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Historical Society

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The William Miller House in Miller Place has seen a face-lift to its windows thanks to local support. Photo from Edna Giffen

By Edna Giffen

For those who live in or visit Miller Place, when driving through our elegant historic district, stop and take a look at the notable changes in our showcase home, the William Miller House located at 75 North Country Road in Miller Place.  The façade of the 1920 flagship home shines with bright, newly painted restored windows.

One of the windows before restoration. Photo from Edna Giffen

On Dec. 5, Jeremiah McGiff of antique restorers Wild Boar Restoration, with the assistance of his cousin Mike McGiff, began this carefully rendered, crucial project. The sash was removed and taken back to the original wood.  Thankfully, the windows were in relatively good condition and only needed minor repairs.  Frames were also taken back to bare wood and repaired as needed (which again proved to be minimal). The sills sustained the most severe damage. As part of this contract the doors on the east end of the house and the first-floor window on the east side of the house were also restored.  Old glass was used for the window panes except for one pane in the east room that was old and had some indecipherable writing on it. Copper was added above the windows and doors to prevent water from getting behind them. The window in the east door was left crooked as it had been found.

The William Miller House was first restored in the early 1980s shortly after the Miller Place Historical Society had purchased it. The windows were part of the restoration and at that time they needed few repairs, but time and the weather were not kind to the windows. The panes face the south, thereby receiving sunlight for much of any day of the year. Trees, which once occupied the front lawn and had protected the house, had all been removed due to disease by the late 1990s. Rain and snow continually contributed to the deterioration of the windows over time.

In 2020, the William Miller house will be 300 years old. The historical society has been working on repairs to ready the home for this momentous event. A new roof replaced the old one in early 2018. The windows had been chosen as the next major project to be tackled. Through the years the windows lost putty around the glass and panes would fall out and need to be replaced. None of the front windows could be opened because it was feared they would fall apart.  

Windows after restoration. Photo from Edna Giffen

Fundraising commenced, including sending out information to the communities of Miller Place and Mount Sinai. The first job to tackle was the six main front windows. However, the cost for the restoration of these six was considerable at $16,800. It would be necessary to do two windows at a time. Then one day, current historical society Treasurer Gerard Mannarino received a phone call from a family in Miller Place who wished to donate the total cost of restoring the six front windows. The members of the board were stunned, ecstatic, and relieved.  Work could now begin.  

Additional funds from two donors, Jack Soldano, of Comics for a Cause fame, and fundraisers sponsored by the historical society were available to restore the remaining front windows, the east side window and the doors on the east end.

The change has been truly dramatic. All the windows but one date from the 1720s, 1730s or 1750s.  

Thirteen windows remain to be restored, and fundraising is ongoing. We remain hopeful that these too will be brought to their original luster.

Meanwhile, we invite you to enjoy a freshened view of history. Come and see how a labor of love and generosity has placed a new lens and stunning façade on a shining landmark in our community.

Edna Giffen is a 12th-generation Mount Sinai resident. She is a local historian, archivist and current record keeper and recording secretary of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

The William Miller House is located at 75 North Country Road in Miller Place. File photo

A Gardiner grant is growing one local historical society’s reach.

The Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society announced the approval of a $4,750 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, which will be used to upgrade and enhance the format and capabilities of its website and social media platforms.

The Daniel Hawkins House was donated to the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society. Photo from Edna Giffen

“The website itself will allow us to better communicate with our members and the general public, and to build awareness about our society and the local history that we are stewards for,” historical society trustee Matthew Burke said. “Once the upgraded website is unveiled, we anticipate launching multiple social media outlets that will seamlessly connect with and populate our website to further enhance our outreach efforts.”

The Miller Place Historical Society was founded in 1979. In 1982, the name was changed to Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society to reflect the membership and the close ties that the two communities have had since the 1600s. Burke filled out the application, emphasizing how upgrading can continue to raise awareness of the historical significance of the hamlets and the buildings the society owns.

The main property is the 1720 William Miller House — the namesake of the town and the oldest house in Miller Place. Its listing on the National Register of Historic Places enabled the eventual preservation and restoration of the structure beginning in the early 1980s. In 1998, the Daniel Hawkins House, located just east of the William Miller House, both on on North Country Road, was donated to the society. It has undertaken a major fund drive to finance the restoration of the historic gem, with the hopes of using it an archival library and exhibition space. Doing this, will also allow for the William Miller House to become a living museum.

Becoming connected with the Gardiner foundation, according to Burke, could help the society in this process.

“We like to see organizations try to become more sustainable by broadening their outreach and embracing technology to make regional history more accessible.”

—Kathryn Curran

“We’re thrilled not only to have received the financial assistance, but to start developing a relationship with the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation,” he said. “Executive Director Kathryn Curran has already introduced us to other members of the Long Island preservation and history communities who may help us.”

Besides handing out the capacity-building grant, networking, according to Curran, is part of what the foundation is all about.

“We want historical societies to link to each other, so if somebody likes going to a Revolutionary War house or Civil War site, they would want to go to another — their success would be built on each other to create tourism,” she said. “We also want them to come to us in the future for funding for different kinds of projects to build their base, their audience and their supporters.”

She said history is hot — noting a rise in genealogy searching and finding different connections to their communities — so she said this is a good time for historical societies to be growing.

“We like to see organizations try to become more sustainable by broadening their outreach and embracing technology to make regional history more accessible to a new audience,” Curran said. “Historical societies don’t like change, and they really need to grow. These investments by the foundation are there specifically to help them become more self-sufficient and have a broader outreach. It’s all about making history an important part of the community.”

‘Boothbay Harbor,’ watercolor by Ward Hooper. Photo from Northport Historical Society

By Rita J. Egan

Ward Hooper and his wife Dolly, who passed away in 2012, were a rare couple because both were exceptionally talented and accomplished. To celebrate decades of the couple’s creative contributions to the Village of Northport as well as their involvement in the community, the Northport Historical Society is currently running the exhibit, Sharing a Creative Life: Dolly and Ward Hooper.

Terry Reid, collection consultant and member of the exhibit committee at the historical society, said, “It’s sort of a retrospective celebration of Dolly and Ward’s creative life. It’s a thank you from Northport for all of their years of creativity and community service.”

The exhibit is what Reid calls a “full-circle moment” for her. When she started out at the historical society, she was fortunate to work with both Dolly and Ward, who were board members and curators for 35 years. She was happy once again to work with Ward on this show. “I learned from Ward and Dolly when I started 10 or 12 years ago. They taught me what I know now,” she said.

‘Renaissance Lady’ by Dolly Hooper. Photo from Northport Historical Society
‘Renaissance Lady’ by Dolly Hooper. Photo from Northport Historical Society

The exhibit displays the couple’s individual as well as joint achievements and demonstrates how they integrated their creativity into Northport, according to the consultant. On one side, the cabinets feature Ward’s achievements, which include graphic designs for many well-known brands, and features on the other side are Dolly’s dress designs and dolls she created. In the middle, the displays show what the couple accomplished together, including their work at the society.

Ward’s watercolors

The pieces on display come from the Hoopers’ personal collection, and the exhibit includes 24 of Ward’s watercolor paintings, too. In addition to being a former graphic designer, Ward is a watercolor painter who taught at the Art League of Long Island for 12 years. He is currently collaborating with photographer Holly Gordon on a new artistic venture called the Brush/Lens Project.

Also featured in the exhibit is the society’s dollhouse, which is a permanent fixture at the museum due to Dolly’s involvement in decorating the house with furnishings and miniature dolls.

Reid said Dolly, who began her career dressing store windows along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, loved designing and collecting dolls, even though growing up during the Depression she never had one of her own. Among her creations on display are ones she made out of Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottles. The figures inspired the company to create a calendar featuring the dolls, which turned out to be one of their most successful advertising campaigns, according to the consultant.

Ward and Dolly were avid antique collectors, and the designer in the ‘70s opened the Trolley Tracks Antique Shop in Northport, according to Reid. She also created many one-of-a-kind bridal gowns and especially loved Victorian dresses. “She could really bring a dress to life,” the consultant said.

Reid said Ward and Dolly not only contributed culturally to the village but also were actively involved in the community. In addition to working with the historical society as curators from 1974 to 2009, they were also involved with the Northport Architectural Review Board as well as the village’s chamber of commerce. Ward even designed the chamber’s logo. In addition, Dolly helped make wreaths that were displayed along Main Street during the Christmas season and started the Miss Northport Pageant in the ‘80s.

Ward Hooper photo from Northport Historical Society
Ward Hooper photo from Northport Historical Society

Ward, who attended the exhibit’s opening reception on April 3, was appreciative of all his friends who attended the event. “This is really rewarding to see so many people turn out here today. Dolly passed away four years ago, and she would have truly loved it,” he said.

The artist was especially pleased to see Bill O’Brien, a former director of the Northport Historical Society, and Dick Simpson, also a former director as well as the museum’s founder. Ward said he not only worked with the two during his days on the board at the society but also with Dick in Manhattan early in their careers, and the two along with Dolly were curators together for many of the early exhibits at the society’s museum.

Creative power

The artist said when Simpson told the couple “to come out to the North Shore” to visit him, they liked what they saw and in 1969 moved from the city and bought a converted barn in Northport. The couple, who had met in the early ‘50s at Willoughby’s Camera Store, was married since 1953.

Simpson, who traveled from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to attend the opening reception, said he hopes that everyone who visits the museum will see “the creative power these two people had.

“If you are creative, you can go in all different directions. That’s what so wonderful about the creative person and these two were very creative,” Simpson said.

O’Brien remembered visiting the Hoopers at their home and said Dolly was always working on a project. “She was a very creative woman and she was always on the go,” he said.

The former director was pleased with how the exhibit turned out. “I think the exhibit was aptly named because even though they were married, they each pursued their own creative abilities on their own stage, and then they always supported each other,” O’Brien said.

Ward and Dolly’s daughter Laura Jean Wilson was also on hand for the reception and loved that both her mother’s designs and father’s artwork were on display together. “To see everything here is beautiful. It’s well done; a lot of good memories,” Wilson said.

When it comes to what she hopes exhibit goers will discover during a visit to the museum, Wilson said, “Just how creative they were, the talent, how they worked so well together, had a lot of similar interests, and how they loved Northport. Just to see the different collaborations between the two … they loved what they did.”

Sharing a Creative Life: Dolly and Ward Hooper will be on exhibit at the Northport Historical Society, 215 Main Street, Northport, through Aug. 31. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.northporthistorical.org or call 631-757-9859. To find out more about the Brush/Lens Project, visit www.brushlensproject.com.

The Hallock house was built in 1721 and it has remained largely unchanged through the centuries. It is open for tours from April to December, on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

The oldest house in Rocky Point has once again opened its doors to visitors, offering a peek at the history of the town spanning almost 300 years, during Saturday tours of the home, which acts as a museum run by the Rocky Point Historical Society. It’s the third season in a row that tours are being offered, according to society president Natalie Aurucci Stiefel.

Built in 1721 by Noah Hallock, a descendant of English settlers, the house has sat at the end of Hallock Landing Road mostly unchanged. It still has the original wood shingles and a red tin roof on the exterior. Inside, original wide-planked wooden floors creak underfoot, and a trap door in an upstairs hallway reveals a staircase that leads to rooms once used by slaves. Eight generations of Hallocks lived in the house over the centuries, including Noah Jr., William and Josiah Hallock, who all served in the Revolutionary War. The last Hallock to live there was Sylvester, who sold it in 1964 to the Via Cava family who owned it until 2011.

The Historical Society took ownership of the home in 2013 and turned it into a museum, showcasing a variety of household artifacts native to the home, including furniture, kitchen items and even toys once played with by Hallock children. Each room in the house is dedicated to a particular aspect of either the life of the Hallocks or the history of Rocky Point and the surrounding areas, including a room dedicated to farming, complete with antique tools and photos of the farms that once grew rye and raised dairy cattle nearby. The schoolhouse room offers a glimpse into what school was like for Hallock children and their contemporaries. Visitors can even walk around the block to the Hallock family cemetery where at least 40 Hallocks are buried, including Bethia, Noah’s wife, who died in 1766. Another room is dedicated to Rocky Point’s ties with radio history, including artifacts from RCA, which operated out of a transmitting station just down the road from the house off of Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.

Tours are conducted by trained docents such as Nancy Pav of Rocky Point, who was leading the tours on Saturday. Pav stressed the importance of preservation.

“If we don’t preserve old houses like this one, people will tear them down and build monstrous vinyl palaces,” Pav said. “We are preserving the history of a house that was in the same family from 1721 to the 1960s. It’s extremely unusual.”

Stiefel said that new artifacts on display this season include the wedding album of Sylvester Hallock and his second wife Josephine and photos of the now-abandoned Rocky Point drive-in movie theater.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) praised the society for offering another season of tours, especially because of the awareness they promote.

“Rocky Point is a mecca of history and if it wasn’t for the volunteers, this history would not be preserved,” she said. “The tours help to pass down interest and advocacy. If there’s no one to take care of it, they will be lost forever.”

Stiefel refers to the Hallock house as a “precious gem” and added she is proud of the work the society’s volunteers do with the house tours. “They are very dedicated to Rocky Point’s history, which is fascinating,” she said. “We are so happy to share it with the community.”

The Noah Hallock house, located at 172 Hallock Landing Road, is opened for tours April through December, on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. For group tours or more information, call 631-744-1778.

China and glassware will be just two of the many different types of items offered at this weekend’s event. Photo by Catherine Quinlan

Spring is in the air and that means its time for the return of the Port Jefferson Historical Society’s largest fundraiser, the Port Jefferson Antiques & Garden Weekend Show to be held this weekend, April 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Returning for its ninth year, the Village Center will once again be filled with antiques and collectibles from over 40 vendors, including the society’s consignment shop and the flower boutique of the Suwassett Garden Club.

Antique seekers and collectors from Long Island, Connecticut and surrounding areas anticipate attending this annual event co-sponsored by the Village of Port Jefferson. Visitors from across Long Island Sound will be offered a two-for-one passenger walk-on discount from the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company.

All three floors of the Village Center will feature veteran vendors as well as new ones whose merchandise ranges from country, primitive and fine furniture, china and glassware, jewelry, quilts, vintage posters, art, books, paintings, garden furniture and other eclectic items.

The Suwassett Garden Club’s trellised boutique will greet visitors as they enter the Village Center. Hanging baskets, plants and patio tubs will be for sale at reasonable prices. An array of spring annuals will be set up outside for eager gardeners.

The popular 50/50 raffle and donation table has been organized by Kate von der Heyden and will offer some attractive prizes from vendors, advertisers and society friends.  Be sure to bring in your raffle stubs and checks to be in the running!  The raffle will be drawn Sunday afternoon.

The third-floor café, again chaired by Barbara Cassidy and Christine Spanbauer, promises an enticing menu of sandwiches, sides and drinks. Lunch with your friends in this sunny setting overlooking the harbor area. For dessert, select some homemade goodies at the Suwassett Garden Club’s baked goods table, arranged by Donna McBrien and Kate Thomas. Admission to the event is $6.

This yearly fundraiser relies on volunteers from both the society and garden club. The Mather House Museum complex on Prospect Street benefits from this large event. For further information or to volunteer for tasks including setup on Friday, April 22, or breakdown on April 24, please contact co-chairs Catherine Quinlan (631-428-6467) or Sandra Swenk (631-473-3253).

Pony Boy, who was named after a song by the Allman Brothers, waits for a child to pet him at the Smithtown Historical Society last weekend. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He might be under five feet tall but 25-year-old Pony Boy at the Smithtown Historical Society farm has a big presence. For this pony, the farm isn’t just a sanctuary, it is also a place where he can help teach children about animal ownership and farm life.

As the Historical Society’s sole stallion, Pony Boy will extend a helping hoof for the society’s Help a Horse Day events on April 25 and 26.

According to the society’s website, Help a Horse Day is a national campaign started by the ASPCA to raise awareness  of the plight of horses and encourage equine rescue.

Kris Melvin-Denenberg, director of Development and Public Relations at the society said Pony Boy and his companion, a female donkey named Jenni Henrietta, were purchased 14 years ago from a farm that closed in Huntington around that time. The director added that it’s possible the small horse was abused in the past. When Pony Boy first arrived on the farm, he didn’t like any male volunteers to approach him from his left side, which is where people typically approach when greeting a horse or pony.

Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“He’s a prime example of what a good foster [process] we do,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Over time he became more and more accepting of men and now there are guys who can put a halter on him, which we could never do before.”

Despite his initial timid disposition Melvin-Denenberg said their pony is always gentle when interacting with children.

Pony Boy didn’t only get used to men or being in the spotlight when kids are near, but he also made a new friend while living at the farm. When Jenni Henrietta passed away several years ago, the stallion gravitated to Peter, a blind sheep living on the farm. Before Peter developed cataracts, the duo bonded. Pony Boy now helps Peter when he needs a farm friend to lean on.

While members of the historical society’s farm animals usually call out to members of their group if they are separated, Melvin-Denenberg said Pony Boy and Peter will sit in close proximity to one another and communicate. She added that horses can form a bond with any animal with whom they share their home.

“They’re herd animals,” she said about horses. “So they are very social and they get very upset if their companions … get separated. They do have concerns — they do worry and look out for each other.”

But the animals aren’t the only ones looking out for each other. Melvin-Denenberg said programs like the Help a Horse Day event teach children how to care for an animal. It also helps them understand the benefits of having a horse on a farm. In the past, horses provided transportation, plowed the crop fields and provided fresh manure for the farmer’s crops. In return, the farmer would care for the horse.

The society doesn’t just want to show families how animals like horses helped on the farm, they also want to encourage people to familiarize themselves with the needs of the animal they wish to adopt. They hope to do so through their programs.

The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We want [children] to learn about the responsibilities of adopting an animal whether it be a horse, a sheep or a fish. You need to do your research,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Find out everything you can about the animal. Learn how to properly groom the animal [and] what their veterinary needs are.”

Families can learn more about farm animals like Pony Boy  and horses overall on Monday, April 25, at the Frank Brush Barn, 211 Middle Country Road, Smithtown, at 7 p.m. as Town Historian and Board President Brad Harris presents a lecture titled Famous Horses of Smithtown. Admission is free.

As part of the society’s Spring Break programs, children ages 6 to 12 can come meet Pony Boy, learn  about animal care and how horses helped farmers, and create horse-related crafts on Tuesday, April 26, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Frank Brush Barn. Cost is $25 and $22.50 for members and includes a snack and a beverage. Registration is required by calling 631-265-6768.

Finally, children ages 3 to 5 can take part in a child and caregiver horse-themed reading adventure at a program titled Tales for Tots: Horses! on April 26 at the society’s Roseneath Cottage at 239 Main Street, Smithtown, from 11 a.m. to noon. This event is free but registration is required by calling the Smithtown Library at 631-360-2480.

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The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Officials are on track to restore a piece of Long Island history, bringing an abandoned and forgotten horse-racing site back to life.

The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Brookhaven Town finished purchasing a swath of wooded land off of Canal Road in Terryville at the end of 2013, after Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith discovered the faint outline of the horse track and dug up information about what was once called the Gentlemen’s Driving Park. The town now owns the entire 11-acre site.

Today it’s an overgrown path hidden among trees, but the Gentlemen’s Driving Park used to be a place where Victorian Era bettors watched men race around the half-mile loop — counterclockwise — behind horses in carts called sulkies. It was part of a circuit of harness racing tracks in the Northeast, according to Smith, but likely fell into neglect with the rise of the automobile.

But cars have also helped keep the track viable: Smith previously reported that at least through the mid-1950s, kids raced jalopies around the track, preventing it from becoming completely overgrown.

Smith said on Monday the effort to restore and preserve the track is moving slowly, but there has been progress since the town finished acquiring the property. There are plans in place to clear the track to about 20 feet wide, although leaving larger trees in place, and to move up the southern curve of the oval, he said.

Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen's Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen’s Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Currently, a small PSEG Long Island facility cuts into that southern tip. Rather than moving the facility or leaving the track incomplete, the town would retrace that small section of track, slightly shortening the loop but completing the oval so as to make a walkable path for visitors.

“The town is in the process of working on the track to restore the track as closely to the original footprint as possible,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement this week. “There will be some adjustments needed and the town is actively working on that.”

If all goes according to plan, the councilwoman said, the restored track could open late in the summer or early in the fall.

“The important thing is that it will be an oval,” Smith said Monday. “We want to keep some of the historical integrity.”

His goal is to put informational signs around the track that will teach people about its history.

The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The driving park was adjacent to well-known horse trainer Robert L. Davis’ Comsewogue stables, now the Davis Professional Park. After hearing rumors of such a track in Terryville, Smith discovered it by looking at an aerial image of the neighborhood taken during the winter, when the foliage was less dense. He saw the faint shape in the woods near Canal Road and went walking in to find it. Since that visit, he has uncovered a broken pair of Victorian-era field glasses near the finish line on the track’s west side, which may have been dropped and trampled. He also has a ticket from a racing event on July 4. 1892.

Once restoration work is completed, Cartright said the town hopes to work with the historical society and the community “to hold a kickoff event to highlight the track and its history.”

For his part, the historical society president has said he would like to hold a fair in which people will re-enact the late 1800s horse races with vintage sulkies or participate in a carriage parade.

“We can’t be happier that it’s been preserved,” Smith said.

Heather Johnson has been at the helm of The Northport Historical Society for the past five years. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Northport Historical Society is searching for a new director, as Heather Johnson, who has held the position for five years, is moving on to a new job with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Her enthusiasm for her job radiates from her and has enabled the Northport community to become much more supportive,” society board of trustees President Steven King said about Johnson in an interview Tuesday. “All of our events that involve social interaction have improved because she enjoys doing things for people, helping people, takes pride in Northport community and that’s been very helpful over the past five years to make the historical society a more successful institution in the village.”

Johnson, whose last day is Feb. 11, arrived in January 2011 with nearly two decades of experience in various departments at Hofstra University. She spent time in their public relations department and in the office of international admissions, taught art history and even spent time working in their on-campus museum.

Johnson also had a unique upbringing, spending years living in New York City, Jacksonville, Florida, and England while her mother pursued an opera career. She returned to Long Island in 1989 and currently lives in Smithtown.

Above, the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Heather Johnson
Above, the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Heather Johnson

Her journey prior to landing in Northport, coupled with some of her own personal interests, made the position at the historical society a fit too perfect to pass up.

“I’m a history buff,” Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve always loved history, since I was a little kid.” She laughed and added, “There are not many little girls who are interested in history.”

Johnson saw a 20 percent increase in membership in her first year alone, bringing the society’s total membership to more than 400. She maintained that number during the rest of her five-year tenure. The group also has a new website.

The outgoing director was adamant that she accomplished nothing on her own.

“I’m not going to take credit for anything that’s happened around here,” Johnson said. “It really is a team. What we have is people who are really dedicated and who really love Northport, and are very interested in the historical society, or history in general.”

During her time, Johnson was responsible for scheduling programs and exhibits for the museum, recruiting members and creating events. Some of her favorites that she mentioned were a Civil War cooking class and an educational and social tour of Northport Harbor.

“My mantra has been to educate and to entertain,” Johnson said. “When you can put those two things together, it’s a beautiful thing.”

King was not as dismissive of Johnson’s impact and accomplishments as she was.

“I don’t think that there’s any way to replace personality traits that Heather has,” King said. “We hope to settle on a final candidate who has some of what Heather has brought to us, but perhaps a different set of capabilities that will enhance our mission in the future.”

“There are not many little girls who are interested in history.”
— Heather Johnson

Johnson shared an emailed letter from a community member that she received when news of her imminent departure got out. The sender preferred to remain anonymous.

“We have learnt a lot about the village, its history and its people — and always in a welcoming and congenial setting,” the email reads.

Johnson plans to maintain a relationship with the historical society as a member of the fundraising committee and their gallery committee. She also insists that she’s not leaving the community that has become such a large part of her life, mainly due to the close bond she feels.

“This village, and Northport in general, they just really know how to come together for each other,” she said. “I plan to eat, play and shop in Northport for the rest of my life. It’s just a really, really incredible place.”

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. Photo by Elissa Kyle

The Huntington Historical Society recently unveiled its latest exhibit, The Civil War Comes Home, at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. This museum was built in 1892 to serve as the Huntington Public Library, a meeting place for the Civil War veterans from Huntington and as a memorial to the Huntington residents lost in the Civil War.

Part of the new Civil War exhibit in Huntington. Photo by Elissa Kyle
Part of the new Civil War exhibit in Huntington. Photo by Elissa Kyle

Stop in and visit this beautiful building and view the many artifacts on display, including a 150-year-old flag with its 35 stars that once flew over Fulton Street on July 8, 1865, when the 127th regiment returned and a photo of the Co. H 119th NY volunteers. Also featured is the diary of Amelia Brush dated Jan. 1, 1863, to Dec. 31, 1868, which mentions many national and local events such as the New York riots in 1893.

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building, located at 228 Main Street, Huntington, is open Tuesday to Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 631-351-3244.

Arthur and Irene Sniffin receive the President’s Award from Huntington Historical Society. Photo from Claudia S. Fortunato-Napolitano

A longtime Huntington couple has dedicated more than 40 years to improving the quality of information available to Huntington residents by volunteering at Huntington Historical Society.

Arthur and Irene Sniffin moved from Massapequa to Huntington in 1966 and have been immersed in the history of the town ever since.

“I always had an interest in local history,” Arthur Sniffin said in a phone interview. “When we moved, I was looking for something to do with history and the historical society was a perfect fit.”

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) put the spotlight on their work earlier this year when he handed them a county proclamation for being awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Service from their historical society this year.

“Our community owes Irene and Artie a debt of gratitude for the countless hours they have dedicated to preserving our local history and helping many of us discover our own family origins,” Spencer said in a statement.

Arthur Sniffin began working at the historical society as a trustee and then treasurer, while Irene Sniffin volunteered at the resource center and eventually became the historical society’s librarian, where she helped update the archives.

Arthur Sniffin is credited as being the founding chairman of the historical society’s genealogy workshop, and both he and his wife worked together over the years to organize genealogy courses, called root seminars, which helped people from across Long Island better understand how to search for history on their ancestry.

”As people get older and retire, they want to know more about where they came from,” Irene Sniffin said in a phone interview. “They want to become more aware of who their ancestors are, so we helped them find that information.”

She said they were both able to help people get interested and better in touch with their family history.

The Sniffins’ family history is also impressive. Arthur Sniffin is a direct descendant of Thomas Powell, a prominent figure from Long Island in the late 15th and 16th century, who secured the land transaction known as the Bethpage Purchase. According to Arthur Sniffin, once he started working at the historical society, he learned that one of his ancestors was actually the first recorded death in Huntington Town.

“The more I was helping people, the more I ended up learning myself,” he said.

The Sniffins have also helped with the transition of the archives from the old resource center to the new library, which will be located on Main Street next to the Huntington Arts Council. They collected residents’ information, including obituaries and features from newspapers in the past several centuries, to make sure the historical society’s record of the town is maintained.

“The history of the town and the people have to be preserved,” Irene Sniffin said. “I think people forget that when they get caught up with the many other parts of a normal routine, but it’s important. I felt like I was doing something constructive that needed to be done.”

She said it was both exciting and surprising to be honored by the historical society and Legislative Spencer and Arthur Sniffin said he agreed.

“It was an honor to be honored,” he said.

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