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Three Village Historical Society

Donna Smith, director of education at the TVHS, welcomes every fourth-grade class in the Three Village school district to the Setauket Elementary School’s auditorium, surrounded by murals painted by Vance Locke that portray a time line of Setauket’s history, on Founders Day in April. Photo courtesy of TVHS
Tara Ebrahimian, education coordinator for the Three Village Historical Society, in front of artist William Sidney Mount’s gravesite at the Setauket Presbyterian Church with students from Setauket Elementary School during a recent Founder’s Day event. Ebrahimian is holding up an image of one of Mount’s most famous paintings, ‘Eel Speering at Setauket,’ 1845. Photo courtesy of TVHS

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) recently announced that the Three Village Historical Society is the recipient of an Award of Excellence for Founders Day.

TVHS historian Beverly C. Tyler fields questions from the fourth graders on Founder’s Day. Photo from TVHS

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 74th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Founders Day, an annual event for fourth-grade classes of the Three Village school district, is an exploration of the depth and diversity of Brookhaven’s original settlement in Setauket.

The program is designed to complement the New York State curriculum and enhance students understanding of their local history. It includes a comprehensive presentation about the founding and development of the settlement, as well as guided walking tours of historically significant landmarks.

“This honor was made possible through the efforts of TVHS Historian Beverly Tyler, TVHS Education Director Donna Smith, volunteer Katherine Downs-Reuter, Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell and the entire education team,” said Steve Healy, president of the TVHS.

Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2019 AASLH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 30.

From left, Maryanne Vigneaux, Frank Turano, Holly Griesel and Orlando Maione at last year’s event. Photo by Anthony White/ Three Village Historical Society

By David Luces

There’s something about the 1920s that to this day many people are fascinated by. Life during that time seemed like one big party. The Three Village Historical Society and The Jazz Loft plan to bring some of the magic of the time period back for its third annual Prohibition Night fundraiser on June 21.

This year’s theme, titled Booze, Bootlegging and Jazz!!!, will have an emphasis on  bootlegging and speakeasies, also known as blind pigs.

“We’ve been collaborating with the historical society for the past two years [on this event] and I think we’ve hit it out of the park,” Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft said. “For this year we thought what can we do better.”

Guests will be attending a mock funeral service and given a pass code to access a secret back room party filled with booze and jazz music. The historical society will have a Prohibition era bootlegging exhibit set up where guests can peruse old photos and other items from the time period.

“We really want to try to bring some of that history to life,” explained Manuel.

Tara Ebrahimian, education and volunteer coordinator for the historical society, spent weeks researching the Prohibition era and bootlegging as well as Long Island’s history during the 1920s. In a recent interview, she said her inspiration for the mock funeral came from reading accounts of actual funeral homes having speakeasies and parties in the back of their buildings.

“We want [the event] to be historically accurate,” she said. “We wanted to make this scene for the guests,” she added. “Like you’re stepping into this world, we want them to be fully immersed.”

Ebrahimian also researched how people spoke back in the 1920s and the lingo used during Prohibition. Re-enactors from Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will be on hand to aid in the immersive experience and will be acting as if they were from that time period.

Sandy White, office manager at the historical society, said she is excited for this year’s event. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said, adding that there will be a garden bar for guests with beer donated by Sunrise Ales and Lagers.

Steve Healy, president of the historical society, said the event is a great way to incorporate history and jazz music in a fun setting.“We want to make history interesting, and I think people have a soft spot for this era. There is something really fascinating about this time period,” he added.

Healy said that besides antique items from the period there will be a 1929 banana colored convertible parked outside the venue. “It’s going to be a fun night and it supports two great local nonprofits,” he said.

Just as booze and parties were synonymous with the 1920s, jazz music was just as important. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be playing time period music from mid to late 1920s live music for guests at the event. “We want it to be authentic as possible,” explained Manuel, adding that the band will be playing with instruments that were used to make jazz music back then like the piano, guitar, clarinet and trombone among others. They will also be performing with some vintage instruments.

Manuel is grateful to the historical society for creating a wonderful partnership for the past couple of years. He said when The Jazz Loft first opened two years ago, the historical society was one of the first organizations to collaborate with them.“We wanted to partner with people in the community and each time we’ve collaborated greater and bigger things happen for the both of us.”

Guests are encouraged to dress in period attire and Manuel said he is blown away every year by how committed the guests are to dressing up for the event. “I’ve been really impressed … it has really taken a life of its own,” he said.

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the third annual Prohibition Night on Friday, June 21 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Photo by Jackie Pickle

RIBBON CUTTING

The Three Village Artisan & Farmers Market celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31. Manager Linda Johnson (center) cut the ribbon aided by Patty Cain, vice president of the Three Village Historical Society (left), and on right, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Johnson’s husband, David.

Located on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket, the open-air market offers a selection of locally grown vegetables and fruits, pickles, fresh salsa, baked goods, local honey, jams, cheese, artisan breads, fudge, locally made jewelry, lemonade, gluten-free offerings, live music and much more every Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. through September. In addition, the Historical Society’s exhibits will be open from 3 to 5 p.m. for just $1 entry.

 For more information, please call 631-901-7151.

Author Angela Reich with her book, 'Shipwreck of Hopes'
Leah Dunaief

Today, May 23, is the birthday of Margaret Fuller. She would be 209 years old. I don’t know if you have ever heard of her. I hadn’t really, maybe vaguely. She was actually born Sarah Margaret Fuller, named after both her grandmothers, until she dropped the first name at age 9. She was in other ways a precocious child, too, the oldest of Massachusetts lawyer and Congressman Timothy Fuller’s children, and he taught her to read and write before age 4.

Fuller, a Harvard grad, was such a stern teacher that he forbade her reading sentimental novels and instead gave her what was then, at the beginning of the 19th century, a vigorous classical education — indeed a rarity for a woman at that time.

Margaret Fuller grew up expecting to be exceptional, and she was: as a journalist, editor, literary critic and women’s rights advocate. She strenuously protested slavery, homelessness and other injustices. She advocated for education for women. She also was reputed to be the best read person in all of New England. She was the only woman allowed to use the Harvard library for her research. Her breakthrough book was “Woman in the Nineteenth Century,” considered the first major feminist work in the United States, and she was friends and the intellectual equal of such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne — said to have modeled Hester Prynne after her, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and admired by Edgar Allan Poe.

Margaret Fuller

She died in 1850 at age 40 in a shipwreck off Fire Island, with her Italian count husband — if they ever married — and 2-year-old son, within sight of the shoreline. Her ship, the Elizabeth, ran aground on a sandbar as it was being captained by the first mate. The event was in all the metropolitan newspapers four days after the tragedy, once word could get out after the gale passed that had come sweeping up the East Coast, destroying the ship. Fuller had been sent by her publisher, Horace Greeley of the New-York Daily Tribune, to Europe from which she filed dispatches for four years, first from England and then from the 1848 revolutionary wars raging in Italy. In effect, she was this nation’s first female wartime correspondent.

Fuller’s life was honored with a book, “Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli,” a flattering portrait edited jointly by Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing, all of whom rushed to get it out in print before, they feared, her reputation would die. In fact, it was the best-selling book in the United States until Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Margaret Fuller was a remarkable woman, and I am glad to meet her. How did we happen to meet?

We were introduced by Angela Reich and the Three Village Historical Society. Reich wrote a book called “Shipwreck of Hopes,” about the ship Elizabeth, and although this is fiction, the author spent a great deal of time getting the historic context right. She traveled to Harvard, poured over original letters and manuscripts, and otherwise discovered that there were thousands of shipwrecks off the Fire Island coast. Yes, thousands! This just happened to be one of them, and this one carried a famous passenger.

It is a wonderful thing that we can listen to a writer discuss his or, in this instance, her book and all that went into the writing, dressed in our daytime suburban-casual clothes, enjoying other community members similarly gathered and even a little homemade carrot cake on a given Monday night. In the process we learned some local history and met two worthy women: Margaret Fuller and Angela Reich.

We live in a terrific place where such delights — theater, music, documentaries, political debates and book discussions — frequently happen. All we have to do is get off the sofa after dinner and go to them. It’s often hard but so worth the effort. 

Emma Clark Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will host a lecture titled “The Genealogy of Historical Architectural Styles in the Three Villages: Rationalism, Romanticism and the Vernacular” on Monday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Joseph Betz

Guest speaker will be Joseph Betz, an architect, professor and former chairman of the Department of Architecture & Construction Management at Farmingdale State College. Betz has served the public as a member of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board and is currently a member of the Historic District Advisory Committee.

The question of, “What style do we build in?” first began in the 18th century as part of a transformation of consciousness that occurred in the Enlightenment. These styles can be grouped into two main categories: rationalism and romanticism. The first reflects a new rational philosophy of science and democracy, with its origins in Greek thought, while the other reflects a romantic escape into the past and has an emotional attachment with the good old days, religion and a fear of change. Both categories are influenced by local building traditions and forms.

The evening will examine the many historical architectural styles in the Three Villages and place them into these two main conceptual categories, giving the participant an easy way to identify and understand the meaning of these buildings.

Co-sponsored by Three Village Historical Society and Three Village Civic Association, the presentation will give an appreciation for the historic districts in the Town of Brookhaven and why these districts should be preserved as a learning environment for future generations.

Free and open to all. No registration necessary. For more information, call 631-941-4080.

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Students from different classes pass each other as they arrive, leave and pass by Setauket Post Office. In the foreground is Steve Hintze, one of 12 Founders Day guides and former Three Village Historical Society president. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

This year, April 11 and 12, will mark the 14th year that Three Village fourth-grade students have come to the Setauket Elementary School auditorium to learn about the murals depicting the history of Setauket and Brookhaven, and the sixth year the Founders Day program has included the Original Settlement Walking Tour.

Last year during the Founders Day walking tour, one fourth-grade student had something to share.

“I don’t like history, but I like this,” he said.

Billadello, second from left; Katherine Kirkpatrick, middle, author of ‘Redcoats and Petticoats’; and historian Beverly Tyler with students Eve and Lily Rosengard on Culper Spy Day last September. The Rosengards helped to produce a video about historic murals at their school. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

Last year on April 23 and 24, about 450 Three Village fourth-grade students came to the elementary school auditorium in celebration of Brookhaven Town Founders Day to learn about the area history through the murals of Vance Locke, a local artist who completed the murals in 1952. Then, for the next two hours, each class, led by guides from the Three Village Historical Society, explored the Original Settlement area that surrounds the Setauket Village Green. Students were introduced to painter William Sidney Mount and Culper spy Abraham Woodhull at the Setauket Presbyterian Churchyard and to residents Emma S. Clark, Thomas Hodgkins and Ward Melville at the Caroline Church Cemetery. At the Village Green, students learned about the Setalcott Native Americans, Brookhaven’s original English settlers, and the diversity of immigrants who lived and worked here, as well as the varied ancestry of the Three Village area soldiers whose deaths in war are memorialized here.

In Frank Melville Memorial Park, the fourth-grade boys and girls learned about gristmills, millers, blacksmiths, post offices, general stores and one of the Original Settlement’s 17th century homes. At the Setauket Neighborhood House — a home this writer grew up in — students heard about the structure of the building and how it progressed from a hotel, with stagecoach service from the Lakeland railroad station, to a tourist home with station wagon service from the Long Island Rail Road’s Stony Brook station, and finally to its use as a meeting place for the entire community.

At the circa 1740 Amos Smith House, students learned about the eight generations that lived in the home and how it grew to accommodate the four generations that included from five to nine children, parents and at least one grandparent in a three-bedroom house.

Each fourth-grade class also discussed the differences as shown in the images of the house in 1740, 1900 and today. Donna Smith, historical society director of education and Founders Day committee member was told by one of her tour group students, “My favorite part was seeing the house Mr. Tyler grew up in and how it is so different.”

The last stop, at Patriots Rock, a remnant of the last glacier and a Native American meeting place, provided an opportunity to learn about the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket in 1777 and Caleb Brewster, who as an artillery officer directed the cannon fire, and who was also an important member of the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring.

“Founders Day is more than learning about our local history,’ said Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town historian and Founders Day committee member. “It is a historical experience for our Three Village fourth-grade students. … Learning that the Emma S. Clark Library is not just the place to find books or attend a program, but is an architecturally interesting structure that was built by a local resident [Hodgkins] as a gift to the community, and there really was a person named Emma S. Clark is enlightening to fourth-graders. Then they walk toward the Caroline Church and see the Hodgkins and Clark headstones — it all comes together in this fascinating look on a student’s face that they have just put it all together.”

“My favorite part was seeing the house Mr. Tyler grew up in and how it is so different.”

— Fourth-grade student

At the end of the tour each student receives a copy of “Discover Setauket, Brookhaven’s Original Settlement,” a walking tour guide companion prepared by the historical society, courtesy of Three Village Central School District. Students, who can now be considered knowledgeable guides to the area’s local history, are encouraged to take their family members on the walking tour.

The elementary school’s fourth-grade students were so inspired by the 2018 Founders Day tour that they decided to produce a video story of each of the Vance Locke murals in the school’s auditorium. The students were led by Andy Weik, school district lead teacher for instructional technology, and fourth-grade teacher Eric Gustafson. The students recorded the videos, and they were produced with a QR code added at the base of each mural. All but two were completed in time for Culper Spy Day, Sept. 15, a communitywide celebration of the spy ring with a wide range of community organizations and businesses taking part. For the first time, due to the student videos, the elementary school auditorium was opened on a Saturday to take part in the celebration. Four of the Vance Locke murals are scenes of activity in Setauket and Brookhaven during the Revolutionary War. Several of the students who worked on the video stories were present in colonial costumes in the auditorium to answer questions and talk to some of the 800 people who bought tickets for the event, as well as a few who wandered in to see what was happening.

At the historical society, we hope, for the foreseeable future, that every fourth-grade student will continue to experience the wonder of our local history and be excited to learn more of the stories of the people who lived here and what they contributed to our history.

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

Linda Johnson presents a check to support Stony Brook Cancer Center to registered dietitian Jennifer Fitzgibbon. Photo by Terri Quinn

By Susan Risoli

Thanks to Linda Johnson, the Three Village Artisan and Farmers Market has become a place of healthy healing, not only through its fresh produce but because of the fellowship and friendship it offers. For her hard work and dedication to reinventing the market, TBR News Media names Johnson one of the People of the Year.

Linda Johnson helps a customer at the Three Village Market. Photo by Terri Quinn

The Three Village Market — as it is colloquially known — sets up shop on the North Country Road grounds of the Three Village Historical Society. This year Johnson stepped up to manage it and ran the event every Friday from June through October. She is scheduled to manage it again in 2019.

Those who shopped at the market say Johnson infused it with the same spirit that flavors her family-run chocolate business, Chocology Unlimited in Stony Brook.

“Linda’s business is about the whole experience of chocolate, and philanthropy, and building relationships in the community,” said Sandy White, Three Village Historical Society office manager.

Johnson turned the market into an opportunity to support survivorship programs at the Stony Brook Cancer Center. She also made it a relaxed gathering spot, where neighbors brought their dogs and kids and enjoyed live music.

The Three Village Market features locally grown and crafted wares, with an emphasis on the freshest of foods. Jennifer Fitzgibbon, a Cancer Center registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition, found the market to be an ally in educating her patients and raising funds to support the Cancer Center. She said Johnson donated a percentage of sales from the farmers market, as well as a percentage of sales from her chocolate business, to purchase exercise equipment and yoga mats for cancer patients and survivors to use.

As part of the Cancer Center’s Healthy Forks program, Fitzgibbon takes people to grocery stores to show them how to shop healthy without spending a lot of money. So taking them on tours of the Three Village Market was a great addition to Healthy Forks, she said. Fitzgibbon said she and her patients appreciated Johnson’s efforts to establish “an uplifting and beautiful experience. It’s just a healthy atmosphere.”

For one vendor, working with Johnson turned into a homecoming. Ann Marie’s Farm Stand, a beloved Three Village mainstay, was for many years headquartered right up the road from the farmers market. Although they’re doing well at their new location in Port Jefferson Station, many in the Three Village community mourned their absence. So Johnson brought Ann Marie’s back, by inviting them to sell their produce at the market every week.

“She was sort of our guardian angel,” said Ann Marie’s owner Mary Ann Deriso. “We saw our old customers again, and that was great for us.”

“She has a lot of positive energy. She always has so many ideas.”

— Jennifer Fitzgibbon

Deriso praised Johnson’s people skills.

“It’s not easy positioning the vendors in their spots and making them happy where they are,” Deriso said. “She’s very good at it. She made us all feel comfortable and welcome.”

Above all, “Linda is down to earth,” Deriso said. “She’s likable and real.”

Fitzgibbon said Johnson created a diverse marketplace that was more than just vegetables.

“She has a lot of positive energy,” Fitzgibbon said. “She always has so many ideas.”

The nutritionist said one example was “at the market there was a bread person, a gluten-free dessert person, a pasta vendor and even a lady who knits.”

Fitzgibbon called Johnson “the heart and the soul and the nucleus of the farmers market.”

Besides setting up the vendor tables every week, “she was literally going through the neighborhood, getting people to come over there and shop.”

White said Johnson put together a farmers market that filled a void.

“Yes, there are other farmers markets in other areas, but we needed one here,” she said. “The market is successful, and we’re happy that Linda took it over.”

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Three Village Historical Society office manager Sandy White helps a customer at the society’s History Center & Gift Shop. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

There are plenty of places in the historic Three Village community and surrounding areas that give a sense of place. The upcoming Christmas and winter holiday are good times to purchase a few of the wonderful gifts and books about the local area and to pay a relaxing visit to a few not-for-profit shops that deserve special support.

Three Village Historical Society History Center & Gift Shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket

The society’s gift shop is expanded to complement the exhibit SPIES! How a Group of Long Island Patriots Helped George Washington Win the Revolution. There you will find gifts including many books, booklets and pamphlets on local history. A new children’s book “Kayleigh and Connor Detectives Inc. and King the Spy Dog” is written and illustrated by Dana Lynn Zotter. Two youngsters visiting their grandfather in Stony Brook discover an abandoned gravestone for a dog and learn about the Culper Spy Ring as they search for the black dog they think is a ghost. Another wonderful book for children is “I Survived the American Revolution, 1776” by Lauren Tarshis, illustrated by Scott Dawson and published by Scholastic Inc. This is the best book for youth I’ve ever read on the Battle of Brooklyn. Here we follow a young boy who is caught up in the battle. Both of these books are thoroughly researched, well-written and illustrated. The gift shop is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the gift shop and exhibits are open every Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. (Closed from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2.) For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.threevillagehistoricalsociety.org.

Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket

Gallery North is diagonally across the street from the historical society. It is easy to park at one and walk across the street to the other. The entire gallery is a gift shop with many wonderful paintings and gift pieces by local artists for sale. The current exhibit is Deck the Halls. Local artists and artisans have created beautiful paintings, drawings, handmade jewelry, pottery, glass, decorations and much more. Gallery North also is showcasing a diverse range of Long Island art and has Holiday POP-UP Shopping. On Thursdays, Dec. 13 and 20, from 4 to 7 p.m., join them for a glass of wine and refreshment while you meet the artists and shop. Each Thursday evening a different selection of artists and artisans will be offering their handcrafted gifts, jewelry, art and more.

Gallery North is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Deck the Halls exhibit through Dec 22. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook

The gift shop in the Visitors Center includes books and prints on The Long Island Museum’s exhibits and permanent collections. There are also jewelry, pottery and hand-blown glass items made by local artists as well as hand-turned wood items by local artist Harry Wicks. The Visitors Center includes children’s Revolutionary War era gift items. The current exhibition, Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur, will close Dec. 30, along with the companion exhibition Shaping Silver: Contemporary Metalsmithing. The museum, Visitors Center and gift shop are open Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 pm. (Closed Dec. 24 and 25 and Jan.1.) Visit www. longislandmuseum.org for more information.

Reboli Center, 64 Main St., Stony Brook

The Reboli Center has a large collection of wonderful paintings by Joe Reboli. Around the Reboli Center are four sculptures by Long Island artist/sculptor David Haussler. The current exhibit The Gift of Art celebrates the amazing contribution to civilization that art gives, the wonderful gift to friends and family of a piece of art and the generous donors of this year’s gifts to the Reboli Center art collection. In the Reboli Center, wonderful art and crafts are available for visitors to enjoy; and in the Design Shop, paintings, folk art, craft and sculpture are available for purchase as gifts or to decorate your home for this or any season. The Reboli Center is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.) For more information, call 631-751-7707, or visit the Reboli website at www.rebolicenter.org.

St. James General Store, 516 Moriches Road, St. James

This “old-fashioned” general store is run by the Suffolk County Parks Department, Division of Historical Services. Here are two floors of 19th- and 20th-century goods and lots of homemade goodies. They have an extensive collection of old-style candies, many brands dating back to the 19th century. Be sure to try one of their delicious molasses pops. On the second floor are books on Long Island covering many local communities, as well as lots of wonderful children’s books. This is now one good, close, independent bookstore. The back room has an extensive collection of ornaments, some of which are reproductions of antique decorations. Back on the first floor, there is a large selection of toys, dolls and games for children that also harken back to the 19th century. The St. James General Store is open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 and open until 3 p.m. Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.) For more information, call 631-854-3740 or visit www.facebook.com/St.JamesGeneralStore.

There are lots of unusual gifts at these five gift shops. If you are buying a gift for someone, you will almost certainly find something to suit every taste. There are many other wonderful local shops in the Stony Brook Village Shopping Center and in Setauket and East Setauket.

In the Village of Port Jefferson, along and around Main Street and East Main Street are many wonderful and unusual shops and restaurants. A special one in Port Jefferson is Secret Garden Tea Room on Main Street. Have a cup of tea, maybe a scone and jam or a delicious lunch and look over their selection of unusual and tea-based gifts. Open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information or reservations, call 631-476-8327 or visit www.thesecretgardentearoom.com.

Finding a special or unusual gift is not only a good idea, it also supports our local businesses and brings us closer together as a community. And you never know who you will run into by shopping locally.

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

The Three Village Historical Society hosted its annual Candlelight House Tour on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of this annual holiday event, the tour featured six locations, which included five residences, each individually decorated by a talented local interior designer, and a rare look inside the Setauket Grist Mill. Participants also had the option of attending an evening reception at the Old Field Club or breakfast at the Stony Brook Yacht Club,

Decked out in holiday splendor, every location welcomed an unprecedented number of visitors and was staffed by a rotation of dedicated volunteers. Though presented through a fresh vision, tours of yesteryear were acknowledged through the inclusion of certain houses that had been previously featured.

Additionally, Eva Glaser and Liz Tyler Carey, who were inaugural event chairs, returned as decorators for one of the homes, which also featured a pop-up holiday boutique consisting of unique gift items. All proceeds from those sales went to the planned restoration of the Dominic Crawford Barn.

The nearly sold out event raised a significant amount of money for the Three Village Historical Society’s Education Fund. Many people gave of their talents, time and services to create the festive fundraiser.

This beloved seasonal tradition would not exist without the generosity of the event chairs, Patty Cain and Patty Yantz, as well as the food and beverage sponsors, homeowners, Three Village Historical Society administrative staff, house chairs, decorators, volunteers, members, supporters and community at large.

All photos by Pam Botway

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Tri-Spy Tours owner Margo Arceri with two young volunteers Culper Spy Day 2018. Photo from Margo Arceri

Her business activities may be associated with warmer temperatures, but a Strong’s Neck resident is keeping busy even in the colder weather.

Margo Arceri is known in the Three Village area for creating Culper Spy Day, an annual event in September, and Tri-Spy Tours, which takes participants to local historical sites. While the excursions include participants walking, biking, kayaking and paddle boarding — activities many may associate with summer — Arceri said the business keeps her busy year round. This year she was booked for private tours up until Thanksgiving, and she will be sponsoring the screening of TBR News Media’s “One Life to Give” at The Setauket Neighborhood House Monday, Dec. 10, which will be hosted by the Three Village Historical Society, something she said she’s looking forward to.

“I love the storyline, and the Times Beacon has been an incredible partner with Culper Spy Day,” she said. “In general, it’s kind of my way of giving back and also supporting something near and dear to my heart.”

Participants on a Tri-Spy tour visit Abraham Woodhull’s grave. Photo from Margo Arceri

During December, January and February, Arceri said she thinks about new ideas for the next year. Recently, she was inspired to apply for a grant for a trolley to use for tours after members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Children of the American Revolution traveled from Connecticut to Long Island, and Arceri conducted a tour for them on a Coach USA bus.

She is also hoping to extend Culper Spy Day to a weekend and would love to coordinate a bus trip into New York City where ticket holders can visit the Fraunces Tavern Museum and go on a Revolutionary War-era walking tour in the downtown area with Patriot Tours, she said.

For Arceri, the winter months are ideal for researching in places like Fort Ticonderoga, West Point, Boston, Williamsburg and Philadelphia. She said there is always new information to discover.

“Somebody will ask me something on my tour, and like a good detective, I’ll have to find out the answer,” she said.

Arceri said Brookhaven Town historian Barbara Russell once wrote, “Lucky is the child who listens to a story from an elder and cherishes it for years.” It’s a quote she always starts her tours with because she said she is that child.

The Tri-Spy Tours owner said her love for history began while growing up in Strong’s Neck where she would listen to the stories of Kate Wheeler Strong, a descendant of Culper Spy Ring member Anna Smith Strong who was known for using her clothesline to send coded messages to her fellow spies.

Arceri initially volunteered giving walking tours with the Three Village Historical Society and served on its board three times through the years in roles such as vice president and recording secretary. Arceri said she is always grateful for former society president Steven Hintze, who helped her launch Tri-Spy Tours, and current historical society president Steve Healy for helping her take the business to the next level.

“He has been incredibly supportive, and he’s always listening to my ideas and giving me his feedback and his ideas,” she said. “They’ve just been incredible partners.”

“Somebody will ask me something on my tour, and like a good detective, I’ll have to find out the answer.”

— Margo Arceri

She also credits everyone at the historical society for always being helpful, and archivist Karen Martin, historian Bev Tyler as well as Russell for assisting her with research.

Healy said the admiration is mutual, as Arceri is always looking for new ideas and seeking to expand. He said he would love to see the historical society grow, and he credits Arceri with helping it do that.

“She has the vision to look at the bigger picture, and how we can tie things together,” Healy said.

Arceri said during her tours she intertwines Culper Spy history with fun facts about philanthropists such as the Melville family and Eversley Childs, because she said she feels that it’s important to point out that so many structures in the area are preserved because of someone’s generosity.

“I always like to stress on the tour from the natives, that people arrive here, and they fall in love,” Arceri said. “The early settlers did, the Melvilles did, and I try to make sure that anybody who comes on our tour falls in love a little bit with Setauket.”

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