By Beverly C. Tyler
“A historic district is an area containing buildings, structures or places which have a special character and ambiance based on historical value … of such significance to warrant its conservation, preservation and protection,” according to the Town of Brookhaven’s definition.
The town’s historic districts in the Three Village area was the subject of a talk on the evening of April 23 by Robert Reuter sponsored by the Three Village Community Trust. Reuter — a member of the town’s historic district advisory committee, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation and vice president of the community trust — showed pictures of some of the most interesting homes, buildings and businesses in the historic districts and how many owners in the historic districts have benefited from the consultation and advice provided by members of the advisory committee.
This was one opportunity for residents to learn about the five historic districts in the Three Village area and the structures and environment of some of the most beautiful and significant areas of our community. A number of members of the advisory committee were on hand to provide additional information and examples of the many success stories locally.
The real beauty and significance of the historic districts is not just in the buildings themselves, nor their architecture but in the stories of the people who have lived in these homes over the past three centuries or so.
In 2002, Ward Melville senior Stacy Braverman wrote about a house in the Old Setauket Historic District: “From a very early age, I have loved 114 Main St., albeit from a distance. It has a perfect location — close to the park, post office, library and village green. Its distinctive color and stained glass windows make it unusual, but it still fits in perfectly with the area.”
In researching the house, Braverman found out the house was built for my grandfather. She also discovered that one owner was the first woman and the first Catholic elected to the Setauket School Board of Education.
In an interview, Braverman said she discovered that one of the most recent owners painted the house blue because a “helpful” neighbor told him that all houses in Setauket had to be white with black shutters at that point in time.
This is just one of many stories surrounding the people, architecture, setting and history of the homes and structures in the town’s five Three Village historic districts, which are located at Stony Brook, Old Setauket, East Setauket, Bethel Christian Avenue Laurel Hill and Dyers Neck.
With the town having 15 historic districts all told, it means that the Three Village area has one-third of the designations.
The community trust’s spring lecture series, “Keeping a Sense of Place in the Three Villages,” will continue with a Thursday, May 28, talk, “The Marion Lake Story: Defeating the Mighty Phragmites” and will conclude on Thursday, June 25, with a look at “Patriots Hollow State Forest.” All programs are 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Setauket Neighborhood House.
For more information, see the website at www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org/programs.
Details of the town’s historic districts, guidelines and other documents are available at the Town of Brookhaven website www. brookhaven.org/committees/historicdistrictadvisory.aspx.
Books, booklets and pamphlets on the homes and environment of the Three Village area as well as walking tour guides are available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. The society office and gift shop is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.