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Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

The Vanderbilt Museum's Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium is a state-of-the-art, 147-seat facility that features educational and entertainment shows. Photo by Jennifer Vacca

The Suffolk County Legislature has voted to permanently rename the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum Planetarium in honor of Charles and Helen Reichert of Fort Salonga.

The Reicherts, whose long-standing philanthropic contributions have made meaningful impacts across Suffolk County, entered into an agreement with the Vanderbilt Museum in 2013 and pledged to support the planetarium’s mission and programs through a 20-year donation worth approximately $1.7 million. The vote was taken at the December general meeting.

Legislator William “Doc” Spencer said, “I’ve had the privilege of knowing the Reicherts for a number of years and have seen firsthand how their giving has made a difference in Huntington.”

He continued, “Their continued generosity and willingness to provide resources to the community and important causes never ceases to amaze me. With Charlie and Helen’s support, the Museum and Planetarium will continue to thrive and provide thousands of students and visitors with access to the historical and astronomical wonders found right here in Centerport. This is a fitting tribute to a generous and humble family, which I am proud to support.”

Charles Reichert owns several IGA grocery stores. Through the years, he and his wife have donated more than $4 million to nonprofit, public institutions and health facilities from Huntington to Southold. These gifts include approximately $1.2 million to Huntington Hospital and $1 million to New York State for the betterment of Nissequogue River State Park.

Among many other projects, the couple also has donated funds to upgrade the Southold police communications dispatch center, purchased new uniforms for local public school sports teams, established a $6,000 annual scholarship for high school students, restored the Old Burying Ground in Southold and funded the reconstruction of the church steeple at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Northport.

Lance Reinheimer, former executive director of the Vanderbilt, said, “The Reicherts are deeply committed to preserve and improve the quality of life for all Long Islanders. They are shining lights in the community, deserving of this distinction for their widespread support of organizations throughout the county.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photo by Maryann Zakshevsky

Surprise your Valentine with a romantic dinner at an elegant mansion where luminaries from the 1920s and ’30s dined with members of one of America’s most famous and powerful families. 

On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport hosts its annual Valentine Dinner at Eagle’s Nest, the historic waterfront estate of Rosamond and William K. Vanderbilt II, one of the most glamorous and romantic settings on Long Island.

The estate and its beautiful, early 20th-century Spanish Revival mansion are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The estate is the home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

 This popular event offers limited seatings of 50 at 6 and 8 p.m.

The evening begins with hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer in the Memorial Wing of the mansion. After a brief tour of the living quarters, dinner will be served in the Northport Porch. Dessert and coffee will follow in the Lancaster Room and Moroccan Court, adjacent to the Vanderbilt Library. 

Choice of entrees include prime rib, chicken with Madeira sauce, stuffed sole with spinach and feta in a tomato dill sauce and heart-shaped cheese ravioli with vodka sauce.

The evening is a rare opportunity to enjoy an intimate dining experience with a spouse, partner or special friend and to celebrate in Gold Coast style. Seating at this exclusive event is very limited and sells out quickly. Tickets are $150 per person, $135 members. Reservations are online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Proceeds from this special evening will benefit STEAM education programs. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Above, the repaired column is lowered onto its new base. Vanderbilt Museum photo

An ancient column from Carthage (modern-day Tunisia), toppled and broken during a fierce windstorm on Oct. 30, 2017, has been repaired and reinstalled at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

The company that repaired the two-ton column reinstalled it recently on a new, reinforced-concrete base.

The stately, thousand-year-old column, one of six near the entrance to the Vanderbilt Estate, was damaged when the storm uprooted a massive tree next to it.

The falling tree knocked down the column, which hit the curving stone wall that overlooks the Vanderbilt Boathouse and Northport Bay. The impact broke off the carved top, or capital. Experts from the A. Ottavino Corp. used a crane to lift the column onto a large flat-bed truck and took it to their stoneworks in Ozone Park, Queens for repair.

Ottavino, a third-generation family business founded in 1913, has worked on significant projects that include the Statue of Liberty, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the main branch of the New York Public Library, Columbia University Medical Center and Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Each column is 14 feet high, 59 inches in circumference and weighs 4,000 pounds. The Cipollino marble was quarried on the Greek island of Euboea. Sometime after William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944) began building Eagle’s Nest, his Centerport estate and the home of the Vanderbilt Museum, in 1912, he relocated the columns from his first Long Island home, Deepdale in Lake Success.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Winter hours for the museum, mansion and grounds are Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 11:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 20 from 11:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. For further information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

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Lance Reinheimer

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum since February 2011, has resigned to accept a new post as director of the Suffolk County Legislature’s nonpartisan Budget Review Office. 

Among the numerous achievements of his nearly nine-year tenure, Reinheimer stabilized the museum’s finances; developed new revenue streams; totally renovated the Vanderbilt Planetarium and created a state-of-the-art facility equipped with the latest technology; expanded special-events programming; significantly increased attendance and memberships; accomplished wide-ranging infrastructure and restoration work on several major museum buildings; and directed the intensive, year-long review that resulted in reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. 

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, associate director of the museum since 2016, will serve as interim executive director and assume Reinheimer’s responsibilities until the post is filled.

The Vanderbilt Mansion library is decked out for the holidays.

The holidays have arrived at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport as the halls of the Vanderbilt Mansion are decked in their holiday finery. From the stately library to the dining room to the bedrooms, the grand house is filled with lighted trees, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, poinsettias, garlands and elegantly wrapped faux gifts. 

These embellishments are the creative work of designers and garden clubs that volunteer their time each year. Their creative touch brings additional charm and magic to the spectacular, 24-room, Spanish Revival house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The garden clubs and decorators have been with us for many years, and this year we welcomed two new designers. Ethan Allen of Huntington created the Enchanted Flight of the Cardinals installation for us in the Memorial Wing lobby, and Felicia Greenberg contributed her magnificent silk floral sculptures. Our visitors will be delighted with the 2019 holiday season decor,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs.

Designers Mary Schlotter (right) and Krishtia McCord decorate the mansion dining room.

Centerport designers Mary Schlotter and her daughter Krishtia McCord – who operate Harbor Homestead & Co. – brought back the festive holiday dresses they created and displayed in the mansion during the past two years. This year, the dresses adorn Rosamond Vanderbilt’s luxurious, mirrored dressing room. The duo also decorated the dining room.

“Our dining room design was inspired by Downton Abbey,” Schlotter said. “The room and furniture are dark, but the window has a beautiful view of Northport Bay and Long Island Sound. We decided to set the table in simple whites and silver – two silver candelabras flanked by compotes arranged with white magnolia, amaryllis, pine cones and magnolia leaves. In the center of the table is a silver pheasant. We folded the napkins in a bishop’s miter form to give the place settings a royal feel. We think [Downtown Abbey butler] Mr. Carson would approve.” 

One sideboard is set for dinner, she said, the other for dessert and spirits.“The sparkling glasses, and the silver and white design touches catch the light and give a sense that Christmas dinner is about to be served.” 

Other participants include the Dix Hills Garden Club, Honey Hills Garden Club, Nathan Hale Garden Club, Asharoken Garden Club, Three Village Garden Club, Centerport Garden Club, volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Suffolk County, Felicia Greenberg of Table Art and Event Designs and Vanderbilt staff members Killian Taylor and Maryann Zakshevsky.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, said, “We’re grateful each year to these creative and generous volunteers who use their creative skills to bring enchanting holiday grandeur to this grand house.”

Visitors can see the captivating results from now through Dec. 30 by tour on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (and Thursday to Monday, Dec. 26 to 30) at regular intervals between 11:15 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos courtesy of the Vanderbilt Museum

Annual museum tree lighting set for November 30

Keri Hollander and her family purchased a small live spruce 30 years ago as their first Christmas tree. After the holiday, they planted it in their front yard in Centereach. Now it’s 40 feet high and they offered to donate it to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum for display in the Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard.

When the museum holds its 32nd annual Tree Lighting event on Saturday, November 30, the Hollander family will be there to turn on the lights. The free family-friendly event, from 4 to 6 p.m., draws several hundred visitors each year.

The program will include performances by the Northport Chorale and singer Eva Erickson, carol singing, ornament-making for children, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (a great photo opportunity). Visitors can enjoy treats provided by Lidl, Long Island’s next new grocery store. Stop by the Lidl food truck for free snack samples.

J.G. Brands Christmas Tree Sales, Inc., of Woodside, Queens, also donated a tree. The 15-foot balsam will stand in front of the arc of thousand-year-old Carthaginian columns at the entrance to the Vanderbilt Estate.

Sponsored by Northwell Health, the event includes a raffle basket ($129 value): Vanderbilt Family Membership, a one-hour photo session (plus 10 prints) at the Vanderbilt with Janelle Brooke photography, and lots of Vanderbilt gift items and children’s toys from the Museum Gift Shop.

Holiday visitors who purchase tickets for guided Mansion tours will see the magic created by local designers and garden clubs, who deck the halls each November. This year, in addition to the beautifully transformed rooms, visitors will see a spectacular installation in the lobby of the Museum’s Memorial Wing – Enchanted Flight of the Cardinals by the designers at Ethan Allen in Huntington Station, N.Y.

For many years, the Museum was able to harvest large pines and spruces from the wooded areas of the 43-acre Estate. In September, the Vanderbilt announced it was seeking a local family that could donate a sizeable tree for this year’s celebration. The Museum agreed to cut it down and transport it to the Mansion.

 Keri Hollander responded, and wrote an email to Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt’s operations supervisor: “I believe I have, on my front lawn, the perfect holiday tree for your Mansion’s Courtyard. It’s approximately 30 years old and was our family’s first Christmas tree. We thought it would be fun to buy a tree that we could bring into the house – it was only about six feet high at the time – and then later plant it in our backyard.

 “Right after Christmas, we planted it ‘temporarily’ in the front of the yard with plans to move it in the spring. Well, 30 years later, it still stands in the middle of our front lawn. If you will have it, we would be very happy to donate it to the Vanderbilt Museum.”

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt, said, “We’re very grateful to the Hollander family and to J.G. Brands for their generosity. The J.G. Brands tree will welcome visitors at the gate. And the Hollanders’ spectacular spruce will be the delightful holiday centerpiece for the Vanderbilt Mansion – part of the magic of the grand house, which is decorated every year by local volunteer designers and garden clubs.”

For more information, call 631-854-5579.

County officials and environmental activists look at designs for new water system at the Vanderbilt Museum.

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has installed two innovative systems for processing wastewater that significantly reduce the harmful impact of nitrogen pollution in the Northport Bay. The new technology builds on the county’s efforts to address excess nitrogen from wastewater leaching into local waters, which once the epicenter of the region’s red tide. 

New water system at the Vanderbilt museum.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced the installations at an Oct. 30 press event at the museum. 

“The science is clear and the solution has been established,” Bellone said. 

He noted that it is necessary to replace outdated technologies that do not reduce nitrogen pollution with new technologies that do.

“We have a $6.1 billion tourism economy that is underpinned by water,” Bellone added. “With strong support from academia, business leaders and the environmental community, our region is no longer kicking the can down the road, but is taking aggressive action to reverse the water quality crisis to better protect our waterways for future generations.”

More than 115,000 people visit the park each year and the upgrade will benefit local waterways by reducing nitrogen discharge at the site by approximately 164 pounds annually. 

To date, the county has installed advanced wastewater treatment systems at Lake Ronkonkoma and Meschutt Beach, and is currently in the process of installing 13 additional systems at other parks. 

The major contributor to water quality issues, Spencer said, is nitrogen discharges from more than 360,000 antiquated cesspools in Suffolk. 

“I am so pleased to see this technology brought to our county parks, specifically the Vanderbilt Museum, which sits directly beside a water body that we have worked so hard to restore,” Spencer added. He said upgrades to Northport’s sewage treatment plant resulted in a massive reduction in nitrogen discharge, and produced tangible benefits including the absence of red tide and the reopening of a permanently closed Centerport beach.

The investment at Vanderbilt is expected to progress, improve and protect the region’s natural resources, Spencer added. 

Officials also announced at the press event that during the month of October alone, more than 100 residents have applied for grants through the county’s septic improvement program, and that next year the county plans to install 1,200 nitrogen-reducing wastewater treatment systems, doubling the amount currently installed. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, applauded the progress and collaborative efforts of everyone involved. 

“This is what change looks like, one installation at a time,” she said. “Good science, good advocacy and good elected officials give us good policy, and fortunately that’s what we have seen on the water quality issue in Suffolk County.”  

The installation of the new systems is part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, which seeks to reduce nitrogen pollution of surface and groundwaters. 

Homeowners outside of a sewer district are encouraged to apply for grant funding and low interest loans to assist in paying to upgrade to an innovative system. Visit www.reclaimourwater.info to find out more.

Since 1987, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport has placed a very large tree in the Mansion Courtyard and decorated it for the holidays. Every year they’ve invited the community to join them on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to light the tree and inaugurate the holiday season. It’s a very popular, free community event that draws several hundred people every year.

For many years, the museum was able to harvest large pines and spruces from the wooded areas of the 43-acre Vanderbilt estate. This fall, the Vanderbilt is looking for a local family that can donate one of its own trees for this year’s celebration. It must be local, from family property and from 20 to 25 feet high. Vanderbilt staff will cut down the tree and transport it to the museum on or about Nov. 20. 

 The Vanderbilt will acknowledge the gift with a sign next to the tree and will publicize the donation to the media, along with other museum holiday events and programs. Contact Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt Museum’s operations supervisor at  jim@vanderbiltmuseum.org for more info.

A vintage watercolor poster by Jean de Paleologue

William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944), heir to a railroad fortune, was a pioneer American auto-racing champion. On Oct. 8, 1904, after competing for years in Europe, he inaugurated the first international road race in the United States – the Vanderbilt Cup.

This year, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located on the Vanderbilt summer estate, Eagle’s Nest, notes the 115th anniversary of those famous races and of Vanderbilt’s world speed record.

On Jan. 27, 1904, he drove his Mercedes race car on a course in Daytona-Ormond Beach, Florida, and achieved a top speed of 92.3 miles per hour.

William K. Vanderbilt II, left, set a world land-speed record in 1904 in this 90-horsepower Mercedes race car.

American History magazine reported in 2013: “Flush from his triumph, the 26-year-old Vanderbilt returned to New York and announced his intention to organize a major race on Long Island, where he owned an estate. It would be the first true international automobile road race in the United States. Vanderbilt had raced extensively in Europe, in French and German cars, but now he became focused on promoting the U.S. car industry.

“His motivation, he later explained, was that ‘foreign cars seemed to be always five years ahead of the American cars. If something could be done to induce foreign manufacturers to race in this country, our manufacturers would benefit.’

“Vanderbilt provided the inducement. His plan was for a grueling 300-mile race, and he commissioned Tiffany & Co. to make a 30-pound sterling-silver trophy adorned with a frieze of himself driving the Ormond Flier to a world’s record. The race, like the trophy, was called the Vanderbilt Cup.”

Vanderbilt donated the cup to the Smithsonian Institution in 1934.

The inaugural Vanderbilt Cup Race on Oct. 8, 1904, drew more than 25,000 spectators to watch 18 drivers from the U.S., France, Germany and Italy. The racecourse comprised 30 miles of public roads in central Long Island. The six Vanderbilt Cup races held on Long Island from 1904 to 1910 were some of the largest sporting events of the early 20th century. Some races drew crowds of more than 250,000.

The Vanderbilt Cup races prompted American carmakers to improve their technology, generated the idea of using race victories to market cars and pioneered road building. In 1908, Vanderbilt built the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway for his races. The parkway was the first road constructed specifically for automobiles – and a prototype for future highways.

The roadway still exists in Suffolk County as County Road 67.

To learn more about the Vanderbilt Cup, visit the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Turntable Gallery in the mansion’s Memorial Wing, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. through Sept. 2. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

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.