionery depicts Victorian children playing tug of war with a wrapped hard candy.

By Nomi Dayan

As you reach for a sweet treat this June in honor of National Candy Month, consider how the abundance of candy today is a rather exceptional thing.

For much of human history, sugar was an expensive indulgence reserved for celebratory desserts. Sugary treats were a luxury for the rich. People also used sugar for therapeutic functions, with early candy serving as a form of medicine, including lozenges for coughs or digestive troubles. 

Sugar was also used as a preservative; similar to salt, sugar dried fruits and vegetables, preventing spoilage. But all in all, sugar was carefully conserved. In George Washington’s time, the average American consumed only 6 pounds of sugar a year (far less than the 130 or so pounds consumed annually per person today).

The use of sugar swelled dramatically in the 1800s. Suddenly, sugar was everywhere, and with it came new technological advances in candy production. Sugar shipped from slave-powered plantations in the West Indies became more affordable and available with new, steam-powered industrial processes. 

Candy-making, 1888 by Rosina Sherwood. Photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

These changes were part of the Industrial Revolution, made possible by prized whale oil and its valuable lubricating properties. In 1830, Louisiana had the largest sugar refinery in the world. The invention of the Mason jar in 1858 drove demand for sugar for canning, and in 1876, the Hawaiian Reciprocity Treaty made sugar even more available. People couldn’t get enough of sweetness.

The availability of sugar brought a slew of new inventions to the culinary scene: candy! Confectioneries sprang up everywhere. The shops’ best customers were children, who spent their earnings on penny candy. Hard candies became very popular. 

As Yankee whaling reached its peak, Victorian-era sweets boomed with a succession of creations: the first chocolate bar was made in 1847; chewing gum followed in 1848; marshmallows were invented in 1850 and, in 1880, fudge. People’s breaths were taken away when sweets with soft cream centers were tasted at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.

Some candies, especially hard ones, were sold as being “wholesome” and even healthy. Unfortunately, candy was anything but nourishing. Sugar was sometimes adulterated with cheaper plaster of paris or chalk. Other candies were far more toxic.

In 1831, Dr. William O’Shaughnessy toured different confectionery shops in London and had a range of dyed candy chemically analyzed; he found a startling number of sweets colored with lead, mercury, arsenic and copper.

But as ubiquitous as candy was on land, a sweet treat was quite rare at sea, especially on a whaleship. Sugar on board was still a luxury reserved for the captain and officers. The crew had to settle for molasses, which was often infested; one whaler wrote it tasted like “tar.” Candy only makes brief glimpses in whaling logbooks, or daily records. 

On May 22, 1859, William Abbe journaled on the ship Atkins Adams: “Cook & Thompson Steward making molasses candy in galley.” (Earlier on the voyage, he described molasses kegs as “the haunts of the cockroach.”)

Laura Jernegan, a young daughter who sailed with her father and family on a three-year whaling voyage, wrote in her diary on board the Roman, “Feb 16, 1871. It is quite pleasant today. The hens have laid 50 eggs …” Then, an exciting thing happened – she passed another whaleship at sea, the Emily Morgan. There was a whaling wife aboard, too! Laura wrote: “Mrs. Dexter [the wife of Captain Benjamin Dexter] sent Prescott [her brother] and I some candy.”

In other cultures, whales still facilitated the treat scene – no sugar needed. Frozen whale blubber was (and is) a traditional treat for the Inuit and Chukchi people. Called muktuk, cubes are cut from whale skin and blubber and conventionally are served raw.

While whaling in our country is a thing of the past, the years of unrestricted whaling reflect how, in essence, people treated the ocean “like a kid in a candy store,” as noted by author Robert Sullivan. In the 20th century, so many whales were caught so quickly and efficiently that soon even whalers themselves were worried about saving the whales. 

Today, as we continue to gather resources from the sea, we must ensure the ocean can replenish itself faster than we can sweep its candy off the shelves.

Nomi Dayan is the executive director at The Whaling Museum & Education Center.

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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