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Three Village Community Trust

A male box turtle, above, approximately 30 years old, was discovered in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Scientists have discovered natural wonders in a Setauket forest.

Researcher Luke Gervase stands between a couple of the large trees found in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Researchers from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry took to the 43-acre woods of Patriots Hollow State Forest, along Route 25A, across from Stop & Shop, to collect information on the forest composition and structure Aug. 8 and 9. The researchers hoped to develop management recommendations that would enhance the forest for biodiversity conservation and environmental education. The survey was funded by a grant from Avalon Park & Preserve, according to a press release from Three Village Community Trust.

In 2018, the community trust set up a steering committee led by Setauket resident and former teacher Leonard Carolan to clean up the woods and add a trail for people to walk through the forest, something which is currently difficult with downed trees and invasive plants, including Norway maple, Japanese aralia, Oriental bittersweet, black locust and Japanese stiltgrass.

After Carolan approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to seek help in cleaning up the forest, the community trust signed a stewardship agreement with the DEC. Carolan said the initial reports are encouraging.

“It looks like we’ll be able to restore it to an original native forest,” Carolan said.

He added that, in the future, there would be a loop trail near Route 25A and another one near the Main Street section, but before they are created some cleanup needs to be done and funds raised, which could take years.

Don Leopold, distinguished teaching professor from SUNY-ESF’s Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, along with research assistant Samuel Quinn, was among the researchers.

Leopold said it was his first visit to the forest, and he was impressed with the findings. Despite invasive plants and past agriculture that didn’t leave many remnant trees, he said they discovered many beautiful oak and hickory trees, adding that he had seen black oak and sassafras all over the Eastern United States, and amongst the largest he has seen were in Patriots Hollow.

“We went by some really great trees,” he said. “Ideally the trails will swing by those. They can’t miss these. There are really impressive specimens of some black oaks and some hickories, and we really enjoyed seeing them.”

Researcher Luke Gervase stands by a sassafras tree found in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

The researcher said they also found spicebush in the forest.

“Spicebush is one of our most important native shrubs,” Leopold said. “It’s so important for wildlife coming for food. It’s a source of food for the spicebush swallowtail [butterfly].”

Leopold and Quinn discussed management of invasive plants in the forest with Bill Jacobs, Luke Gervase and Caroline Schnabl of Long Island Invasive Species Management Area who joined in the survey. Leopold said that they are optimistic that the invasives could be eliminated, which is vital for the growth of new trees.

Leopold added that a male box turtle, approximately 30 years old, was found in the wooded area. He said the species can live to be more than 100 years old, and the one they saw in Patriots Hollow reminded him a pumpkin with legs, as it was especially big and colorful.

The researcher said they encountered tick bombs while in the forest, with 100 to 200 small tick larvae starting to disperse at one time. He said when the lone star ticks are older their bites can cause problems as they can carry a disease that makes a person allergic to red meat.

“Until there are trails, and until some of these issues are addressed, it would be good to not have a bunch of folks running through here because the tick infestation can be a public health hazard,” he said.

Brian Leydet of SUNY-ESF will analyze ticks collected during the survey so recommendations can be made to the community trust and DEC about ways to reduce human-to-tick contact.

The 3VCT’s steering committee will look to include the community in the planning process and will work with the trust itself to seek grants and contributions. The initial implementation of the restoration and management plan will be funded by a grant of $500,000 secured by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2018, according to a press release from the trust.

Members of Three Village Community Trust and residents enjoyed the 6th annual Chicken Hill Barbecue July 27.

Approximately 80 attendees gathered near the Setauket Rubber Factory Houses, once part of the Chicken Hill community, now being preserved on the property of TVCT’s Bruce House headquarters. Historian Frank Turano gave an entertaining and informative talk on the history of Chicken Hill, and everyone enjoyed chicken, ribs, and all the fixings provided by Bagel Express. Participants also had the opportunity to visit two of the Rubber Factory Houses.

The TVCT’s next event, its 15th Annual Celebration, will be held Nov. 13 at the Old Field Club. For more information, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.

Residents, legislators and members of the Friends of the Greenway and the Three Village Community Trust, above, celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Photo by David Luces

Countless runners, bikers and families enjoy the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail every day, many unknowing to the fact that the 3.5-mile trail at one point was destined to be a highway.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Three Village Community Trust members Herb Mones and Cynthia Barnes, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Charlie McAteer, chair of the Friends of the Greenway. Photo by David Luces

On June 8, residents, members of the Friends of the Greenway and the Three Village Community Trust as well as public officials gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the greenway trail opening at the midpoint of the trail — Lynx and Bobcat lanes.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that the trail is so actively used by so many different groups of people,” said Herb Mones, TVCT trustee.

Mones said like any project it took a tremendous amount of planning and execution.

The process began in 1999, when residents began discussing what to do with the land acquired in the 1960s by the New York State Department of Transportation that ran from parts of East Setauket to Port Jefferson Station. Initially the state wanted to create a bypass to Route 25A.

“At first, many people didn’t understand how a pathway would work, because there was no example of it in the community,” Mones said. “People scratched their heads and said I don’t want that.”

It took 10 years to figure out how the trail would look and feel. Along the way, residents began to recognize the benefits of a greenway/bike trail.

The TVCT also had help from public officials.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was one of the first to see the potential of a greenway trail in the area and was able to secure more than $2 million in funds for the initial build-out of the trail. On the federal level, former Congressman Tim Bishop (D) was able to obtain $5 million for the remaining sections of the trail.

Residents enjoy the 10th anniversary celebration. Photo by Herb Mones

“It is really a testament to the community, volunteers and public officials to see this through,” Mones said. “Now this greenway is being used as a model for other trails being built in the county.”

George Hoffman, co-chair of the Three Village Civic Association, remembers initially people were upset with the idea of a trail but now residents advertise their homes being on the greenway as a selling point.

“This a great community resource,” he said. “Still some people don’t know this is here.”

Charlie McAteer, chair of the Friends of the Greenway, said he was glad for the turnout.

“Ten years ago we were at this spot, we had the support of the community, now you see what it had brought out, a three-mile trail that we all enjoy,” he said. “You see how many people use this trail. That’s what we intended.”

The success of the greenway trail has inspired the future county project Rails to Trails, a 10-mile path that will run from Mount Sinai to Wading River.

McAteer said he and the Friends of the Greenway are looking forward to helping with the project. Officials said they hope to break ground on the new trail sometime in fall 2019.

Photo from Cynthia Barnes

Starting in mid-April, archaeologists with the Lamar Institute began a month-long search at three significant American Revolutionary War battlefields on Long Island. These included Fort Slongo in Fort Salonga, the fort and headquarters known as Fort Franklin on Lloyd’s Neck, and the two churches on the Setauket Village Green and Patriots Rock in Setauket. 

Participants in the survey include Daniel Elliott, president of the Lamar Institute and his wife, Rita; local historian David M. Griffin, author of “Lost British Forts of Long Island”; and Sheldon Skaggs, assistant professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Bronx and his students.

In conjunction with the recent archaeological surveys, the Three Village Community Trust will host a special Join the Conversation event at the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket on Wednesday, May 8 at 8 p.m. 

Elliott and his team will share their field methodology and discuss their very preliminary findings. This is archeology close at hand. Learn about how the team uses ground-penetrating radar (GPR), systematic and controlled metal detection, to locate and excavate key targets, and plot where each are found using total station laser transit mapping technology for later analysis. 

The project will continue with laboratory analysis and research to enable the identification of the battlefields across the modern landscape while providing data regarding military strategies. Resulting interpretation will be documented in a report available to the public on the Lamar Institute’s website (www.thelamarinstitute.org) by September 2020.

All are welcome to attend this free event. Refreshments will be served and there will be time for Q&A. For more information, please call 631-689-0225.

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Participants enjoy a walk and talk on the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail April 18. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Every day, Brookhaven residents walk or ride bikes along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail, a paved path surrounded by nature that easily could have been taken over by cars and trucks.

Herb Mones shows participants invasive plants along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On April 18, the Three Village Community Trust kicked off its spring Join the Conversation series with a walk and talk presentation dedicated to the nearly 3.5-mile trail. A little more than a dozen participants joined Herb Mones, TVCT trustee, and Charles McAteer, Friends of the Greenway chair, at the Limroy Lane entrance in Setauket to learn about the trail’s history.

The walk and talk was held in anticipation of the greenway’s 10th anniversary in June, as the first phase of the trail opened between Gnarled Hollow Road and Sheep Pasture Road in 2009.

Mones and McAteer said those who travel the greenway can experience a variety of landscapes, including an old-growth forest, a centuries-old woodland with a variety of trees and species; a field of rhododendrons that nursery owners once grew for Gold Coast estate owners; a sandpit; and the former Lawrence Aviation Industries property.

In 1999, residents began discussing what to do with land acquired in the 1960s by the New York State Department of Transportation that ran from East Setauket by the site of what is now the headquarters of hedge fund Renaissance Technology to the park and ride on Hallock Road in Port Jefferson Station. Mones said the state’s original intent was to create a bypass to Route 25A during an era when transportation departments were looking to move as many vehicles as possible as quickly as possible.

During the 1980s and ’90s, the state was under pressure to move people not only by cars but with different modalities of transportation, according to Mones.

“What better way did New York State have in fulfilling its mission to create an alternative to vehicles than having a greenway built,” he said. “So, it became not only an advantage to this community but also something the state could hang its hat on and say, ‘We’re doing something other than building bigger and better roadways.’”

Mones said the residents first met in 1999 to discuss the trail in the office of Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). Mones and McAteer said the meeting included different members of the community with various opinions, including those who were against the trail.

“It was the biggest disaster ever,” Mones said, adding that many residents weren’t familiar with greenways and were apprehensive about the idea.

Attendees learn about the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail during a walk and talk April 18. Photo by Rita J. Egan

One of the biggest concerns of residents was people walking behind their property and potentially stealing from their homes.

Mones said it took a whole year before the community reengaged and organized a task force, and it took about 10 years until its opening in 2009. Earlier meetings were held at Renaissance Technology with the support of the hedge fund’s founder Jim Simons, and there were also smaller neighborhood meetings on Saturday mornings in cul-de-sacs and on corners to have discussions about concerns with residents, which McAteer said had more positive outcomes than the initial meeting at Englebright’s office.

Eventually, Englebright secured more than $2 million for the initial build-out and, on the federal level, former Congressman Tim Bishop (D) was able to obtain $5 million for the remaining sections of the trail. Mones added, due to the state and federal grants, the Friends group didn’t have to raise millions on their own.

While the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail had a rough start, McAteer said it inspired the future county project Rails to Trails that will run from Mount Sinai to Wading River. McAteer said Rails to Trails, which will be approximately 3 ¼ miles from the end of the greenway, had it’s opponents who at first didn’t want a trail running behind their backyards.

“They now have seen how well this trail is utilized, and how we keep it up with the Friends of the Greenway and working with our municipalities,” he said. “So now they see what can be done. So, another trail will become because of this.”

The Three Village Community Trust will hold a 10th anniversary celebration of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail opening June 8 at 11 a.m. at the greenway on Lynx Lane just east of Old Town Road in East Setauket. For more information, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.

Carl Safina with a scarlet macaw chick in Peru. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

The Three Village Community Trust will host “An Evening with Carl Safina” at the Old Field Club, 86 West Meadow Road, East Setauket at its 14th Annual Celebration of “fun and fundraising” on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 pm. Safina, a MacArthur “genius” award winner, renowned author and naturalist and Setauket resident, will speak on “Making a Case for Life on Earth.”  

A marine ecologist and environmental writer, Safina is the author of seven books, including the award-winning “Song for the Blue Ocean” and his latest, “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.” Safina is also the founding president of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University, where he is also a professor of nature and humanity.

At $50 per person, the festive evening will include wine, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, prizes, basket drawings and the raffle of a pastel painting, “Stony Brook Harbor Sunset,” by Mary Jane van Zeijts (above). Tickets for the painting are $25 each and only 200 tickets will be sold. 

Proceeds from the event will help support the trust’s preservation projects, including the restoration of the newly acquired Smith-deZafra House and the Patriots Hollow State Forest stewardship agreement recently signed with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

To make a reservation or for more information, please call 631-689-0225, email tvcommtrust@optonline.net or visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.  

The Three Village Community Trust closed on the historic Timothy Smith House, below, offered by Julia de Zafra for a nominal price. Attorney Gary Josephs, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, TVCT trustee Robert Reuter, Julia DeZafra, trust attorney Peter Legakis, and Cynthia Barnes, TVCT president, were on hand for the closing July 12. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

A local group has preserved a piece of history for future generations.

The Three Village Community Trust acquired the historic Timothy Smith House at 55 Main St., Setauket, July 12, according to a press release from the trust.

The Timothy Smith House will be renamed the Timothy Smith-Robert de Zafra House. Photo by Robert Reuter

“Because of its long history, its connection to town government in Brookhaven, and its remarkable degree of preservation over its 300-year life span, the Smith House is a valuable acquisition,” the release read. “The Three Village Community Trust is indebted to Robert de Zafra for acquiring it at the death of the previous owner, protecting it from being subdivided, and in so doing preserving the historic character of Setauket and this area’s contribution to the nation.”

In March, de Zafra’s widow, Julia, offered the house to the trust for a nominal price and will donate funds to help with continued restoration. According to the press release, de Zafra was a founding trustee of the Three Village Community Trust, and the Timothy Smith House, also known as the House on the Hill, has been recognized as a Brookhaven landmark and dates back to the early period of Setauket’s settlement starting in 1655.

Cynthia Barnes, president of the TVCT, said the trust will continue the restorations that de Zafra started and will be raising funds through contributions to the Robert de Zafra Restoration Fund and seeking grants. The house will be renamed the Timothy Smith-Robert de Zafra House. While the home will remain a private residence, Barnes said there are discussions about ways to make it available to the public periodically.

Robert Reuter, a TVCT trustee, said the house is “a treasure that figures prominently in our town’s earliest history” and he feels it offers an opportunity to interpret the best of design and craftsmanship in 18th-century colonial Setauket.

“The Timothy Smith House, a substantial two-story post-and-beam colonial building, remains original save for plumbing and electrical improvements.”

— Robert Reuter

“The Timothy Smith House, a substantial two-story post-and-beam colonial building, remains original save for plumbing and electrical improvements,” Reuter said. “It features immense structural timbers, floor boards — 24 inches and more in width, wrought iron hardware, primitive window glazing and simple but robust interior architectural details. A massive central chimney serves multiple fireplaces on both floors. The main kitchen fireplace incorporates a rare beehive oven with arched brick opening.”

According to the TVCT press release, the house, which dates back to 1695 to 1705, occupies one of the earliest farmstead plots in the area. It was laid out along both sides of a freshwater creek that was dammed to create the Setauket millpond. It is historically significant because it was the de-facto Brookhaven Town Hall during much of the 1700s due to successive Smith family members serving as town clerk. Timothy Smith occupied the house during the Revolutionary War, and it and the surrounding farm property remained in the Smith family until the death of Julia Sophia Smith in 1948. Forrest Bonshire, lived there from the 1960s to 2013, and the home was purchased by de Zafra from Bonshire’s estate to prevent it from being subdivided, and de Zafra was carefully restoring it before his death in October.

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The Three Village Community Trust will take over ownership of the Timothy Smith House on Main Street in Setauket. Photo by Robert Reuter

New ventures by some Setauket residents will make the area look a little different in the coming years.

The Three Village Community Trust announced plans to clean up Patriots Hollow State Forest and acquire the historic Timothy Smith House.

Patriots Hollow State Forest

The woods that run along Route 25A, across from Setauket’s Stop & Shop, have been the site of many downed trees over the years. The trust announced at its annual meeting March 14 that plans are in the works to clean up the woods and add a trail so people can walk through the forest, something that cannot easily be done in the property’s current state.

The land trust has partnered with the New York State DEC to clean up Patriots Hollow State Forest, which is the site of numerous downed trees. Photo by Cynthia Barnes

Setauket resident and former teacher Leonard Carolan said he walked into the woods one day and was disappointed to see how messy it was, not just because of the trees but the infestation of invasive plants. He approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia Barnes and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to discuss working together to clean up the former farmland.

Those conversations led to the trust signing a stewardship agreement with the DEC. Carolan, the chair of the new stewardship, will steer a committee of 16 people, which will assess the forest’s conditions and seek the community’s input to develop a restoration plan, according to Carolan. He said after gathering wants of the community and addressing concerns, the next step would be to clear 100 feet into the woods and turn to experts to identify the plants and figure out which need to be dug up or trimmed back.

“We want to work it where we have enough clearing that we can plant native trees — the white oaks, the red maples, the black tupelos — and make that into a more native natural forest with a greater variety of trees and habitat,” Carolan said.

The trust also plans to build a split-rail fence with downed locust trees along the 25A side of the property. The committee chair said the work will take years to complete, and the community trust will spearhead fundraising campaigns in the future to fund the project.

Barnes said the trust is excited to join forces with the DEC and to work with Carolan.

“This former farmland in the heart of the Setauket community, devastated by neglect and storms over the years, is in dire need of attention,” Barnes said.

The Timothy House is known locally as the “house on the hill.” Photo by Robert Reuter

Englebright said he was happy to hear the trust and DEC working together on cleaning up the forest, which he considers an important part of the local landscape.

“I would like to see the community take emotional ownership of the property,” the assemblyman said. “The way you do that is make it accessible. The way you develop good stewardship is have people who are invested in the property — through their ability to walk on trails, to enjoy the natural beauty of the property, to discover its secret. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘hollow.’”

Timothy Smith House

The home known locally as the “house on the hill” was purchased by Robert de Zafra in 2012. Up until his death last October, de Zafra, the trust’s co-founder, was restoring the home that sits on 2.6 acres.

Trustee Robert Reuter reported that de Zafra’s widow, Julia, offered the house to the trust for a nominal price and will donate funds to help with continued restoration. The trust will also create the Robert de Zafra Conservation and Preservation Fund to preserve the house and other community landmarks.

Englebright said the house represents an important part of history in Setauket. The Smiths were among a group from Southold who settled Setauket in 1655 and created Brookhaven town. A clerk once worked out of the home, and it was considered Brookhaven’s town hall for decades. Englebright said de Zafra went to great lengths to ensure the house was protected and preserved, even using his own resources.

“It’s appropriate, I think, for the community trust — which he is a founding trustee of — to carry forward his legacy as well as the legacies of all the others who lived in the house preceding his acquisition of it,” Englebright said.

Bob de Zafra, fourth from left, seen here April 21 during a dedication of additional land to Patriots Hollow State Forest, was committed to preserving open spaces and maintaining the historical integrity of the Three Village area. File photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

When he passed Oct. 10 at age 85 from complications following knee replacement surgery, civic leader Bob de Zafra left behind a legacy in the Three Village area that will be remembered for decades.

The professor and scientist

A resident of Setauket for more than 50 years, de Zafra was a former president of what is now known as the Three Village Civic Association and Three Village Historical Society, as well as a co-founder of the Three Village Community Trust. His love for the area began when he moved from Connecticut to start his career in Stony Brook University’s physics department as a professor, according to Linwood Lee, a research professor at SBU.

“He helped establish experimental physics in our physics department, which was very heavily theoretical at the time, and he was really a leader in doing that,” Lee said.

He added that de Zafra conducted research in atmospheric physics, which led to him studying the Earth’s ozone layer. During trips to the South Pole and McMurdo Sound in Antarctica, de Zafra and his SBU colleagues discovered in 1986 that chlorofluorocarbon, a type of hydrocarbon, was a cause for the expansion of the ozone hole. In honor of his revolutionary climate-change work there, an Antarctic rock ridge now bears his last name.

The civic leader

Bob de Zafra at a recent civic association meeting. File photo

In the 2002 Men and Women of the Year issue of The Village Times Herald, in which he was named Man of the Year in Civics as a “steadfast preservationist,” the professor emeritus said he saw his hometown in Connecticut “ruined” by development.

“I was sure that wherever I lived, I was going to do my best to make sure that sort of destruction didn’t happen,” he said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said de Zafra accomplished his goal. When Englebright was running for county legislator 35 years ago, he said the Setauket resident approached him and told him there was a need to protect Detmer Farm, across from the Setauket Post Office on Route 25A. The property was eventually saved from development.

“It was the centerpiece of good planning,” Englebright said. “If we won the effort to protect that open space it would mean that we had protected an important part of the watershed of Setauket Harbor and the viewshed of everyone who visits our community, or we would have taken a step toward becoming something like Queens.”

The assemblyman said the importance of saving the Detmer Farm property was only the first of countless lessons he learned from de Zafra. Englebright said a traffic island once existed at North County Road and Ridgeway Avenue adjacent to Gallery North, and with de Zafra’s encouragement, he secured the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department to cover the road with truckloads of soil.

“It was one of the first restorations that rolled back the development wave, and it was Bob that said this should be accomplished,” Englebright said.

The assemblyman said he was impressed by how de Zafra, who was instrumental in the preservation of Forsythe Meadow in Stony Brook, used his own resources to buy older houses in the area and renovate them including his own home. With the woodlands behind his property, he bought the land parcel by parcel to protect the trees; the land includes a meadow of flowers. Most recently the civic leader bought the historic Timothy Smith House, recognized as the first town hall in Brookhaven, to renovate it.

“The model of what he did with his own personal resources to enhance our community is a heroic profile,” Englebright said. “He did it quietly without fanfare but in my mind he is a civic hero of the first order. He lived what he preached and was absolutely genuine.”

Bob de Zafra in his Stony Brook University office in 1976. File photo

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler and de Zafra met in 1974 when the Three Village Bicentennial Committee formed. Tyler said de Zafra was responsible for the greening of 25A by having 222 trees planted along the road from the Stony Brook train station to East Setauket, and he was instrumental in convincing local shopping centers to use unified signs.

In The Village Times Dec. 30, 1976, de Zafra was named Man of the Year for his greening efforts. The professor said during his commute to SBU he became frustrated with what he felt was the destruction of Route 25A. While he was part of the civic association, the organization had other priorities at the time, so he saw the forming of the bicentennial committee as an opportunity to beautify the road. Through letter writing and fundraising, de Zafra raised more than $13,000 for the planting.

“You only get a chance to do something like this once every 100 years,” he said during the 1976 interview. “I’m glad I grabbed hold of mine when it came my way.”

The success of the project and many others of de Zafra’s didn’t surprise Tyler.

“Bob was very well organized and relentless,” Tyler said. “He just took on a project and was a bear about it. He just kept at it no matter what the problem was until he got a successful conclusion. He was very good at talking to people and getting them to see his point of view without overwhelming them.”

Herb Mones, a former president of the Three Village Civic Association, met de Zafra 25 years ago through the organization and praised his friend for working with builders and local elected officials to curb development and maintain the historical and architectural integrity of the area. Mones said right up until de Zafra passed, he attended any event that was for the benefit of Three Village residents. Mones said his friend felt a responsibility to make the area a better place to live in.

“The thing that always impressed me is that Bob had a tremendous amount of energy and interest in preserving, protecting and enhancing the community in every way possible,” Mones said.

Current Three Village Civic Association President Jonathan Kornreich, who considers de Zafra a friend and mentor, echoed Mones’ sentiments.

“I can’t think of three people together who could fill his shoes, so great was the depth of his energy, passion and knowledge,” Kornreich said.

Local author John Broven also met de Zafra through the civic association and said the former president’s accomplishments were admirable as he fought random development rigorously, unknown to most residents.

“If Bob had been born in England, like his wife Julia, he would assuredly have been granted a knighthood for being such a dedicated community gatekeeper, let alone his incredible scientific achievements,” Broven said.

Bob de Zafra, second from right, with Norma and Walter Watson and his wife Julia at a Three Village HIstorical Society event. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Cynthia Barnes, co-founder of the Three Village Community Trust with de Zafra, said he knew a great deal of municipality and zoning code laws and was a skillful researcher. His contributions were vitally important to the trust’s mission of preserving local properties, which included moving the Rubber Factory Houses to the trust’s Bruce House headquarters.

“He was able to grasp the whole picture yet delve into the details to see where the trouble lay, and point to the areas of weakness to try to strengthen them,” Barnes said.

“He certainly brought us a long way toward [preserving],” Barnes said. “Because I think everything we saved, with the help of our elected officials as well, he was definitely a motivating force.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said de Zafra worked with her and her team on various issues and initiatives over the last few years. Most recently he was part of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A.

“Bob’s untimely passing is just before the acceptance of the 25A community visioning document later this month,” Cartright said. “Bob cared so deeply for community land use issues and for this project, and we would like to find a way to honor and recognize Bob’s massive body of work and contributions during the process and in the future.”

The person

On top of his accomplishments, those who knew him praised de Zafra as a modest man.

“He wouldn’t want to be called ‘doctor,’ he wanted to be called Bob,” Mones said. “He never referenced his degree, his status within his field, his experiences that he had. He never used that as criteria in determining what he had to say or what he was doing. It was always based upon on the merits of the case.”

Englebright said de Zafra will be remembered by many as a man of action.

“He was the leading voice for protecting the essence of this place,” the assemblyman said. “It wasn’t just his voice, it was his action as well.”

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who worked closely with de Zafra while she was president of the civic association, summed up how his family and friends were feeling the day of his funeral Oct. 17.

“The loss of Bob de Zafra leaves a hole in our collective heart,” she said. “He played a vital role in so many organizations as a watchdog for our community. Meticulous, passionate, diligent, generous, persistent and charming in his own way — he will be missed.”

While going through items in his mother’s house Three Village historian Beverly Tyler discovers more about his family’s history, which included ownership of Tyler General Store circa 1890. Photo from Beverly Tyler

Beverly Tyler

Growing up in Setauket, first in my grandmother’s house and post office and then in the family home that dates to about 1740, I was aware that my ancestors had lived there for four generations. However, I was not conscious of the details of those families, nor did I realize that the material collection of those four generations was still in the house, packed, in most cases, carefully away in trunks, chests, barrels, boxes, tins and other assorted containers.

My mom died in August of last year, and my family members and I began the process of preparing for an estate sale of the contents of the house. We didn’t have to concern ourselves with the house itself as Mom made a wonderful deal with the Three Village Community Trust, which will eventually take ownership of the house and three acres.

While going through items in his mother’s house, above circa 1900, Three Village historian Beverly Tyler discovers more about his family’s history. Photo from Beverly Tyler

As we began opening trunks, boxes and closets, we discovered clothing, china, glassware, photographs and many other objects dating from the 19th century and even a few items dating to the 18th century. One of the discoveries was music composed and written by my great-grandfather, George Washington Hale Griffin, who worked at various times with both Christy’s and Hooley’s Minstrels in New York City and Chicago. I even discovered at least one piece of church music he wrote.

While I was growing up, I learned, through her letters home, about my great aunt, Mary Swift Jones, who voyaged to China and Japan from 1858 to 1861, in a 150-foot bark built in East Setauket Harbor by her Uncle William Bacon, whose father left England in 1796 to come to Long Island to work in the Blue Point Iron Works. His journal entries were among family papers I researched, even traveling to his hometown in Derbyshire, England, to discover where he came from and why he left. Many of these archival papers and artifacts, dating to the last three centuries, have been given to various Long Island museums and historical societies, while others are to be included in the estate sale.

What I didn’t realize was that the first two generations to live in the house were direct ancestors of my wife Barbara and that the original part of the house had just three bedrooms, which was home to families that each had five children.

When the house and farm were sold to my ancestors in the first decade of the 19th century, it became home to two generations of nine children, still in a home with three bedrooms. It was not until 1879 that an addition was added with two additional bedrooms upstairs, well after my grandfather and six of his eight siblings had married and moved on.

When the house and farm were sold to my ancestors in the first decade of the 19th century, it became home to two generations of nine children, still in a home with three bedrooms.”

I knew from an early age that my great-grandfather, Charles B. Tyler, and my two unmarried great aunts, Annie and Corinne, had remained in the house their entire lives. My family ran a general store for about 100 years in front of our house on the corner of Main Street and Old Field Road. After Charles died in 1899, Annie ran the post office, except for two terms of the President Cleveland administration when the postmaster position was given to party loyalists, and Corinne ran the general store. In the 1930s they closed the store and donated the building to the local American Legion post. The legion moved the building up Main Street where it sits today near the Setauket Methodist Church.

I treasure the knowledge that my ancestors left so many records of their existence. However, many of the individual photographs and photo albums, especially those dating to the 19th century, are of people I do not recognize and are, for the most part, unidentified. Only their clothing, hair styles and poses give hints to their time period and possibly their identity. Everyone I meet who has come face to face with family material from the past says the same thing, “I wish I had asked more questions when I had the opportunity.”

There are many avenues to explore to discover more about the people we love and the ancestors we know so little about. Take the time to learn more about your heritage and the history of the community where you live and label your photographs. The Three Village Historical Society and the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library are both good places to start, with helpful people who have the time, the talent and the desire to help you discover the links to your family and community history.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society located at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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