By Heidi Sutton
The Three Village area, which consists of Setauket, Stony Brook and Old Field, is rich with history and picturesque beyond words, in part because of the work of the Three Village Historical Society. The society recently elected Steve Healy to serve as its president for the next two years. A retired FDNY lieutenant, photographer and full-time member of the Cain-Healy Team of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Reality, Healy lives with his wife Ann in a 1926 Dutch Colonial in Stony Brook Village. I recently had the opportunity to interview Healy about his new position.
Why did you decide to run for president?
I believe in the TVHS and what it does for our local community. We bring value to the Three Village community by educating them on local history. We run great events that people look forward to every year. We have new people move in year after year, and they look to groups like ours to explain the rich history and where things happened hundreds of years ago. Our events bring people together from all backgrounds.
What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
Good question — I like to keep my overall goals simple: Increase membership organically, rebuilding the Dominick-Crawford barn, grow our endowment, work with other local organizations and add some new events.
What do you bring to the table?
I have held many of the board positions over the years. I am also a macro-manager; I surround myself with talented people and let them run with ideas and events, this allows me to drive the society forward as a whole. I bring an MBA degree and a love of history. The MBA helps when dealing with local nonprofits; we are always looking for funding. I love older homes and have rebuilt several of them. The current board consists of some the most knowledgeable people in regards to local history. I plan on growing the society with their help. I am also a people person and treat everyone the same, from the secretary to the vice presidents. Everyone brings value.
Do you have a strong support system at the society?
Yes, it starts with our office staff. Without them things would come to a dead stop. The TVHS runs with an executive board, trustees, office staff, volunteers and our members. The board is solid and very rich in talented people. This is important for small nonprofits, which don’t have a director to oversee day-to-day operation. The board and membership volunteer many hours a week.
What are some of the types of things the historical society does?
The society educates people on local history through events, tours, lectures, exhibitions and Founders Day. We also have an education department dedicated to teaching children about history.
Our guided walking tours with our historian Bev Tyler are very popular and include Setauket’s Revolutionary History, Walk through History with Farmer & Spy Abraham Woodhull and The Wooden Ship Era. The 90-minute tours begin in April and run through November. We also have a lecture series at the Setauket Neighborhood House, Tea with a Spot of History at our TVHS History Center, Candlelight House Tours, the Spirits Tour, Culper Spy Day (on Sept. 16 this year) and Tri-Spy Tours were you can bike, hike or kayak through history of the Revolutionary War’s Culper Spy Ring.
What event are you looking forward to the most this year?
I would have to say the Candlelight House Tour and the Spirits Tour. The TVHS Candlelight House Tour takes an incredible amount of manpower and time to set up and run. The event shows four to six local homes and is our largest fundraiser. The Spirits Tour is a fun event where members dress-up in period clothes. This event takes place in our local cemeteries. We celebrate the past and the people who shaped the Three Villages.
What exhibits are on view at the TVHS?
Our Chicken Hill exhibit is located at TVHS headquarters and captures a community lost in time. This great exhibit is open Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment with our curator Frank Turano or the TVHS archivist Karen Martin. We also have an exhibit titled SPIES, which explores the Culper Spy Ring which was centered in Setauket and how a group of Long Island Patriots helped George Washington win the war.
Tell us about the Crawford Barn.
The barn was left to the Village of Old Field years ago and it had no current use for it. We, on the other hand, were looking for a barn; so it was a perfect fit. It’s a large pre-Civil War barn that was in bad shape when we moved it. The society will repurpose and rebuild it on our property. We are currently in the planning department stage with the Town of Brookhaven. Most of the upstairs will be used for much needed storage of our archives. The downstairs will be used for exhibitions and local events, which will allow us to redesign the use of our current building. We also will use the larger space for our monthly meetings and maybe have some guest lectures there. We will display some our archives on the first floor as well.
What is special about the Three Village area?
This area is special because of the local history, which includes the Culper Spy Ring — an asset to George Washington during the revolution — the period homes, parks, beaches and having a great university (SBU) nearby. The other great aspect of the Three Village area is its local organizations — many of them work together to preserve and enrich this great area.
Why do you think is it so important to preserve our local history?
Many great people believe the past must be understood and studied to guide the present and the future. I feel it’s interesting to see how a handful of local patriots from Setauket helped win the Revolutionary War. We are witnessing local history being formed today with Avalon Park, the Reboli Center and The Jazz Loft. I walk my dogs Tanner and Jett, both rescues, at the park all the time. I see people enjoy it and many think it’s always been there.
Local history tells the true story of how it was a small idea that then grew into a larger one, and finally what you see today. Stony Brook Village was built decades ago the same way — small idea by a few people. The people who did these great things are different, separated by decades. History is the blueprint that shows us how, why and what they did. This is important and will guide us in the future to repeat history or learn from its mistakes.