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Leah Chiappino

Photo from WMHO

By Leah Chiappino

From now through Sept. 29, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is turning back the clock with Journey Through Time, a summer exhibit at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center that highlights the national, regional and local events and inventions of each decade, from the 1940s to the 2000s, that have had impacts on our lives.

The exhibition, which took several months of research, was culled from the collections of 16 contributors including Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook, the Leo P. Ostebo Kings Park Heritage Museum, Long Island state parks and the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, as well as WMHO’s extensive archives and seven private collectors. Newsday also provided notable news covers from each time period.  

Visitors to the exhibit can enjoy a game of hopscotch.

“It was a collaboration of nine staff people, and trying to secure these items from all over Long Island,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, during a recent tour. Kristin Ryan-Shea, director of the Educational & Cultural Center, came up with the idea for the exhibit to have national, regional and local events highlighted. “That crystallized what we should do,” said Rocchio.

 Though major national somber events such as 9/11 and World War II are highlighted in their respective decades, most of the exhibit is bright and fun-loving, giving it a feel of nostalgia, with a focus on early technology and entertainment. Visitors can even partake in an I Spy worksheet and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to use at the many shops, restaurants and services offered at the Stony Brook Village Center. “It makes them look a little closer and remember a little more,” said Ryan-Shea.

Items on view include a wooden score chart from the bowling alley that used to be in the basement of what is now Sweet Mama’s in the 1940s, fashionable outfits from the 1950s, a 1977 Mercedes Convertible, a newspaper announcement of the World Wide Web in 1990 and a 1997 Moto-Guzzi motorcycle. Visitors can also experience a blast from the past with vintage telephones and radios, dolls including Barbies and Betsy Wetsy and the spring toy Slinky. 

Play a game of Minecraft

Children can particularly enjoy an interactive Nintendo game along with Minecraft, and the pool full of sand collected from Jones Beach, a symbol for which showcases the Melville family’s closeness with Robert Moses. “It is educational without being boring,” Rocchio explained. 

 Much of the exhibit focuses on the history of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and its reach, from which the original idea for the exhibit came from. “It’s our 80th anniversary and we wanted to show what we do and what has been done over the years” Rocchio said, adding that she wanted to highlight how far the organization and the world has come. 

For instance, the 1940s panel includes plans that Ward Melville had to transform Stony Brook Village, followed by the 1950s panel that includes photos of the old Dogwood Hollow Amphitheatre, an auditorium that was located where the cultural center stands today that showcased concerts with the likes of Tony Bennett and Louis Armstrong. The display also features a map of plots of land Ward Melville presented to New York State in order to build Stony Brook University in the late 1950s which Rocchio said wound up being 600 acres. 

Check out a 1977 Mercedes Convertible

The exhibit also showcases information on the Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center at West Meadow Beach, where they conduct educational programs, and own the wetland side of the beach. Additional renovations and improvements to the village throughout the decades are also on view.

Ryan-Shea said the exhibit, which opened in mid-July, is creating multigenerational enjoyment. “Recently there was a family here that spanned four generations. The great-grandfather was born in 1940, so the great-grandchildren were teaching him how Minecraft works and the father was teaching his children how a record player works; the family was criss-crossing the room teaching each other things,” she laughed. 

The director also recounted how she witnessed a 77-year-old man playing hopscotch, a game from his childhood; a grandmother was telling her grandson stories about World War  II; and a little boy walked out begging his father for Battleship, a game he had not seen before. “I feel like kids nowadays don’t even think about history, and this makes it real and a conversation. The exhibit is connecting all the generations together,” she said.

WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook will present Journey Through Time through Sept. 29. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets are $5 general admission, $3 for seniors and children under 12. Call 631-689-5888 for further details. 

The WMHO is also conducting Walking Through Time walking tours on Aug. 10, 21, Sept. 14 and 15 for $15 per person, children under 5 free. There is the option to purchase a premiere ticket, for $20, which includes admission to both the exhibit and a walking tour. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

All photos courtesy of The WMHO

A scene from 'Julius Caesar'

By Leah Chiappino

An osprey lands on its nest on top of a bell tower located above the gate in the Vanderbilt Museum Courtyard as the sun sets over William K. Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest mansion. The orange hues hitting the four walls make the Spanish Revival estate, one of the last remaining Gold Coast properties on the North Shore, glow.

It is the perfect setting for the Vanderbilt’s annual Shakespeare Festival, Shakespearean play readings by The Carriage House Players that are performed on an outdoor stage in the mansion’s courtyard. The tradition, which is celebrating its 31st anniversary, often puts a modern twist on the Bard’s classic masterpieces. 

A scene from ‘Julius Caesar’

The current production of “Julius Caesar” chronicles the internal struggle of Brutus (Mary Caulfield) in joining Cassius (Nicole Intravia) to assassinate the Roman dictator Julius Caesar (Jae Hughes). Believed to have been written in 1599, it is one of several plays written by Shakespeare based on true events from Roman history.

Though it helps to be a fan of Shakespeare to truly appreciate this production, audience members can’t help but be drawn in by the raw talent of the performers. 

Hughes as Caesar is particularly gripping and riveting. With each line carried out with such emotion and conviction, Hughes’ delivery leads the audience to forget the script comes from a Shakespearean play and forces them to believe they are being spoken genuinely in real time.

Christine Boehm directs a cast of 14 who all give excellent performances. This is especially evident during the assassination scene, which looks realistic to the point one may second guess whether or not the blood comes from the actors. 

The costumes take the modern version up another notch in terms of quality, with Brutus sporting a leather jumpsuit throughout the entire production. Katie Ferretti as Portia, his wife, stuns in a classic Shakespearean gown, and her natural chemistry with Caulfield make for a perfect pair between the two, as does Elizabeth Sackett in respect to Hughes, in her role as Caesar’s wife Calpurnia.

A scene from ‘Julius Caesar’

Some modern lines and euphemisms are thrown in as well, such as the show opening with the dropping of a tarp sign reading “Hail Caesar” in street graffiti, and passersby flipping off Brutus as a sign of rebellion in one of the opening acts.

The cast also includes Airen Craig, Jess Ader-Ferretti, Erika Hinson, Zoe Katsaros, Brielle Levenberg, Teresa Motherway, Dana Tortora, Colleen Tyler and Gianna Zuffante.

With all of this, the true gem of the night is the experience the play offers. Arrive early to access the beautiful grounds of the estate before the show starts and bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the lawn overlooking Northport Harbor, with views of Asharoken to Connecticut.  

The atmosphere allows visitors to reflect on all Long Island has to offer, surrounded by some of the most stunning architecture in the nation, coupled with natural beauty. Ultimately, the performance, a fitting example of the rich arts and culture of the island caps off the ambiance perfectly, is a must-do summer activity.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport and The Carriage House Players will present “Julius Caesar” through Sept. 1. Performances are held Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children. To order, visit www.carriagehouseplayers.org.

Above, Carl Zorn with two of the plaques overlooking Conscience Bay. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Visitors to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket have Eagle Scout Carl Zorn to thank for the new informational plaques that have been installed among the tranquil scenery. They include a general welcome sign detailing the history of the park’s founding and species that occupy it and two additional signs detailing the ecology of estuaries and watersheds. The welcome sign is located at the entrance to the park, and the other two signs are located side by side near the second bridge overlooking Conscience Bay. 

A new plaque welcomes visitors to the park. Photo by Leah Chiappino

Zorn, who has been a Boy Scout since first grade, chose to design informational signage for the park as his Eagle Scout Leadership Project because he wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on the community. “I wanted something where if I moved to a different state and came back here to visit, I could look at it and say that I did that,” he said. The Scouting organization also fostered a love of nature in Zorn who described his childhood as “always being outdoors and camping with the Boy Scouts and my family.”

After getting the idea from a family friend in July, the Setauket resident began his project last September and completed it in early February.

As the Frank Melville Park Foundation, along with the Zorn family, donated the funds for the materials, most of Zorn’s time completing the project was spent researching the content for the plaques. He admits the start of the project was overwhelming. “At first, I had no idea what to do or how to learn about the wildlife here, ” he explained. 

Kerri Glynn, director of education for the park, stepped in to assist Zorn in gathering the information for the plaques with the hope they would help people become more environmentally aware. “I hope people come to understand the fragility of the ecosystem. Many people come to the park and think it is lovely, but they don’t understand the ecology of it,” she said.

Zorn consulted with Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell in order to highlight the unique history of the park, which was built by Ward Melville and donated by his mother Jennie as a memorial to her husband Frank Melville in 1937. “Essentially it’s private land for public use,” she said. 

A community treasure, the 26-acre park features two ponds, an estuary and woodlands. On any given day, visitors can see swans, deer, songbirds, turtles, herons and wood ducks as they stroll along shaded paths past a simulated grist mill and a 20th-century barn. The park and its buildings are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local environmentalist and conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, John Turner, also assisted Zorn with his research, and highlighted the importance of education on watersheds, or land in which below-ground water feeds into a water source. 

“People live work and play above their water supply. The quality of the waters in the aquifers underneath the Long Island surface are affected directly and intimately by the activities that we conduct on the land surface, so a clean land policy means a clean water policy,” he explained. 

From left, Andrew Lily, Joe Pisciotta, Andrew Graf, Carl Zorn, Aiden Zorn (in forefront), Tim Petritsch and Mark Muratore at the installation in February. Photo by Steve Hintze

Turner called Zorn’s project “well-conceived and well-executed.” He also praised the park’s board of trustees, as well as the park’s president, Robert Reuter, for recognizing the value of the project. “You have a captive audience in the park, but up until now there was limited information. [These plaques] have taken advantage of that captive audience to try to instill a greater appreciation and awareness of the resources around them,” he said.

After gathering the information and submitting several drafts for approval by the board, Zorn then had the task of designing the signs, with pictures provided by the park. He found a sign company, Fossil Industries in Deer Park, to make the signs, a process that took about three months. He then focused on configuring the specific intricacies of the project, such as the location, and making sure the signs were low enough to be at eye level for children but still readable to adults. 

Weather also delayed the installation, as the ground would freeze. Once the signs were finished, Zorn along with eight other Boy Scouts joined together in order to install them. 

Reuter praised Zorn’s work ethic and the final result, calling the project “a long and thorough process and a real achievement.” Russell also added praise for the finished product. “He did a wonderful job. There’s a nice combination of the history and environmental facts affecting the park [on the signs],” she added. Zorn was equally pleased with the results. “This is exactly what I wanted in an Eagle Scout project and I got it,” he said.

The 18-year-old recently graduated from Ward Melville High School and will attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in the fall as a music business major, combining his passion for music with his ambition to work for the Disney Corporation.

However, according to Reuter, as Zorn wished, the plaques will have a lasting impact on the community. “Frank Melville Memorial Park is now enriched with really useful and attractive interpretive signs that inform park visitors about the park’s history and environment. But, don’t take my word for it — go see for yourself.” 

Frank Melville Memorial Park is located at 1 Old Field Road in Setauket. For more information, call 631-689-6146 or visit www.frankmelvillepark.org.

Participants take part in a Goat Yoga class at the Smithtown Historical Society.

By Leah Chiappino

“Smile!” A goat named Dash steals the show as he is placed on each attendee’s back for a photo-op as they are in a table top position. When my turn comes around, Dash has a hard time staying put on my back due to my inappropriate attire of work clothes, causing him to continually adorably slip off until he is able to steady himself for the shot.

It’s early June and I’m attending a Goat Yoga class at the Smithtown Historical Society. The session, which features 10 to 15 goats of all ages, is taught by yoga instructor Kelly Mitchell of the Buddha Barn in Bellmore, who after being inspired to begin animal activism by a dog fundraiser at her yoga studio, partnered with Karen Bayha from Steppin’ Out Ponies and Petting Zoo to begin teaching these outdoor sessions.

The classes may be more sought out by those looking for an Instagramable shot that is sure to get a surge of likes than die-hard “yogis” but manage to encompass the main benefits of yoga, which are, according to Mitchell, “love, connection, and union.” 

The trend is growing. According to CNBC, Lainey Morse, founder of Original Goat Yoga classes in Corvallis, Oregon, made $160,000 in just her first year of business. 

Since she started last summer, Mitchell said that her classes “usually always fill and sell out fast.” 

Its rise in popularity reaps benefits for the Smithtown Historical Society, which has hosted Goat Yoga since 2017 after former director Marianne Howard started it with a friend, according to its executive director, Priya Kapoor. “I’ve seen people come from as far as Queens just to do this, people who normally wouldn’t know about the Smithtown Historical Society. [Goat Yoga]  has been great for community exposure,” she said.

While its popularity may be due to its appearance on shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” Mitchell feels Goat Yoga is a unique opportunity to raise awareness for the goats themselves, most of whom are rescued by Bayha from slaughterhouses and neglectful pet owners. 

Mitchell also hopes to bring to light the importance of animal welfare and abuse prevention. “I hope this makes people think differently about the choices they make,” she said.

On her website, www.buddhabarnyoga.com, the yoga instructor further discusses the impact Goat Yoga is having on her mission and newfound passion for animal welfare. “[Goat Yoga] has changed me as a human being. I wasn’t a big meat eater, but I am now a proud vegan. I wish my eyes were open sooner. But I will spend the rest of my life as an animal rights activist, not just a pet lover. With that being said, many practitioners left with a heightened awareness regarding animals in need. If just one person decides to reduce their meat consumption, then I’ve done my job,” she states.

Mitchell admitted that the yoga community sometimes “turns their nose up” to Goat Yoga, but she herself sees the beauty in it because “yoga itself is about connection; it’s about love. Just looking at the goats, you can see they’re so kind, friendly and silly. It’s just a beautiful way to not take life so seriously, get outside, and have fun with family and friends.”

This was evident throughout the session. From the goat that stayed put on one woman’s yoga mat to the beams across faces as a goat walked by, to the laughter when one goat relieved himself on an innocent yoga mat, the field where the class took place was filled with nothing but joy.

Perhaps the most touching aspect was the bond between Bayha and Dash, a goat whom she bottle fed and raised him “as his mother,” according to Mitchell. Now, when Bayha calls his name, he comes running with the same elation a human child would upon greeting his mother after being away from them for a weekend. The difference in this case was that Bayha was not away from Dash for even five minutes. People were in awe.

“It’s moments like this, when I see the excitement on  people’s faces, that make me feel like I’m making a difference,” Mitchell said. She also feels this is a great way to introduce people to yoga. “It’s not scary. A lot of people that come into my studio are very intimidated. They don’t know what to expect, they think everybody will be twisting up in pretzels. This is a great way to get people to say ‘Wow, I might want to take a yoga class.’

IF YOU GO:

The Smithtown Historical Society hosts Goat Yoga classes for ages 18 and up in the field behind the Frank Brush Barn, 211 East Main St., Smithtown throughout the summer. All levels welcome. Please bring a mat, towel and a bottle of water.

Upcoming classes include July 19, July 26, Aug. 13, Aug. 19, Aug. 20, Sept. 5, Sept. 9 and Sept. 17. A 45-minute session is held at 5:30 and again at 6:45 p.m. Each session is $25 per person and must be paid in advance through www.eventbrite.com.  For more information, call 631-265-6768 or visit www.smithtownhistorical.org.

 

Reviewed by Leah Chiappino

Long Island beaches have become the Island’s internationally known trademark attraction. Long days surfing at Atlantic Ocean beaches, relaxing at the gentle waters of South Bay beaches coupled with gazing at what seems like meticulously painted sunsets at the rocky North Shore beaches have provided storybook summer memories for Long Islanders for generations.

Yet, how many of us have had the opportunity to understand how the beaches have come to be what they are today, and the stories of past residents and visitors who enjoyed them so long ago?

Kristen Nyitray, the director of Special Collections and University Archives, as well as a university archivist at Stony Brook University, takes readers along for the story of the history of beaches in Nassau and Suffolk counties in her book, “Long Island Beaches” or what she describes as “a facet of Long Island’s social and cultural history and lure of picturesque beaches.”

Published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Postcard History Series, the 128-page paperback book details coastal Long Island history beginning with the Native Americans, who had respect for its beauty and used it to live off the vast resources of the coast, often engaging in whaling and fishing. Beach areas became desirable for land ownership in the 16th and 17th centuries and were an asset during the 18th century with lighthouses and stations opening up to combat shipwrecks.

Long Island beach destinations became commercialized during the mid- to late 1800s, with hotels, restaurants and attractions popping up in response to increases in transportation efficiency, even becoming a major source of illegal prohibition transfers. Environmental activism took hold by 1924 when Robert Moses worked with the New York State Council of Parks and Long Island State Park Commission to build beaches and parks throughout the island, along with bridges to link the barrier islands of Jones Beach Island and Fire Island to the South Shore coast.

Nyitray organizes her book by county, then shore and community. Black and white photographs, along with vintage postcards, gleaned from local libraries, historical societies, museums and private collections are sprinkled throughout, beautifully display the coastal culture so ingrained on the island.

Above, a real-photo postcard, c. 1907, depicts summer boarders of Pine View House in Stony Brook enjoying Sand Street Beach; right, the cover of Nyitray’s book. Images courtesy of Arcadia Publishing

It begins with a survey of Nassau County North Shore beaches, showcasing historic hotels and the wealth of those who resided on the coast. For example, Nyitray tells the story of John Pierpoint Morgan Jr., the benefactor of Morgan Memorial Park in Glen Cove in honor of his late wife. It featured seven miles of coast, and as reported by the New York Times in 1926, was one of the first breaks in elitist private estates and chances for the public to access the sound.

Nassau’s South Shore was also populated by hotels and home to the Long Beach Boardwalk and Jones Beach State Park. The Moses-led endeavor at Jones Beach was made accessible to the disabled in 1883 when Strandkorbs, rolling beach chairs, became available. Made of wicker, people were pushed along the boardwalk in them, a major stride in accessibility.

Suffolk’s central beaches consisted of Lake Ronkonkoma and Shelter Island, with the latter being home to the Prospect House Hotel, consisting of a two-story bathing pavilion and a relaxation haven for guests in what is today the Shelter Island Heights Beach Club. The North Shore beaches were home to exclusive communities such as Belle Terre and Greenport.

Albert Einstein even vacationed with his friend David Rothman in Cutchogue, after Einstein visited Mattituck to lease a home for sailing, later renting a home in Nassau Point.

Suffolk South Shore beach history consists largely of Montauk and Fire Island. Nyitray speaks of journalist Margaret Fuller, who tragically drowned with family near Point O’Woods after the ship she was sailing on, The Elizabeth, sank after hitting a sandbar. At the request of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau traveled there to search for her, but to no avail.

These stories are just a sampling of the anecdotes that Nyitray lays out, and by the end of the book has the reader walk away with an immense sense of pride in being a Long Islander, along with better appreciation for being able to live in a place of such indisputable beauty, history and culture.

“Long Island Beaches” is available locally where books are sold and online at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

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