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Ward Melville Heritage Organization

From left, Melissa Van Horn (with Cecil) and Stacie Callace (with Truman) with the Animal Rights Advocacy Group accept their prize for 1st place in the Professional Category from Gloria Rocchio, president, Ward Melville Heritage Organization. Photo from WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization announced the winners of its 29th annual Scarecrow Competition at its Halloween Festival at the Stony Brook Village Center on Oct. 31. 

‘The Groomery’

And the winners are:

Professional Category: 1st Place – “Groomery” (Animal Rights Advocacy Group – Melissa Van Horn) and 2nd Place – “Alice in Wonderland” (Girl Scout Troop 405 – Karen Daily)

Category B:  Adult & Family: 1st Place –  “We Are Groot” (Paul Bouton), 2nd Place – “Chef Alfredo Linguini” (Pentimento – Lisa Cusamano) and 3rd Place – “Forky Crow” (Kathleen Christiano & Patricia Thompson) 

Category C:  Children

1st Place – “Mermaid” (Girl Scout Troop 873 – Danielle Rampone), 2nd Place – “Your Highness in Pink” (Girl Scout Troop 620 – Andrea Schaeffer) and 3rd Place – “Devil” (Girl Scout Troop 1244 – Joan Fusco) 

Congratulations!

Above, the St. James author with her latest book. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Family through the prism of stained glass

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Claire Nicolas White shares her family’s journey in the art of stained glass in her very engaging Five Generations Painting With Light.  

The book opens with a crisply written introduction followed by a succinct and informative history of stained glass. White’s eloquent prose defines her connection in a sharp parallel to the compositions that are to be explored: “Mine is a strange inheritance, transparent, ablaze with light in all colors, breakable, but precious.”

Above, the St. James author with her latest book. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The history details the materials, construction and sites of the pieces as well as the fact that the creation of stained glass today is much the same as it was over a thousand years ago. The nobility as well as the dangers of the trade are also touched upon. The intersection of necessity, art, folklore and fantasy are at its heart. It should be remembered that the windows often served as a method of ecclesiastical communication, telling biblical stories and imparting scriptural themes.

From there, White traces her family history, beginning with her Dutch great-grandfather, artist François Nicolas. His son Charles Nicolas then focused on the business aspects and managing the Nicolas glass studio. White’s father, Joep Nicolas, first rebelled from the family business, but, after studying philosophy and art history, he found that “painting with light remained irresistible.” Joep married Suzanne, an artist with similar if complementary tastes. Joep was highly successful and his work could be seen not just in churches but in assorted businesses and educational institutions, — “square miles of glass.”  

White and her sister, Sylvia, were born in northern Holland but, with the advent of Hitler, Joep moved his family to the United States. It was here that White and Sylvia learned their father’s skill: “I won’t leave you a fortune, but I will have taught you a profession.” Sylvia continued in the work while White found a career as a writer and art critic, publishing everything from poetry to fiction to biography. After leaving the world of graphic design, Sylvia’s son, Diego Semprun Nicolas, took up the family mantle, completing the five generations.  

Throughout, White paints a clear picture of her family, plentiful in detail and event. She manages to evoke their personalities in quick, vivid strokes. The descriptions are colorful and entertaining, revealing the highs and lows, the conflicts and the triumphs.

In addition, White has wonderful insight into the history of art and the artistic temperament. She discusses her father’s seeing his work in musical terms, a strong and vivid metaphor. She quotes her sister’s approach to art as a whole: “Glass is great … but I need to tell tales, religious tales, but also legends, myths. The iconography is inspiring. Life is like a tapestry. You’re influenced by what you’re exposed to and use what you need.”

The book is beautifully enhanced by the many photos of stained glass. It is a delight to see the evolution of the artists through their works and from generation to generation. As Joep stated: “Whoever has been given the spirit, the will, the talent, let him tackle this art form; glass is a willing substance that God had not for nothing allowed us to discover.” Claire Nicolas White has given us an absorbing glimpse into this world of unusual masterpieces.

Claire Nicolas White is an acclaimed American poet, novelist and translator of Dutch literature. She is the granddaughter-in-law of architect Stanford White. Her sister, Sylvia Nicolas, designed and installed all the stained glass in Sts. Philip and James R.C. Church in St. James.

Meet the author at a Master Class at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook as she discusses her latest book, ‘Five Generations Painting with Light’ on Oct. 23 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The event is free and refreshments will be served. Call 631-689-5888 to reserve a spot.

 

 

 

Forky Crow Scarecrow

TIME TO VOTE!

Once again, it’s time to bring the family down and vote for your favorite spooky, silly, scary six-foot creations adorning the pathways of picturesque Stony Brook Village Center in the annual Scarecrow Competition. This year a record number of almost 40 entries were submitted!   

With creations like Where the Wild Things Are, Captain Recyclica, Chef Alfredo Linguini, Lexie the Barista and, in a nod to “Toy Story 4,” Forky Crow, there will be many to choose from. Voting ballots are available in all shops and restaurants in the Village Center.

Winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded at WMHO’s Halloween Festival on Oct. 31 where adults and kids alike come in their festive costumes and enjoy live music with WALK Radio (accompanied by “Walkie Bear”), trick or treating in the shops, games galore, free mini pumpkins (while supplies last) and the Monster Merlin parade.

For full information on this and other Stony Brook Village events, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.stonybrookvillage.com.

Pictured from left, Chris Graf, Michael Bernstein and Gloria Rocchio (holding original sketch of Memorial Rock) and Judy Greiman

In 1946 Ward Melville designated a plot of land on Main Street, right beyond the Stony Brook Village Center, to honor veterans of foreign wars.  

Michael Bernstein, Interim President, Stony Brook University; Judy Greiman, senior VP, government and community relations/chief deputy to the president at Stony Brook University; Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization; and Chris Graf, owner of Stonegate Landscape recently met at the site to review the results of recent efforts to refurbish the area in preparation for Veterans Day.

 The area has been renovated several times over the years and recently needed additional work.  Graf stepped up to take care of this project, gratis, installing another boulder and new plantings, updating the area to the state it was in when first created in 1946. WMHO, along with Stony Brook University, partnered together and paid for an additional plaque as well as a bluestone marker.

Photos from WMHO

*This article has been updated to reflect Michael Bernstein’s new title.

By Beverly C. Tyler

Many Long Islanders had the opportunity this past Saturday, on a beautiful fall day, to enjoy the stories of four Revolutionary War era women set in four historic buildings in Stony Brook and Setauket that are owned by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization. Titled Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War, the theatrical event presented a charming glimpse into the lives of these women portrayed by costumed professional actors.

Those who attended one of the three scheduled two-hour tours met at the WMHO Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook, received a bag containing program and historical details, WHMO materials and a snack and were directed to board one of four trolleys.

Assigned Bus A for the 11 a.m. tour we were greeted by Nancy Dorney, an active member of the Daughter of the American Revolution who explained the program and answered questions. At each stop we were greeted by another guide who ushered us into the historic building.

Our first stop was the circa 1725 Hawkins-Mount house in Stony Brook. We sat in the parlor and were soon greeted by Ruth Mills Hawkins who told us how difficult it was to raise her children, assist her husband Jonas in running the general store from their home, help cover his activities as a spy for the Culper Spy Ring, and do all of this with British forces in control of Long Island, watching their every move.

Outside the Hawkins-Mount house, WHMO’s Gabrielle Lindau showed tourgoers photos of the paint samples tried out on the walls of the upstairs room where William Sidney Mount worked on many of his paintings.

Next was the circa 1665 Joseph Brewster house where we met his wife Rebecca Mills Brewster, a fiery Irish lass who helped her husband run their tavern and inn while being reviled and insulted by British authorities.

In the circa 1709 Thompson House, we met Phebe Satterly Thompson, wife of Dr. Samuel Thompson, who was quite ill and described her symptoms, her husband’s work as a doctor and how she was dealing with her disease at a time when many of her neighbors were also infected.

Our last stop was the circa 1751 Stony Brook Grist Mill where we enjoyed the byplay between Miles the miller and Katie, an indentured servant from Cork, Ireland, who was living rough after the home she lived in was taken over by British troops. Everyone on our trolley thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant, instructive and well-organized tour, and the weather was delightful.

All photos by Beverly C. Tyler

Stock photo

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host the 5th annual Holistic Nutrition Seminar at its Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Author, biochemist and certified nutritionist Yu-Shiaw Chen will speak about the Recipe for a Healthier You. $45 per person at the door includes a healthy lunch and testimonial sharing. Advance registration is required at www.linutrition.com. For more information, please call 631-751-4267 or 631-697-5572.

See flyer for more information.

5th-Annual-Holistic-Nutrition-Seminar-Sept-28-2019-flyer-1-1

Image courtesy of the WMHO

By Melissa Arnold

Picture this: It’s August of 1776, the air is thick with humidity, and the road we now call Route 25A is made of dirt, not asphalt. Americans secretly loyal to the Patriot cause are traveling on horseback from Setauket to New York City, where Gen. George Washington is stationed. These brave men are on a mission to deliver critical information to help win the Revolutionary War, some of it written in invisible ink.

Image courtesy of the WMHO

We know these stories and many like them from historical literature, but can you recall many stories about the brave women who supported the war effort? On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization invites the community to take a trip back in time to see what it was like to live on Long Island during that time period and explore local treasures with a unique living history event titled Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War.

In the summer of 1776, the British forces were able to take control of the area, radically affecting the lives of local families, especially those Patriots who supported American independence. Many husbands and young men were arrested and enslaved on prison boats in New York Harbor, and boys were forced into service for the British Army. Meanwhile, wives, mothers and daughters were left to protect their children and property alone.

In the Three Villages, four historic properties purchased and lovingly restored by philanthropist Ward Melville will become the center of the action for the Courageous Women living history performances. Guests will travel to each site by trolley and hear stories of struggle, hope and patriotism directly from the women who lived at that time.

The event is the first of its kind in our area and is a labor of love for the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

“This was a group effort that started at a staff meeting more than a year ago,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO. “We felt that women weren’t really focused on in explanations of the Revolutionary War, and since next year is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, we felt it was time to bring [the female perspective] out of the shadows.”

The tour’s mission, made possible by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, is to inspire and educate the public about the contributions of these valiant women while fostering an appreciation of the Three Village region and its cultural heritage.

Using historical literature and oral histories from the Three Village area as a guide, the WMHO has worked to create realistic stories of four women who lived during the war. The organization also relied on the expertise of the Anna Smith Strong Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a lineage-based service organization for women whose ancestors lived during that era.

Tour guests will be greeted by an actor in period dress at each of the historic properties, which are listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. At the Thompson House (circa 1709) in Setauket, visitors will meet Phoebe Thompson, a chronically ill woman and wife of 18th-century physician Dr. Samuel Thompson.

The tour will also feature the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven, the Brewster House (circa 1665), also in Setauket, which operated as a tavern and general store during the war. Rebecca Brewster, wife of Joseph Brewster whose cousin Caleb Brewster was a member of the Culper Spy Ring, will greet visitors. Rebecca helped to run the tavern, which was frequented by British soldiers.

In Stony Brook, the Hawkins Mount House (circa 1725) will host Ruth Mills, wife of Culper spy Jonas Hawkins. Ruth witnessed firsthand the stresses and danger of opposing the British. At the Stony Brook Grist Mill (circa 1751), participants will meet Katie, an indentured servant from Ireland who is working to pay off a debt her family owed to the British government as a Grist Mill “Dusty.”

“We wanted to create an event that was more than just fun and entertaining,” said Gabrielle Lindau, director of development at the WMHO. “How many people realize that the Culper Spy Ring was right in their backyard? It was easy to go back into the historical records and learn a bit more about these women.”

To ensure historical accuracy and high-quality talent, the WMHO hired professional actresses from St. George Living History Productions, a Medford-based living history troupe.

WMHO education director Deborah Boudreau said that the organization believes this event captures the spirit of Ward Melville’s dream to help the community engage with local history in a personal way.

“Ward Melville spoke of history as something that you live with and lives with you,” Boudreau explained. “Visually, the properties bring you back to the 18th century. They give you a sense of what Long Island would have looked like at that time. I’m excited for people to learn about these stories, and for the opportunity we’ve had to imagine what such a defining moment in our country would have meant through the eyes of women. The Revolutionary War planted a seed for the Women’s Rights Movement. It brought visibility to what women are capable of.”

Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War will be held on Sept. 28 (rain date Sept. 29) with trolley tours departing from the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $40 per person and reservations are required. For further information, please call 631-751-2244.

Meet historical figures including Anna Smith Strong, left, and Benjamin Tallmadge at Culper Spy Day
Meet Big Bill the Tory during Culper Spy Day

On Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, the Long Island Museum and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will present a day of spy-related tours and activities for the 5th annual Culper Spy Day.

The event is named for the Culper Spy Ring founded by Benjamin Tallmadge of Setauket, which provided Gen. George Washington with the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution.

A collaboration of more than 40 historical and cultural organizations, from Montauk to Manhattan, will gather in the Three Village area for a day of community events. Participants will have the opportunity to build their own Revolutionary War story and to visit the places where history was made during this self-guided tour. Activities throughout the community will include tours, a Revolutionary War encampment, Colonial cooking demonstrations, musical performances, crafts and more.

Featured events

The Three Village Historical Society will host Anna Smith Strong and her famous clothesline, invisible ink demonstrations, a Spies! exhibit, children’s book signing, Colonial music by the Three Village Chamber Players from noon to 4 p.m., an outdoor gift shop and Tavern on the Field featuring food trucks Eat Me, Drink Me, Fat Boys BBQ Bus and Food Nation Generation.

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook will hold blacksmithing demonstrations in the Samuel West Blacksmith Shop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. LIMarts artists Joseph Rotella and Lori Scarlatos will paint plein air in the carriage shed at the Caroline Church in Setauket from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Meet historical figure Robert Townsend, center, during the event

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will have costumed docents guide visitors through their c. 1709 Thompson House and their c. 1665 Joseph Brewster House. Living historian Diane Schwindt of Stirring Up History will be serving up some tasty and authentic 18th-century treats from America’s past on the front lawn of the Brewster House. A miller will be on hand to demonstrate the workings of the c. 1751 Stony Brook Grist Mill throughout the day.

George Washington’s original letters to members of his spy ring will be on display at the Stony Brook University Library’s Dept. of Special Collections between 10 a.m. and noon.

The Three Village Inn and the Country House Restaurant in Stony Brook will feature a spy lunch for an additional fee. Reservations are required (not included in Spy Day ticket price).

Other Culper Spy Day sites and activities include historical cemetery tours, tea with Big Bill the Tory, viewing of the Vance Locke murals at the Setauket Elementary School and new this year, the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot encampment with musket firing and battle drills on the Village Green for the ultimate Culper Spy Day experience. Build your own Revolutionary War story and see history come to life at this fun-filled event.

If you go:

Tickets, which are $25 adults, $5 children ages 6 to 12, children under the age of 6 and veterans are free, may be purchased online at www.tvhs.org or in person at the Three Village Historical Society at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. Participants will receive a bracelet and a copy of the Culper Spy Day map with all event listings. Tickets are good for admission to participating organizations on Sept. 14. Some organizations include additional dates. 

For more information, please visit www.culperspyday.com.

All photos by Anthony White

Elected officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials have made it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a county property in East Setauket.

At a press conference Aug. 12, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), employees from the county’s parks department and residents were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old  Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking.

Bellone credited Hahn’s persistence for making the trail happen. The legislator secured $100,000 from the county’s 2018 Capital Budget and Program to fund the path. The trail starts at a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, runs around the perimeter of the farm and ends on Trustees Road right before visitors enter the Town of Brookhaven’s West Meadow Beach pathway.

“What a wonderful gem this park is for our community and for the county, and what an incredible addition this is for people,” Bellone said. “You think, well is a path that significant, and the answer is yes. It literally changes the whole environment for people.”

Hahn said she knows that trails such as the Old Field Farm are important to the community, because it allows people to be physically active, while enjoying the outdoors without sharing the road with vehicles. 

The nearly half-mile trail can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“I’m a runner, and I run often on West Meadow Road here,” she said. “There are some blind curves. And, this will also function to get people — walkers, runners, bikers — off the dangerous road and on to our public space. Having people have access to these public places is so important for us as elected officials to make sure that these spaces that we invest in — that we spend money to maintain — that people use them and appreciate them, and this is a way that many more people can take advantage.”

Hahn thanked community leaders for their support, including county parks department employees, Herb Mones of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, Larry Swanson from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Englebright, who secured the land for Suffolk in 1985 when he was a county legislator. She also thanked Sally Lynch, president of Old Field Farm, Ltd., who she called an advocate and steward of the property. Hahn said the nonprofit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years. The funds, in conjunction with county grants, have helped to restore and maintain the historic structures on the property. The farm is also home to horse shows, and the trail will be closed during those shows to avoid spooking the horses.

Old Field Farm consists of 13 acres that adjoin the 88 acres of protected wetlands and overlooks the Long Island Sound and West Meadow Creek. Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville built Old Field Farm in 1931, and it was initially called North Shore Horse Show Grounds. Melville commissioned architect Richard Haviland Smythe to create the equestrian facility, which includes a main barn and courtyard, freestanding stables and a wooden grandstand.

“This property is exquisite, spectacular as you can see,” Hahn said.

Englebright said the property could have been sold to a developer to build a waterfront housing development in 1985. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, who owned it at the time, decided to sell it to the county. The land acquisition was an important one, he said, because it is located right next to West Meadow Beach. The assemblyman described the area as a mosaic of public lands forming a protective encirclement around West Meadow Creek. He called the addition of the trail extraordinary.

“With the access now of this trail, when you add this trail to Trustees Road, you have more than a mile of waterfront-exclusive, non-motorized access,” he said.

In the past, Hahn has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

 

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Volunteers remove a telephone pole from Stony Brook Creek. Photo by Thomas Crawford

Residents and legislators gathering in front of the Hercules Pavilion across from Stony Brook Village Center had more on their minds than shopping the morning of Aug. 6.

Workers cut away at the phragmites along Stony Brook Creek. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, announced at a press conference that Suffolk County awarded the organization a $10,750 grant. The funds will be used for a pilot program to remove 12,000 square feet of phragmites from the shoreline of Stony Brook Creek.

Phragmites, an invasive species plant, has been known to choke many waterways on Long Island. In Stony Brook Creek, the debris caused by the phragmites has created silt buildup, which in turn has caused flooding along the creek.

According to Rocchio, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) secured the grant, and WMHO and Avalon Park & Preserve matched it. The total cost of the project is $21,500.

Rocchio said the problems caused by the phragmites have been going on for years. The town line between Smithtown and Brookhaven goes straight down the creek, and the estuary is owned partially by the two towns, Suffolk County, private residents and not-for-profits, all of which made it challenging to determine who was responsible for it in the past.

WMHO’s president said water goes into and out of the creek twice a day

“There are over 300 acres of land that have runoff on it that empty into this 5-acre creek,” she said.

When the banks of the creek overflow, she said, the water goes into the Stony Brook Grist Mill, which was built in 1751 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Rocchio said the water that continually flows through the mill every day has destroyed lower parts of the structure as well as its mechanisms.

“We can’t lose this beautiful heritage we have here,” Rocchio said.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, center, is given a demonstration of phragmites removal before the Aug. 6 press conference. Photo from Ward Melville Heritage Organization

She added that residents’ yards have also been flooded and one homeowner had to pull up the level of her bulkhead because the water comes in regularly.

The day before the press conference, workers from North Shore Tree & Landscaping and Usher Plant Care began eliminating the phragmites using a hand cutting process, which involves no chemicals or mechanical equipment. Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman, explained the procedure.

“The process includes hand cutting of the stalk in a certain way and coming back in two weeks to do a second cutting,” he said. “It’s usually completed within 21 days, weather permitting.”

In addition to the legislators and residents on hand at the press conference, owners and employees of local businesses including Lessing’s Hospitality Group, People’s United Bank, Stony Brook Marine Services, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals and Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn were in attendance to help remove pilings that floated into the creek and logs from fallen trees to stop further silt buildup.

Michael Lessing, president and chief operating officer of Lessing’s, which owns Stony Brook’s Three Village Inn, said the company’s employees are part of a program called Do Good and have participated in fall beach cleanups at Gilgo Beach, along with other areas on the South Shore. He said when Rocchio heard of their program, she asked for their help to clean up the creek.

“Dan Laffitte and his crew from the Three Village Inn is really what brings us together today,” he said.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) also spoke at the press conference and said the two-part cleanup project was just the beginning.

The Stony Brook Creek Stormwater Mitigation Project, she said, is set to be voted on by the Suffolk County Legislature this month, adding the county’s Water Quality and Land Stewardship Initiative Committee had recommended the project. Suffolk will contribute $251,526 in funding, while the Town of Brookhaven will match the other $251,526.

Cartright said the project would involve four discharge pipes that carry stormwater from the Stony Brook community directly to the creek, which will be disconnected. A new drainage structure will be installed where pipes will lead to bioretention and water quality units. The goal is to minimize the direct discharge of pollutant-laden stormwater in the creek, she said.

“We have taken a number of steps collectively to make sure we save our Stony Brook Creek and our Stony Brook Harbor,” Cartright said. “As we know they are very special and important to our community.”