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Stephen Healy

From left, Michael O’Dwyer and Annie and Stephen Healy enjoy last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Kyle Barr

If there’s anything that we know about the 1920s, it’s that the parties were wild. Despite, or likely because, of Prohibition, the music was loud and idiosyncratic as jazz came onto the scene, and the alcohol flowed as if by fountains into the expecting mouths of flappers and bootleggers alike.

Setauket’s Three Village Historical Society, in collaboration with The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook is hoping to bring that period of time back to life with the second running of their annual Prohibition Night fundraiser at The Jazz Loft next Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Montauk Brewing Company, will include snacks, wine, beer and raffles.

This time the TVHS is adding an extra layer of early 20th-century history with a new emphasis on the women’s suffrage movement and how that tied into a time of cultural revolution.

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

“You had this revolution with the women’s movement and the right to vote, and you had this revolution with the clothing, with flappers and the Charleston and the bobbed haircuts,” said Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft. “These were real renegade statements of society and culture, and its cool when you put them together.”

The Jazz Loft will have several items on display relating to women’s suffrage, including several articles, papers and artifacts housed in display cases as well as a mannequin fully dressed up in the class women’s suffrage garb with a large purple sash reading “Votes for Women,” courtesy of Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson.

“[The movement] was really ahead of its time,” said Stephen Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society. “It’s interesting to see if history is going to repeat itself or we will move on from here. The movement has been a longtime coming.”

That historical revolution collided with the cultural revolution of the 1920s, as many of the same women who campaigned for the women’s vote also stumped for the temperance movement. Suddenly, with the ban of the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, a whole new era of organized crime and mass criminality was born as the sale of alcohol eclipsed any decade before or after it.

“Everybody became creative with getting alcohol,” Healy said. “From everything with potato farmers out on the east end of Long Island and vodka creation, and I can’t imagine [the activity] between the water and the farms and the amount of backdoor distributing that was taking place on Long Island.”

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this “Vote Yes” stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

But it wouldn’t be the 1920s without jazz, and Manuel said he has that covered. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be performing live music straight from the jazz giants of the period such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas “Fats” Waller and more.

“I think for us it really supports and makes a statement about who we are,” Manuel said. “Our mission is jazz preservation, jazz education and jazz performance. Any time we can take history and allow it to come to life, we served our mission.”

Last year’s Prohibition Night was supremely successful with sold out tickets and a packed room. Healy said he expects this year to do just as good or even better.

“It was a great success, it sold out, and it gave us some cross pollination between history and The Jazz Loft,” Healy said.

Manuel agreed that the event is the perfect blend of history and recreation. “Any time we collaborate with something in the community, it really solidifies the statement they say about jazz, which is that it’s all about collaboration,” he said. 

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the 2nd annual Prohibition Night: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in New York State on Thursday, June 14 from  6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

From left, Steve Healy (as Henry Smith Mount) and Steve Hintze (as William Sidney Mount) at last year’s Spirits Tour. Photo by Heidi Sutton

For the past 23 years, as the air gets chilly and colorful leaves decorate the ground, the Three Village Historical Society ushers in the spooky month of October with its annual Spirits Tour, a night of treks through local historic cemeteries guided by local historic figures. This year’s event, whose theme is The Spirits of Prohibition: Setauket of the Roaring 20s, will take place Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Setauket Presbyterian Cemetery, 5 Caroline Ave., and Carolina Church Cemetery, 1 Dyke Road in Setauket. The evening promises a rip-roaring night of jazz, artifacts and more for all guys and dolls in attendance.

The 2015 Spirits Tour focused on Culper Spies. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Building on the themes of the historical society’s Prohibition Night fundraiser last month, this year’s Spirits Tour is a 1920s-set event exploring what it was like to live in Setauket in the decade that saw the rise of the women’s suffrage movement, gangsters and flappers, and, of course, illegal speakeasies and alcohol bootleggers. Fourteen actors, decked out in period-perfect costumes courtesy of Antiques Costume & Prop Rental by Nan Guzzetta, will portray local figures from the past such as Annie Rensselaer Tinker, a prominent suffragette who had a summer cottage in Poquott, George Vingut, whose barn was used to bootleg liquor, Ward Melville, who famously redeveloped Stony Brook Village, and many more.

This year’s 2-hour tour will be a multisensational event, according to director Brian Cea, including period exhibits previously displayed at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, like Ford Model T cars, antique bottles, a live jazz band and even silent films projected on the side of the churches. Prohibition-era food and drinks will also be offered for sale.

“It’s not just going to be walking around in a circle listening to spirits,” Cea said. “It will entail smelling, feeling and tasting the era. I wanted to help bring this subject to life.”

Brian Cea as Benedict Arnold during the 2015 Spirits Tour. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Cea, who has been involved in the Spirits Tour for the past eight years, got the idea for the Prohibition-era concept when he was giving a private historic house tour on Bennetts Street in East Setauket once owned by a judge with ties to a tavern owner on Wall Street in New York City in the 1920s. Old whiskey bottles dating back to that time were eventually found underneath the flooring.

“We believe this guy was holding liquor that was being transported from over the Sound into Long Island and brought into the city,” Cea said. “I then found out bootlegging was very prosperous here on Long Island with illegal gin mills around our area and I thought, ‘Let’s look into that.’”

TVHS President Stephen Healy said he’s excited for a walk through that unexplored aspect of Long Island history. “A lot of times you see the bootlegging arrests that took place in the city, but you don’t see where the product was made and where it came from,” Healy said, explaining the local farmers grew the key ingredient in alcohol: potatoes. “It’s fascinating how people would get alcohol. They would smuggle it in coffins and rum-running boats. We were a pretty good source [for the alcohol].”

Historical society trustee Frank Turano returned to write the script for the event, a process that took up a majority of the summer due to the massive amounts of research. “In town, around Prohibition, there were bootleggers, there were people storing booze, people making moonshine — a representation of all things,” he said. “Each year we try to do something different and we’d never done that era before, so we took advantage.”

The Cast

Kate Wheeler Strong (Donna Smith)

Ellsworth Buckingham (Steve Healy)

Eversley Childs (Max Golub)

Harry Golden (Mort Rosen)

Celia Hawkins (Karin Lynch)

Ward Melville (Michael O’Dwyer)

Robert Cushman Murphy (Art Billadello)

Sarry Ann Sells (Bonnie Duvall)

Etta Sherry (Holly Griesel)

Eugenio Goncalves de Teixeira (Michael Tessler)

Annie Rensselaer Tinker (Stephanie Carsten)

William Bryant (George Overin)

George Vingut (Robert Ogden)

Roaming Cop (Brian Cea)

The Three Village Historical Society will present its 23rd annual Spirits Tour on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 5 to 9 p.m. Rain date is Oct. 28. Tours, which begin at the Setauket Presbyterian Church parking lot at 5 p.m., leave every 15 minutes and can last from 1½ to 2 hours each. Last tour starts at 7:45 p.m. Participants are asked to arrive 15 minutes prior to your tour’s departure, to dress warmly, wear comfortable shoes and bring a flashlight and umbrella.Tickets in advance are $18 adults, $15 members; $10 children under 12, $8 members. Tickets at the door are $25 adults, $20 members; $12 children under 12, $10 members. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Steve Healy in front of the Three Village Historical Society’s headquarters in Setauket. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Heidi Sutton

The Three Village area, which consists of Setauket, Stony Brook and Old Field, is rich with history and picturesque beyond words, in part because of the work of the Three Village Historical Society. The society recently elected Steve Healy to serve as its president for the next two years. A retired FDNY lieutenant, photographer and full-time member of the Cain-Healy Team of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Reality, Healy lives with his wife Ann in a 1926 Dutch Colonial in Stony Brook Village. I recently had the opportunity to interview Healy about his new position.

Stephen Healy at the entrance of the Bayles-Swezey House, which serves as the Three Village Historical Society’s headquarters. Photo by Kevin Redding

Why did you decide to run for president?

I believe in the TVHS and what it does for our local community. We bring value to the Three Village community by educating them on local history. We run great events that people look forward to every year. We have new people move in year after year, and they look to groups like ours to explain the rich history and where things happened hundreds of years ago. Our events bring people together from all backgrounds.

What do you hope to accomplish in this position?

Good question — I like to keep my overall goals simple: Increase membership organically, rebuilding the Dominick-Crawford barn, grow our endowment, work with other local organizations and add some new events.

What do you bring to the table?

I have held many of the board positions over the years. I am also a macro-manager; I surround myself with talented people and let them run with ideas and events, this allows me to drive the society forward as a whole. I bring an MBA degree and a love of history. The MBA helps when dealing with local nonprofits; we are always looking for funding. I love older homes and have rebuilt several of them. The current board consists of some the most knowledgeable people in regards to local history. I plan on growing the society with their help. I am also a people person and treat everyone the same, from the secretary to the vice presidents. Everyone brings value.

Do you have a strong support system at the society?

Yes, it starts with our office staff. Without them things would come to a dead stop. The TVHS runs with an executive board, trustees, office staff, volunteers and our members. The board is solid and very rich in talented people. This is important for small nonprofits, which don’t have a director to oversee day-to-day operation. The board and membership volunteer many hours a week.

What are some of the types of things the historical society does?

The society educates people on local history through events, tours, lectures, exhibitions and Founders Day. We also have an education department dedicated to teaching children about history.

Our guided walking tours with our historian Bev Tyler are very popular and include Setauket’s Revolutionary History, Walk through History with Farmer & Spy Abraham Woodhull and The Wooden Ship Era. The 90-minute tours begin in April and run through November. We also have a lecture series at the Setauket Neighborhood House, Tea with a Spot of History at our TVHS History Center, Candlelight House Tours, the Spirits Tour, Culper Spy Day (on Sept. 16 this year) and Tri-Spy Tours were you can bike, hike or kayak through history of the Revolutionary War’s Culper Spy Ring.

What event are you looking forward to the most this year?

I would have to say the Candlelight House Tour and the Spirits Tour. The TVHS Candlelight House Tour takes an incredible amount of manpower and time to set up and run. The event shows four to six local homes and is our largest fundraiser. The Spirits Tour is a fun event where members dress-up in period clothes. This event takes place in our local cemeteries. We celebrate the past and the people who shaped the Three Villages.

What exhibits are on view at the TVHS?

Our Chicken Hill exhibit is located at TVHS headquarters and captures a community lost in time. This great exhibit is open Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment with our curator Frank Turano or the TVHS archivist Karen Martin. We also have an exhibit titled SPIES, which explores the Culper Spy Ring which was centered in Setauket and how a group of Long Island Patriots helped George Washington win the war.

Tell us about the Crawford Barn.

The barn was left to the Village of Old Field years ago and it had no current use for it. We, on the other hand, were looking for a barn; so it was a perfect fit. It’s a large pre-Civil War barn that was in bad shape when we moved it. The society will repurpose and rebuild it on our property. We are currently in the planning department stage with the Town of Brookhaven. Most of the upstairs will be used for much needed storage of our archives. The downstairs will be used for exhibitions and local events, which will allow us to redesign the use of our current building. We also will use the larger space for our monthly meetings and maybe have some guest lectures there. We will display some our archives on the first floor as well.

What is special about the Three Village area?

This area is special because of the local history, which includes the Culper Spy Ring — an asset to George Washington during the revolution — the period homes, parks, beaches and having a great university (SBU) nearby. The other great aspect of the Three Village area is its local organizations — many of them work together to preserve and enrich this great area.

Why do you think is it so important to preserve our local history?

Many great people believe the past must be understood and studied to guide the present and the future. I feel it’s interesting to see how a handful of local patriots from Setauket helped win the Revolutionary War. We are witnessing local history being formed today with Avalon Park, the Reboli Center and The Jazz Loft. I walk my dogs Tanner and Jett, both rescues, at the park all the time. I see people enjoy it and many think it’s always been there.

Local history tells the true story of how it was a small idea that then grew into a larger one, and finally what you see today. Stony Brook Village was built decades ago the same way ­— small idea by a few people. The people who did these great things are different, separated by decades. History is the blueprint that shows us how, why and what they did. This is important and will guide us in the future to repeat history or learn from its mistakes.