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Victorian

By Michael Tessler

History came to life this past weekend as the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy hosted an exquisite “Downton Abbey”-themed fashion show, complete with high tea, light snacks and beautiful costumes provided by Port Jefferson’s very own Nan Guzzetta.

This special event was the brainchild of former Port Jefferson mayor and Conservancy chairwoman, Jeanne Garant. This longtime local leader has a great record of bringing to life history in fun community-oriented ways. Having helped found the village’s beloved Charles Dickens Festival, it’s no surprise she’d dream up such a unique fundraiser.

Organized by Conservancy President Lisa Perry, her fellow board members and many volunteers, this event was one attendees won’t forget.

Nan Guzzetta, who provided the costumes for the event, is a true treasure in our community. Her passion for history, attention to detail and her ability to bring to life any bygone era is an extraordinary talent. Every piece of clothing she selects is so perfectly prepared, adorned with accessories that embellish without distracting, every ornate decoration on a hat so cleverly placed, every shoe properly fit and polished. She is a master of her art form, and what a splendid art it was to spectate.

Models from all across the country joined to be a part of this spectacular presentation of Edwardian era clothing. Each outfit appeared to outdo the next, so beautifully capturing not just the style but the stories of the early 20th century. Styling of suffragettes, elaborate evening gowns, feathered flappers and everything in-between showed what an exciting time it was to be alive. From the Titanic to the twenties, it was a beautiful demonstration and a roaring good time!

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The Sleight House on Christian Avenue in Stony Brook is safe from future development. Photo by Phil Corso

It’s history.

A Christian Avenue home already added to Brookhaven’s historic landmark list earlier this year received another big boost this week to make sure it retains its 19th century charm. The Stony Brook home known as the Sleight House received a historic preservation and conservation easement, thanks to the Peconic Land Trust, further solidifying its place in history.

John v.H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust, announced last week that Elizabeth and Brian Merrick had donated the easement on the 1.2-acre property, permanently protecting its significance and preserving its character. The easement came to be because Elizabeth Merrick, whose family has Stony Brook roots, has long treasured the Sleight House, circa 1880.

“This House has been important to my family for a long time, and we wanted to make sure that its historic character would always be preserved,” she said. “We’re so pleased that our partnership with the Peconic Land Trust has enabled us to accomplish this.”

Built by Charles M. Sleight, the owner of a prominent wheelwright and carpentry business around 1880, the Sleight House remained in the Sleight family until the early 1960s. Sleight’s wife, Adella Abigail Sleight, was a descendent of the Bayles and Hawkins families, both of whom were descendants of Brookhaven’s first settlers, the Peconic Land Trust said. The family’s archives, including photographs and newspaper clippings, are a part of the collection of Three Village Historical Society.

“By taking the additional step of placing a Historic Preservation and Conservation Easement on the Sleight House, the Merricks have protected the home’s historic integrity for future generations,” Halsey said. “We are thankful to both Elizabeth and Brian for preserving a part of Stony Brook’s historic character.”

The Brookhaven Town Board approved the late 19th century home’s designation on March 26, after a public hearing on the matter. The Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook and the Three Village Community Trust supported the decision.

The Sleight House is a Folk Victorian home with Queen Anne embellishments—a popular design along Long Island’s North Shore during the late 19th century. Other historic features of the Sleight House include a common “L” shape, cross gable configuration with simple treatment of the exterior walls, decorative verge board sawn balusters, sawn bracketing, and a decorative gable end treatment. The front porch is also original to the House and stretches nearly across its entire west facade.

Although the town’s Historic District, through the Historic District Advisory Committee, provides oversight of the Sleight House by typically requiring review and approval for additions and alterations, the Merricks’ donation of an easement goes beyond local governance and permanently protects and preserves the Sleight House and the surrounding property’s historical, cultural, scenic and aesthetic values.

As part of the easement process, a Historic Structure and Significance Report was prepared by Stony Brook architect and Brookhaven Historic District Advisory Committee member John Cunniffe, and is included in the easement documents to serve as a baseline for the Trust’s enforcement of the easement.

“With the Merricks’ foresight and the Peconic Land Trust’s skill set to properly guide and execute this Historic Preservation and Conservation Easement, not only does the historic nature of the Sleight House remain protected, a new precedent has been set in this very important historic corridor,” Cunniffe said. “The preservation of ‘context’ has been achieved through this process and, simply put, is priceless.”