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History

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A photo of the Schooner Halie & Matthew on the ocean. Photo from Schooner Halie Matthew Facebook

Once upon a time, throughout the 19th century, if one looked down into Port Jefferson Harbor, one could see the tall masts of sailing ships rising high above the surrounding buildings, in a place once called Drowned Meadow. 

Nowadays, the harbor is home to many small vessels, but a new, 118-foot schooner could soon dwarf them if plans to bring in a handcrafted ship built in Maine come to fruition.

Captain George “Butch” Harris, the owner of the Halie & Matthew, a 118-foot-long, gaff-rigged, fiberglass ship, is currently in talks with the Village of Port Jefferson over establishing the harbor as its residence. The village board voted to allow Mayor Margot Garant to try and set up an agreement with the ship’s owner.

If an agreement is reached, the schooner would be moored along the dock in front of Harborfront Park, on the other side of Stony Brook University’s Seawolf research vessel.

“We’ve been looking for a long time to have a schooner call us home,” Garant said during a March 18 board meeting.

According to a draft proposal given to Port Jefferson by Maine Windjammers Inc., the ship would be used free for the village and Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy as a promotional platform. The village would agree to promote the Halie & Matthew as the village’s “home schooner,” to pay for electric, water and dock maintenance and guarantee exclusive space at the dock for four years.

The conservancy set up a Tall Ship Committee more than a year ago in an effort to get a sizable ship into Port Jefferson Harbor. Harris said he comes from a family of shipbuilders, his father owning a boat shop that he worked in as a kid. He started work on the Halie & Matthew in 2001 and finished in 2006. Since then the ship has sailed as far south as Florida and as far north as Canada. 

Jason Rose, a member of the committee, is breathless with excitement over the prospect of a tall ship sitting in the harbor. Himself an avid sailor, he is currently working with The Boat Place in Port Jeff to revitalize his own 42-foot schooner, the Elizabeth. 

He is also an adjunct professor of political science at Stony Brook University and faculty adviser of the school’s sailing team and he already has students promising to help man the ship if needed.

Port Jefferson village historian Chris Ryon said the masts of the Halie & Matthew could likely be seen from all across the village’s downtown and, along with pennants hanging from the ship’s stays, would attract visitors down toward the park. 

“The harbor used to be filled with tall ships and masts,” Ryon said. “We’ll be able to see them from all over the village. We’re hoping to draw people into the harbor area.” 

Ryon said the committee had been in contact with Harris a year ago about bringing the schooner to Port Jeff, but contact fell through. It was at the start of the year that Harris reached back out to the committee about making Port Jeff a home for the schooner. The ship has a 24-foot beam and a 90-foot main mast. Its max capacity is at 100 people aboard.

The Port Jefferson Tall Ship Committee, a subset of the conservancy, of which Ryon is a member, has been working for years to bring a tall ship into the harbor. The contract would be for four years. Under the initial proposal, after the first year, the village would receive a 20 percent share in net profits of the vessel, which gets revenue through its charter operations and dining and bar services. There is an option to renew after that initial time, under the condition the village would negotiate a profit-sharing agreement.

The ship would have to get access to the village’s water and electricity, but Ryon said he did not believe the ship would use so much resources because, other than for appliances and lights, the ship is sail powered. The Seawolf is already hooked up to the village’s electricity, but water lines may need to be extended to the new schooner. Garant said the conservancy has agreed to pay half of the costs of extending those lines to the new vessel if needed. 

While the village still needs to work out security specifics with Harris, Rose said the ship will have two people living on the ship full time in order to make sure there isn’t any vandalism of the Halie & Matthew.

Garant said the first year would be a pilot, and they wanted to have dates in years 1 through 4 where the owners would commit to giving the village access to the vessel at minimum three times a year for fundraising initiatives. 

Ryon said over 500 large ships were built in the harbor during the area’s shipbuilding heyday. The largest wooden sailing ship built in the harbor was the Martha E. Wallace, built in 1902 and topped at more than 200 feet long. Ryon said the last time the harbor played host to a schooner of notable size was in the 1970s, a ship called the Enchantress.

With a new ship coming in, Rose can’t wait to see Port Jeff’s shipbuilding history come alive again.

“It’s going to be great to see the area’s maritime history start to be honored,” he said. 

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Marie Mack, front, and her family and friends celebrated her birthday Jan. 27. Photo from Betty Mulligan

By Jane Swingle 

Our grandparents Charles Petersen and Anna Kenney were married in 1913 and had three children. Their son, John Anthony, was born in 1917 and lived for 10 days. Their daughter, Marie Gertrude, our mother, was born in 1919 and has been living for 100 years. Mary Catherine was born in 1920 and lived for 24 hours.

Marie, who eventually married to become Marie Mack, always wanted a sibling and was told as a child that if she put salt on a windowsill, she would get a brother and if she put sugar on a windowsill she would get a sister. She said she remembers that at one time she had sugar or salt on 11 windowsills. Unfortunately for Marie, she remained an only child, and Jan. 18 of this year she celebrated her 100th birthday. A surprise birthday party was held for her Jan. 27 with over 90 guests in attendance.

Marie Mack during her birthday celebration Jan. 27. Photo from Betty Mulligan

She was loved dearly by her father who in 1898 joined the Navy during the Spanish-American War at the age of 15. She remembers him having a dry sense of humor (we’re sure she herself got this from him). He was a good cook and she always looked forward to a batch of potatoes, eggs and onions after work. Her dad loved coming out to Long Island to vacation and in 1928, when Marie was 10 years old, he bought the house in which she currently resides. They had spent their summers in the same house beginning in 1924, the same house that was the Mount Sinai Post Office and General Store from 1908 until 1922.

Her mother was very different from her father. She was very melancholic most of the time unless she was taking the Putnam Avenue trolley to downtown Brooklyn to go shopping. She crocheted beautiful baby outfits for her grandchildren and loved going to the movies. Marie said her mother had a beautiful smile and always wondered why she didn’t smile more often. 

They lived at 83 Saratoga Ave. in Brooklyn in what was known as the “Railroad Flats” where they paid a monthly rent of $25. As a child she remembers the iceman delivering blocks of ice two to three times a week to keep their food cold. Milk was delivered at 4 a.m. and they had dumbwaiters so they didn’t have to carry everything upstairs. They lived on the third floor and once Marie even put our sister Elizabeth, “Betty,” in the dumbwaiter so she didn’t have to carry her up all those stairs.

In 1934 Marie saw our future dad, John Howard Rogers,  working in a candy store and continued to eyeball him until they finally started dating in 1935. They went to their first prom at the Hotel George and she remembers wearing a pink taffeta long gown, silver shoes and our dad gave her her first corsage. They continued to see each other and in 1941 they were married and had their reception at her home on Saratoga Avenue. Our sister Ann Marie was born in December 1942, but our dad left soon after she was born for the Pacific front in April 1943. He did not see his daughter again until 1945 when he returned from the war. During the time that he was away our mother moved back in with her parents — she had only 35 cents to her name. She became an air raid warden and was given a certificate for selling war bonds.

When dad returned from the war, they became very busy making a family and in 1946 Elizabeth was born, followed by Nancy in 1951, Jane in 1953, John in 1954 and Thomas in 1956.  With this expanding family they could no longer live in Brooklyn so they moved to Woodhaven in 1948, then to Rockville Centre in 1962 and eventually to Mount Sinai in 1968.

When asked when her favorite years were, Marie told us during the 1950s when she was raising her children. She got us through chicken pox, measles, mumps, ear infections, the teen years and the death of our father in 1969. She went back to work in 1970 at the Probation Department in Yaphank and remained there until 1977 when she married Bernard Mack. She again lived in Woodhaven for a short time after they were married but moved back to her home in Mount Sinai.

In 1996 when going into her attic to open a window she fell through the ceiling and shattered her knee, which required surgery and many months of rehabilitation. During this time Bernard passed away, but she rallied around again with her children pushing her to recover and get well.

She often wonders why she has lived so long. On many occasions she has said: “I’m not good enough to go to heaven, not bad enough to go to hell, so I guess I’m still here to torment all of you.”

Marie Mack during her birthday celebration Jan. 27. Photo from Betty Mulligan

When we think about her life spanning 100 years, we are astounded with all the changes that she has experienced in her lifetime. She was born before most people had electricity in their homes. She remembers gas lamps still being used, when there was no TV, no computers, no cellphones and when it cost 2 cents to mail a letter. She has lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, 9/11 and 18 presidents. She was even born before they started slicing bread in 1928.

She credits her long life to her family for keeping her – in her words – “Alive, alert and stimulated.” She’s had many bumps along the way, especially the passing of our brother John and our sister Ann Marie, but she’s always had a positive attitude and has always wished our father could have been with her to share this journey. What amazes all of us is her incredible memory – she remembers names of friends when she was a child, teachers’ names, games she played, street names where she used to live, movies, actors, books she read and all the places she has ever worked. As a child she enjoyed going to Coney Island for hot dogs, the hurdy-gurdy man who played the accordion with his monkey, putting hot bricks in her bed at night to warm her feet and attending the World’s Fairs in both 1939 and 1964.

When asked what important lessons she wanted to pass on to her children, her 12 grandchildren and her eight great-grandchildren, she told us to always remember how important family is, to be respectful, considerate and always take the time to listen. She was the best teacher of these lesson and we couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

Jane Swingle is a resident of Norwich and echoes the sentiments of her siblings, Betty Mulligan, Nancy Rogers and Tom Rogers. Their mother Marie Mack has lived in Mount Sinai for close to 50 years.

Above and below, scenes from the film

By Heidi Sutton

Peter Jackson’s latest endeavor has been a labor of love. The award-winning director, best known for the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies was recently enlisted to create a unique documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old,” featuring many never-before-seen archive footage of the Great War, a four-year conflict that claimed the lives of over 16 million soldiers.

Produced by WingNut Films and released by Warner Brothers, the project, which took five months to complete, was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum and BBC, who gave Jackson access to over 100 hours of footage and 600 hours of audio, including interviews with hundreds of veterans in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jackson chose to focus on the daily lives of British foot soldiers who had been sent to the Western Front – from their experience at boot camp to being shipped to France and living in the trenches, to a few days of rest and then off to the front lines where they are told to hand over any personal effects to their officers before heading off into no man’s land.

The documentary reveals many of the soldiers were mere children, volunteering at the age of 15 and 16 out of patriotic duty, and how many were excited to serve. By the end of the film, however, all romantic ideas of war have completely vanished. “History will decide in the end that this war was not worthwhile,” you hear a retired soldier say.

Every scene is accompanied by narration from army veterans who describe their uniforms and complain about their heavy boots; the food they ate; dealing with rats, lice and dysentery problems; coping with trench foot and mustard gas; capturing German soldiers; and the constant smell of death.

The genius that is Peter Jackson then goes two steps further, (revealed about 20 minutes into the film) when suddenly the black and white film comes to life in a myriad of colors and sounds. The soldiers’ personalities are revealed as they speak and laugh and you hear the shells being loaded into the cannons, artillery fire and the tanks rolling along the open fields. The sudden transformation takes one’s breath away.

The stunning effect was achieved using digital technology, researching uniforms and locations, recruiting forensic lip-readers who studied the original film, and actors who then voiced the parts in various dialects. “Smile! You’re in the pictures,” one man tells his mates as he points excitedly to the camera.

For Jackson, who has long been interested in World War I, (the film is dedicated to his paternal grandfather who was wounded in the Battle of the Somme) the spectacular documentary slowly evolved into capturing the human experience of war. 

He described his vision best in a recent interview with BBC-owned HistoryExtra magazine. “We let them tell their story, of what it was like as a soldier,” adding that these experiences would’ve been similar to those of many other troops. “And the men saw a war in color, they certainly didn’t see it in black and white,” Jackson explained. “I wanted to reach through the fog of time and pull these men into the modern world, so they can regain their humanity once more.”

Rated R, “They Shall Not Grow Old” is now playing in local theaters.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

Mount Sinai Scout Michael Muroff stands with his completed Eagle Scout project Sept. 29, the front door of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society. Photo by Alex Petroski

A Mount Sinai Boy Scout literally restored an entryway to local history to complete his Eagle Scout project.

The front door to the William Miller House on North Country Road, a centuries-old building that has long served as the headquarters for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society, was in a state of disrepair for longer than historian Edna Giffen could remember. Now, thanks to 17-year-old Scout Michael Muroff from Troop 1776, a brand new door constructed with a nod to history in mind hangs from the hinges, serving as a refurbished entry to local history.

Boy Scouts hoping to achieve Eagle status, the highest rank attainable by a male Scout, are tasked with completing a project that demonstrates leadership and benefits the community. Repairing the front door of the historical society met the criteria for Muroff, who said he and his family had been attending events — like the annual Country Fair that took place Sept. 29 during Muroff’s project unveiling — at the house since he was a kid.

Eagle Scout Michael Muroff, center, receives a proclamation from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, third from right, after unveiling is project Sept. 29. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I’ve always had an interest in local history, and it was always a subject I excelled at in class, and I thought by doing this project it would be a good way of giving back to the community and something that I really enjoy,” he said.

The work started with four to five weekends dedicated to just stripping the old paint off of the door frame using a heat gun and metal stripper, according to the Scout. With help from a local woodworker and others, a new, yet true to the original batten door was constructed. Batten doors traditionally have between six and eight wooden planks bound together. Muroff’s door features seven planks and includes the door’s original hinges, restored and repainted as well as part of the project. He also found authentic galvanized nails to match the original and maintain the new door’s historic integrity. The door’s original handle was left as is though, according to Muroff.

“The old door was falling apart and dilapidated, so we had to just completely make a new one,” Muroff said.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the event and joked she had never seen the front door of the building hang so straight and close so tightly.

“We always like to take time out of our day to recognize and honor our Scouts,” she said. “So much attention is focused on the bad things our kids are doing and not on the good things they’re doing. It makes me feel good to know that we’re surrounded by some really great kids.”

In August, Muroff’s sister Rebecca completed her Gold Award project, the equivalent to the Eagle project but for Girl Scouts, which entailed cataloging the historical society’s vast collection of historic photos. The Scouts’ dad Greg Muroff served as Michael’s Scoutmaster throughout his time working through the program.

“It’s just wonderful that many years coming down to the Country Fair and to see Postman Pete, just to have my children Rebecca and Michael give back to the historical society and the community is just a wonderful thing,” he said. “Mike has a tremendous love of history and this was an ideal project for him.”

He said it will be special for both him and his son to drive past the house on North Country Road for years to come and see his hard work front and center.

“I have to say, as his dad and Scoutmaster I’m especially proud,” the Scoutmaster said. “The Eagle Scout award is more than just a project, it’s a culmination of their Boy Scout career. It means a lot of leadership, service to the community and self-discipline.”

A ‘Bill of Health’ certificate stating that the whaling vessel Splendid is free of plague or disease with 28 men on board, including the master, Richard P. Smith, on Oct. 27, 1853. From the Whaling Museum Collection

By Nomi Dayan

Have you ever been asked to please stand by? Ever told someone not to barge in? Have you hung on to the bitter end, or been given a clean bill of health? If so, you have spoken like a sailor. 

Each type of human activity, noted essayist L. Pearsall Smith, has its own vocabulary. Perhaps this is most evident in the speech of mariners. 

The English language is a strong testament to how humans have been seafarers for millennia, with a multitude of words and phrases having filtered from life at sea to life on land. Today, a surprising number of phrases, words and expressions still have nautical origins, notably from sailing terminology in the 18th and 19th centuries. While some adopted phrases have fallen by the wayside, many expressions in our everyday language are derived from seafaring.

Barge in: Referring to flat-bottomed work boats, which were awkward to control

Bitter end: The last part of a rope attached to a vessel

Clean bill of health: A document certifying a vessel had been inspected and was free from infection

Dead in the water: A sailing ship that has stopped moving

Down the hatch: A transport term for lowering cargo into the hatch and below deck

Figurehead: A carved ornamental figure affixed to the front of a ship

Foul up: To entangle the line

Fudge the books: While the origins of this term is unclear, one theory connects it to a deceitful Captain Fudge (17th century)

Give leeway: To allow extra room for sideways drift of a ship to leeward of the desired course

High and dry: A beached ship 

Jury rig: Makeshift or temporary repairs using available material

Keel over: To capsize, exposing the ship’s keel   

Show the ropes: Train a newcomer in the use of ropes on sailing vessel

Letting the cat out of the bag: One explanation links this phrase to one form of naval punishment where the offender was whipped with a “cat o’ nine tails,” normally kept in a bag  

Passed with flying colors/Show one’s true colors: Refers to identifying flags and pennants of sailing ships

Pipe down: Using the boatswain’s pipe signaling the crew to retire below deck

A new slant: A sailor will put a new slant on things by reducing sails to achieve an optimum angle of heel to avoid the boat from being pulled over

Slush fund: The ship’s cook created a private money reserve by hoarding bits of grease into a slush fund sold to candle makers

Steer clear: Avoid obstacles at sea

Taken aback: Sails pressed back into the mast from a sudden change of wind, stopping forward motion 

The author is the executive director of The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor.

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A mural has been painted on the side of a business in Rocky Point depicting some of the hamlet's history. Photo by Kyle Barr

A local artist is using an image of the past to illustrate a brighter future.

A newly finished mural on Broadway in Rocky Point highlights the historic nature of the old hamlet while serving to continue efforts to beautify the downtown.

Natalie Rash, Edith Mahler, Geraldine Luglio and Max Braun work on the mural, which was completed last month. Photo by Julia Vogelle

Retired Miller Place High School art teacher Julia Vogelle spearheaded the project and painted the mural, located just outside Rocky Point Ship and Pack, alongside Edith Mahler, a trustee of the Rocky Point Historical Society. It is painted on the side of Belladonna Hair Design, located at 45 Broadway, and faces the entrance of Rocky Point Ship and Pack next door. Vogelle said several local community members, even those just passing by, came to help with the project. She said she even got several of her ex-students involved, including Geraldine Luglio, Max Braun and Natalie Rash, all recent graduates from Miller Place High School.

“It’s been a wonderful experience working with them,” Vogelle said. “It’s really been an effort of love for Rocky Point.”

The mural depicts several historic elements and landmarks of Rocky Point, such as the Noah Hallock Homestead, Indian Rock, The Hallock Landing shipwreck, the RCA Radio Central station, Tilda’s Clock and the Rocky Point train station. Natalie Stiefel, the President of the Rocky Point Historical Society, gave Vogelle a few suggestions on what to include.

“It would take a mural the entire size of the town to represent all the history of Rocky Point, but they did a really good job,” Stiefel said. “Rocky Point is really such a magical place.”

Vogelle said the mural was in planning since spring 2017, and after many months of work it was finally completed in mid-August.

Julia Vogelle, Geraldine Luglio and Natalie Rush work on a mural in Rocky Point. Photo from Julia Vogelle

The former art teacher is one of the people heading up plans for The Brick Studio in St. James after a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017. The original plan was to locate the studio in Rocky Point in a brick building near the Rocky Point Farmers Market at the corner of Prince and Broadway, but the group was unable to land the deal. Vogelle said this mural project is a way of giving back to the community that originally supported her and the rest of her team.

Steven Badalamenti, who works at Joe’s General Contracting and Masonry, watched as the mural went up over time. He marveled at just how much history there is in the hamlet where he grew up.

“It really did capture the essence of Rocky Point,” Badalamenti said.

The mural was painted with supplies provided by Rocky Point Civic Association in continued efforts to continue to beautify downtown Rocky Point, according to President Charles Bevington.

“Hopefully Rocky Point grows slowly with some dynamic but still within the spirit of the local culture,” Bevington said.

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Mario Tribuzio, the 87-year-old owner of Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A, sat in his chair among gods and angels and wondered how the deer survive the winter.

“They have to drink out of people’s bird baths and they go in other people’s gardens,” Tribuzio said. “You’re tucked into a nice warm house and they’re surviving out there in the winter, rain, ice and snow. Incredible, eh? But I feel bad for the deer. The deer got to make a living too.”

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Somehow, despite the cold and the frost, year after year they survive, just like the statuary. Every winter the business slows to a crawl, but every spring Tribuzio is there, in his chair, awaiting the next customer to walk through his gate.

Every weekday morning, he walks from his house, just across the street, and opens the gates to the sound of rushing traffic. Every day he gets customers who come to him saying they had driven by so many times, wondering at the hundreds of Jesus, Mary and Buddha statues out front, but having never decided to stop in.

That wonderland of monsters, gods and animals is something the old statue maker has been building since 1966, when he first opened. In the workshop there are hundreds of statue molds lying in heaps on worn wood shelves and floors. In his paint studio, really a small shed to the rear of the statuary property, Tribuzio gives attention to his own deer. They’re concrete and painted with an airbrush and a well-practiced hand. Without close scrutiny, a passing figure might think they’re real.

“That’s why I’m still around — because I’m making them, but I can’t pick up a bag of cement no more,” he said. His face grew into a smile as he commented on his waning strength. “I never knew it was so heavy — a bag of cement, it’s like they’re making them heavier today, something’s going on.”

Tribuzio got his start as a young kid, carving shapes and figures out of soap. Later, a newly married Tribuzio was driving by the property on Route 25A and saw a man was selling statues on his front lawn. He bought the property in 1966 and moved in. Later, he bought a house just across from that property and has lived there ever since. From his perch behind the chain-link fence he has seen things change, and he said he questions if there is still a desire for crafts like his.

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

“People are running too far too fast, the pace of living today is just too much,” Tribuzio said. “Once people entertained themselves at home doing sculpting — carving stuff.”

With the majority of his family living in Maine, most of the time he is alone, even if he remains in the company of his stone brothers and sisters.

“Even the smell of a bag of cement brings back so many memories,” Tribuzio’s daughter Marjorie Adams said. “Statue making is in his blood, and he’s been doing it his whole life.”

Though all three of Tribuzio’s children moved up to Maine, several of his children and grandchildren still take the trek south periodically to help him in his workshop and also learn the art of statue making. Tribuzio’s granddaughter Megan Tribuzio said some of her family has continued their grandfather’s trade and made a small statuary in the town of Northport, Maine.

“I’m proud of his business, and I hope there is some way to keep it open,” Tribuzio’s granddaughter said. “No matter where you are, a lot of people like those statues, whether it’s a mermaid, a dolphin or a deer, people like to have them in their yard.”

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Where in earlier decades he had young people working with him to make the statues, now it’s just him. He said the liability insurance has pushed out any hope of hiring anybody new. And as he ages he finds it near impossible to lift the bags of concrete to poor into the molds. He’s contented himself by making smaller statues like his deer, or the small ornaments designed to look like bread, donuts and Italian bread real enough to eat.

David Perry, who now lives in Brentwood, worked in the statuary for nearly 25 years before heart issues forced him to stop. Tribuzio called him one of the best statue painters he ever saw, painting beautiful work on images of Jesus or Venus, back before it became too expensive to use the glossy lacquer paints.

“He was more than just a boss, he was a good friend, and he’s about the only thing that I have that resembles family anymore,” Perry said. “He’s very fair, that’s the best way to put it, he’s real old school.”

Tribuzio remains the last thread that is currently holding the statuary together, and despite the family’s desire to maintain the business it would be hard for any of them to leave Maine and take it over.

Still, the old statue maker has cement in his blood, and for now he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“I’m fortunate, real fortunate,” Tribuzio said. “I started out dedicated to do something like this and I can’t believe how it worked out myself.”

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Rebecca Muroff, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, shows off the archive of historical photos she created for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Aug. 11. Photo by Alex Petroski

A piece of history has been organized and preserved thanks to the hard work of a Mount Sinai teen.

Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project, and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community. Rebecca Muroff, a Mount Sinai High School student heading into her senior year, stood at the William Miller House, the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society on North Country Road in Miller Place, Aug. 11 and shared the byproduct of months of hard work as the culmination of her Gold Award project.

Muroff and her family have long enjoyed events held by the historical society, from the annual Country Fair to the local Christmas tradition of passing letters to Santa off to Postman Pete, so exploring a project to help an organization close to her heart was a no-brainer, she said. The Gold Award recipient, beginning in October 2017, sifted through the historical society’s vast collection of old photos amassed since its inception in 1974 to create a pictorial archive, labeling the photos with numbers and a corresponding destination in a spreadsheet, including categories like location, date, names of the people in the photo and any other pertinent comments. The result is a detailed catalog available to visitors who can now quickly and easily find photos of specific people or events dating back decades. Muroff said plans are even in the works to digitize the archive in some manner.

From left, Troop 1090 leaders Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch join Muroff’s parent Greg and Christine, right and third from right, as well as Edna Giffen of the society, second from right, in honoring the latest Gold Award recipient. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It shows people as we matured over the years and there are a lot of people — members — that, because we were founded in ’74, have passed or moved away,” said Edna Giffen, the society’s recording secretary and archivist, who Muroff said played a crucial role in working on the project. “I realized there are people in the pictures that I don’t even know. Members will be glad to see this.”

Muroff said she always liked going to events at the society as a kid and reflected on the idea that she’d created something that will enrich visits by future generations.

“It’s just nice I think to have tangible memories of the historical society,” she said. “Now people can look through the pictures and people can see themselves or their family members. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’m preserving history so other people can enjoy it.”

Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch, Muroff’s leaders in Girl Scout Troop 1090, attended the Aug. 11 event set up to unveil the new photo archive.

“It’s really beautiful because we started with the whole troop when they were in second grade and now they’re seniors in high school,” Broome said.

Lynch added the troop had about 20 members when the girls were young, and Muroff was one of only five to earn the Gold Award.

“We’re almost like second mothers to them really,” she said. “They really persevered and did everything that was asked of them, and they’re like a family now.”

Muroff’s actual parents, Christine and Greg, also beamed with pride over their daughter’s accomplishment.

“It really hit me yesterday when we went to the Girl Scouts store to complete her sash,” her mom said. “I’m so happy she stuck with it.”

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E.H. Rogers Feed and Grain, circa 1910. Photo from Ken Brady Collection

Revitalization plans between the train tracks and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station have an eye toward the future, but those who have dedicated their lives to the community’s history have a message: not so fast.

Five buildings with historical roots in Port Jefferson Station that fall squarely within the bounds of Town of Brookhaven’s territory slated for redevelopment, as indicated during its planning board’s July 24 presentation during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, could be at risk of being demolished. Two of the buildings, 101 and 105 Main St., adjacent to the south side of the train tracks, could be in more imminent danger, according to Jack Smith, president of Cumsewogue Historical Society, based on a phone call he said he had in March with Charlie Lefkowitz, a real estate developer who owns many of the buildings in the area personally or in part with business associates.

The present day Costigan building, which operates as a law office. Photo by Jack Smith

The buildings, dating from the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, serve as links back to the area’s agricultural roots, according to Smith.

“We worked with the community and town for several years,” Lefkowitz said in a phone interview about the proposed redevelopment as a whole, though he declined to comment specifically on the historical buildings other than to confirm he spoke with Smith in March. “We will continue to work with the community and the town to create the best product and vision for Port Jefferson Station.”

In 2014, the findings of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study commissioned by the town to compile community feedback and detailed analysis from professionals to determine what redevelopment of the area might entail were released to the public. Though the study has no legal bindings, it contains recommendations from Port Jefferson-based architects and consultants for the study, Campani and Schwarting Architects founders Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting, as well as longtime Suffolk County planner Lee Koppelman, calling for the preservation and incorporation of the five buildings into future redevelopment plans.

Smith said Lefkowitz told him the two buildings nearest the train tracks specifically are in a state of disrepair and cannot be preserved, despite the fact that they are occupied by businesses currently. Smith said the developer was willing to preserve relics from the historical structures and even establish a museum to memorialize the history, which Smith called “nonsense” and “insulting.” Schwarting said he disagreed with Lefkowitz’s assertion, relayed to him by Smith during a joint interview July 20.

“They’ve got good bones,” the architect said of the buildings.

Schwarting’s partner Campani said she understood the dilemma developers like Lefkowitz face in situations like these, though she agreed she does not see a case for needing to knock the buildings down rather than refurbishing them and incorporating them into revitalization plans.

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished.”

— Nick Acampora

“Part of the problem, which is one of the things we tried to address in the study, is that it’s not a very pedestrian-friendly area right now, and you sort of have to slow down to a pedestrian pace to start to appreciate these things,” Campani said. “If you’re flying by at 40 miles per hour, you’re not going to.”

Sarah Kautz, preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection and stewardship of historic sites, said the buildings’ location on a state road and proximity to a Long Island Rail Road station would trigger review by New York State as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act prior to demolition, though getting the sites listed on state or national historic registries would go a long way toward securing their protection.

“It doesn’t prevent [demolition], but it does put it on a longer path, and it can bring private owners to the table in a serious way and kind of leverage a little bit of a negotiation,” she said, adding that public support and collaboration between the two historical sites would ultimately serve as strong deterrents against the approval of any plans ultimately necessary from the town’s planning board when a site plan is eventually weighed. Kautz said the organization would support a push to preserve the buildings. “They’re important buildings. The local community will benefit more from a rehab than it would by a total blitz.”

Nick Acampora, president of the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, pledged to support Smith in his efforts, even if it comes to “laying down in front of a bulldozer.”

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished,” Acampora said.

Reviewed by Victoria Espinoza

Author Patricia Novak with a copy of her book.

With Patricia J. Novak’s new book, you don’t need a time machine to see what the Town of Huntington was like 100 years ago.

Broken into seven chapters, “Huntington,” part of the Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series, looks through the lens at old postcards to get glimpses of what life in Huntington was like back in the day.

“I have been collecting postcards of the towns/hamlets in Huntington township since the 1980s,” said Novak in a recent interview, adding “Before the internet (and eBay), I acquired them by visiting postcard shows and by mail. Dealers would send me their cards for review and I would pick what I wanted. I would return the ones I didn’t want and include a check for the keepers. When Arcadia Publishing introduced their new Postcard History Series, I knew I had a book!”

Novak, who grew up in Huntington, organized her book by different parts of the community. The various chapters, which feature over 220 black-and-white images, span religious structures, schools, businesses and scenes of residents from years past enjoying their lives in the North Shore town. 

The first chapter starts off with a very familiar site, Huntington Town Hall. Initially used as a high school for Huntington students starting in 1910, it eventually changed hands to become the center of government. 

Other school buildings in Huntington and Northport are featured in this chapter as well, along with old mailers detailing and encouraging residents to support school expansion projects due to a population increase in the area after World War II. It’s quite interesting to read a message from Huntington’s school board in 1954 and see the similarities in budget pitches with school boards currently in power.

Aside from school buildings, the first chapter also shows churches in the area, some that look almost identical now as they first did in the early 20th century and some that are no longer standing.

The cover of Novak’s book

Another chapter gives readers a glimpse into the lives of the residents that came before them. Familiar structures like William K. Vanderbilt II’s mansion, Eagles Nest, in Centerport and the Huntington Country Club can be seen in their early starts, but you can also learn about impressive establishments like the Camp Christian Endeavour, located close to where the Huntington train station now stands. This organization worked to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged city boys and girls to enjoy outdoor recreation, three meals, clean surroundings and fresh air for 10 days every summer. Photos show children swinging and enjoying the Huntington scenery. 

Perhaps the most fun aspect of a book like this is comparing the old photos to what everything looks like now, including the chapter that shows the business establishments of the past featured in several postcards. 

Novak said her favorite postcards are ones that tell the greatest stories.“The real-photo postcards are exciting, but any postcard that has writing on it which gives us some insight on events and daily life from that time period are particularly interesting to me.” 

And although she was not phased with the wealth of information she had to work from, Novak said she was surprised with some of the personal stories she got to learn.

“I did extensive research on many of the individuals that I ‘met’ along the way,” she said. “The contributions they made to the social and economic progress of Huntington during the early 1900s should not be overlooked. I even went to visit their graves.”

As for why she thinks people should be interested in learning more about Huntington’s past, Novak said this town has no shortage of fascinating stories.

“Huntington has a rich history dating back to the 1600s,” she said. “It is a perfect, and well-documented microcosm of how communities grew from European settlements to our modern footprints today.”

A lifelong resident of the Town of Huntington, author Patricia J. Novak is a librarian and archivist at the South Huntington Public Library and a member of the Huntington Historical Society. “Huntington” is available online at www.arcadiapublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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