History

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Clifton “Kip” Lee, who served as Port Jefferson’s mayor from 1965 to 1971, is shown on the village’s Main Street. During his administration, Project Rejuvenation brought a “new look” to Port Jefferson and helped revive the village’s ailing downtown commercial center. Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

By Kenneth Brady

Gene Marvey could not stop thinking about the magazine article that he had just read. The story described how communities across America were reviving their failing business districts by following a simple plan. The same approach, thought Marvey, might succeed in rejuvenating the commercial area of Port Jefferson where he had a store.

“Old Towns Come Alive,” the article that had caught Marvey’s imagination, appeared in the March 1965 issue of the Rotarian and featured the work of Dr. Milton S. Osborne who had revitalized 42 communities in the United States.

Known as the “village restorer,” Osborne showed shop owners easy ways to dress up the facades of their establishments. The face lifting did not involve any structural changes or major expenditures, guaranteed local control over the project and maintained the architectural integrity of the subject area.

Marvey shared Osborne’s ideas with Port Jefferson’s mayor, Clifton “Kip” Lee and the village trustees, who voted unanimously to invite Osborne to Port Jefferson for a consultation and to underwrite the attendant fees.

Osborne’s method was simple: each merchant submitted a photo of his storefront. Osborne then prepared a sketch of the shop’s remodeled façade which served as a guide for the suggested renovations.

For $500 to $1,000 per building, estimated Osborne, a typical Port Jefferson merchant could reface his store by merely replacing shutters, hanging flower boxes, adding wrought iron railings, installing mullions and painting the shop’s exterior in harmonious colors.

The button was used to publicize Project Rejuvenation. The numbers refer to the July 4, 1967 weekend when Port Jefferson staged a summer festival to showcase its “new look.”
Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

These actions, explained Osborne, would preserve and enhance what he deemed was the semi-colonial character of the village. Osborne cautioned, however, that the effort would only succeed if there was cooperation between government and the business community.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically endorsed Osborne’s plan and formed a committee charged with implementing what became known as Project Rejuvenation.

With a target date of July 4, 1967 set for the plan’s completion, work on remodeling Port Jefferson’s storefronts began in earnest. Davis Comfort Corporation, fuel oil dealers on East Broadway, was the first firm to reface its building. Frank Hocker and Son, real estate and insurance agents on Main Street, was the second and Kella’s Steak House, located on Main Street a stone’s throw from the railroad station, was the third.

Opening in 1903, the Port Jefferson railroad station was in need of a face lift. The LIRR embraced the Osborne Plan and renovated the terminal’s stark interior and landscaped its dreary grounds. A sign at the depot celebrated the effort and proclaimed that the modernization of the station would create a “new look” at the “doorway” to the village.

As summer 1967 approached, merchants rushed to dress up their shops by Project Rejuvenation’s rollout on July 4. Along the village’s streets, residents joked they were unable to enter the very stores that were clamoring for customers because their paths were often blocked by the dozens of contractors laboring in Port Jefferson’s commercial center.

With the remodeling finally over, the Chamber reported that about 85% of the village’s shops had renewed their facades. The “unveiling” occurred during the July Fourth Rejuvenation Festival, which featured a parade, soap box derby, fireworks display, and other activities.

Measured by the Chamber’s goal of drawing crowds to Port Jefferson to show off the village’s spruced up shops, the event scored a hit. An estimated 25,000 people visited Port Jefferson during the festival weekend, but aside from its immediate effect, Project Rejuvenation had a lasting impact on the village.

Port Jefferson’s “new look” caught the public eye, put the historic seaport village on the map and sparked Port Jefferson’s commercial renewal by recapturing the tourist market that the village had once enjoyed but had lost to the ravages of time.

Despite this rosy picture, Project Rejuvenation had its detractors. According to critics, the Osborne Plan was to supplement Port Jefferson’s 1965 Master Plan, not became its substitute. Rather than tackling thorny problems that demanded long-range planning, some argued that Port Jefferson went with a short-term solution and kicked the can down the road.

Project Rejuvenation dealt with the village’s shops, not with its waterfront industries. While the Osborne Plan improved Port Jefferson’s storefronts, overburdened trucks still rumbled through the village’s downtown, driving potential customers away.

Although the architecture in Port Jefferson’s business district was eclectic, Project Rejuvenation prescribed an early American style. The results may have been pleasant, but they hardly reflected the village’s history. 

Upper Port Jefferson took a back seat during Project Rejuvenation. While the railroad station and some nearby buildings were refaced, most of the work occurred in the village’s downtown. Even the July Fourth Rejuvenation Festival was geared to lower Port Jefferson.

As with any innovation, the Osborne Plan had its drawbacks, but in recognition of its overall success, in 1968 Project Rejuvenation received the Long Island Association’s coveted Community Betterment Award. In addition, Marvey and Lee were honored in 1967 and 1968, respectively, with the Chamber’s prestigious “Man of the Year Award,” given for their outstanding contributions to the community, particularly their roles in Project Rejuvenation.

Over 50 years since the launch of the Osborne Plan, Port Jefferson remains committed to village improvement, continuing the mission of Project Rejuvenation in the revitalization initiatives of today.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below a courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff. 

Baseball is considered America’s pastime, and no more so than in our own backyards. 

A search of local newspapers shows that baseball was played throughout Long Island at least as early as the 1930s. 

Most town fire departments, the Police Athletic League and many local businesses formed teams for fun and friendly competition. The news from the time was filled with the results of these games. 

A June 1, 1934 article in the Suffolk County News noted that the team representing Centereach Fire Department played a home game against Sayville on Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day), losing a double-header. 

Major support for these games was frequently provided by fundraisers like the dance held on the evening of April 21, 1951 by Centereach’s Tordik-Diederich-Duffield VFW Post 4927. Over 200 people attended to support the backstop fund.

Beyond organized games, popup games would arise. A chance encounter between the team from Centereach and a group of U.S. soldiers who were stationed here for the day was held on the grounds behind Carl’s Tavern. 

The July 26, 1939 edition of The Mid-Island Mail reported that the soldiers defeated Centereach, 6-2.

Carl’s Tavern was located on Middle Country Road in Centereach. In 1939 it was purchased and renamed the Mid Island Tavern, known to locals as the MIT well into the 1908s. It was owned and operated by the Boyle family for over four decades.

In 1940, the Centereach team got off to a great start by defeating Coram 13-1. 

The team consisted of catcher, Lou Corey; first baseman, Bernard Williams; second baseman, Walt Presner; third baseman, Tony Bush; shortstop, Lou Coucinello; leftfielder, Larry Martin; centerfielder, Lou Stohr; rightfielder, Andy Schmidt and Arthur Dhuy. 

The team’s manager was Centereach resident, Arthur Murray, who served as Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent and the purchasing agent for WPA construction materials. 

The date of this picture and the team name are unknown, but it most likely depicts the Centereach Fire Department Team. 

Do you recognize any of the team members? 

If you can identify any of these players, please reach out to the local history team at Middle Country Public Library at [email protected] 

We would love to be able to fill in the blanks!

This article was updated on April 7 to correct misinformation

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Photo from the Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli

It was 156 years ago this month, that after four long years of war, the confederacy was on the brink of destruction. For most of this time, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia operated with far less men and materials to oppose the Union. 

Through decisive leadership, he stymied the union at every turn, invaded Maryland in 1862, Pennsylvania in 1863, and his cavalry operated extremely close to Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1864 — where they were within sight of the capitol building.  The Confederates kept fighting, with the outside hope of securing a peace that would not end slavery or curb their state’s rights.

At the helm of the union leadership was President Abraham Lincoln (R) who continually agonized over the ferocity of the fighting and the extreme losses of all-American soldiers. He desperately wanted to end this carnage, but not until the south was defeated, the northern soldiers continued to fight to preserve the union and end slavery. 

Right up until the election of 1864, Lincoln and his closest allies were concerned that this president was vulnerable to losing to democratic opponent General George B. McClellan, who was also the former commanding general of all northern armies. 

Union citizens were not sure of McClellan’s plan if he won this election, in the type of peace that would be accepted with the south and the fate of slavery.

But the end was near when Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of Lieutenant General and the overall commander of all union forces within March of 1864. 

Grant was the most successful fighting figure within the entire nation, and he was the first person since George Washington to be permanently given this rank. Up until Petersburg and Richmond fell in early April 1865, Grant waged an unrelenting war against the confederacy. 

Grant never wanted to hold territory; his armies were expected to constantly pursue the confederate forces that operated against the Union. From 1864 to 1865, Grant’s strategy of “Total War” brought the confederacy to an end. Although he had taken heavy losses and was called a “Butcher,” Grant’s plans paid heavy dividends against an enemy that was completely unable to match the union strength in men, resources, and money that also caused them to be exhausted from the fighting.  

By the spring of 1865, the confederates were reeling from the warfare in the wilderness and were forced to guard the heavy fortifications that were in front of Petersburg and Richmond. Gen. William T. Sherman took over Atlanta in the summer of 1864, by that Christmas, he took Savannah, and moved up the coastline. 

His men destroyed everything that was in their path and brought the war to the people of South Carolina that widely supported the firing against Fort Sumter in 1861.  At no point were the con-federates able to stop the determination of Sherman that squeezed the southern soldiers through the Carolinas, where he planned to reinforce Grant in Virginia. Both generals and their massive armies expected to fight and defeat Lee.

Grant promoted Gen. “Little Phil” Sheridan to run the Army of Shenandoah Valley. For too long, the massive resources of this part of Virginia were used to feed Lee’s forces. Through the tenacity of Sheridan and his men, he carried out the will of Grant who stated that he did not want a “Crow” to fly over these productive lands. Sheridan vehemently fought Confederate Gen. Jubal Early that wreaked havoc on the Union homes and resources that were near Washington, D.C. and Maryland. 

That December, Virginian Gen. George Thomas who remained loyal to the Union was always seen as a slow figure, but when he finally moved, he hit like a “Sledgehammer.” His command was almost fired by Grant who believed that Thomas waited too long to oppose the confederacy under Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood that threatened the Tennessee city of Nashville.  

Lincoln was concerned about this state being overrun by the confederates and Grant worried that if Thomas did not halt this movement, Hood would push his men toward the Ohio River. Over two days on Dec. 15 and 16, Thomas smashed this southern army that retreated back into Mississippi. As a result of this battle, Thomas demonstrated his decisiveness as a fighting general through his re-solve in soundly defeating Hood. 

By the early spring of 1865, it was Grant’s turn to change the tide of the fighting in Virginia. It was a painfully slow process for Grant to overrun the positions that were well fortified and held by Lee. At this final stage in the war, Grant completely extended his lines in front of Richmond and Petersburg. Lee’s men were still willing to fight, but they were unable to fill in their lines with fresh soldiers, as many men were starving and deserting in large numbers.  

Many of these men understood that the confederacy was on the brink of defeat through the successes of Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas.  With scarce food for the residents of Petersburg and Richmond and Lee unable to secure enough feed for his horses that were to weak to pull artillery pieces, Grant was confident that the end of this conflict was imminent.  

At this stage in the war, Grant invited the president to leave the politics of the capitol, and to visit the union headquartered at City Point, VA.  Lincoln spoke to soldiers, visited the wounded, rode horses with Grant and told stories around nightly fires. Although both men barely personally knew each other, Lincoln’s trust in Grant far surpassed any other general in the union. 

They had a good deal in common, where Grant and Lincoln both lived difficult lives that saw failure, were from the mid-west, and they wanted the quickest way to win this war.  Lincoln appreciated the honesty of Grant, his tenacity to fight Lee, and the battlefield success that Grant achieved that helped the president win his re-election against McClellan.  

After four years of setbacks, Lincoln was on the cusp of victory by one of the strongest armies in American history that the nation ever mobilized.  

After the union victory at Five Forks, Virginia, Grant ordered Sheridan to assault the right flank of Lee, and to operate within the rear of Confederate forces to end this 292-day military siege to take Petersburg. By April 2, 1865, Grant ordered assaults across the entire southern lines that penetrated the defenses of the confederates and made progress towards Petersburg and Richmond. 

In a matter of days, Lee lost 10,000 soldiers that were killed, wounded and captured. As the union moved forward, the valuable railroads from Petersburg were cut off from Richmond. In a matter of moments, the trenches that were firmly held by the confederates, were empty, and in full retreat. As these two notable southern cities were about to be captured, Lee warned Confederate President Jefferson Davis that Richmond would only be held for a couple of hours and that the government had to flee, or it would be taken by Grant.

It was only four years before Richmond fell to Grant that he was a private citizen in Galena, Illinois. Since he left the army under the threat of a court martial due to heavy drinking on duty in 1854, Grant struggled to earn a living for his family. 

Once the war began, he quietly stated that any person that opposed the union was treasonous against the government. While Grant is perhaps the finest general to lead American armies, when the war started, he was refused a commission back into the regular army under McClellan. Illinois Governor Richard Yates presented Grant with the last of four colonel positions to lead a volunteer regiment.  

Quickly, Grant understood that the only way to win this war was to insensately fight the confederates.  He captured enemy armies at Fort Donelson in February 1862, Vicksburg in July 1863, and narrowly missed the destruction of General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga at Thanksgiving of 1863.  

As Lee was a respected general, he never captured any union armies. But Grant captured three confederate armies, the last being at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. 

This unassuming American, that was a farmer, a storekeeper, a seller of firewood, and a veteran of the United States-Mexico War was the most important weapon that Lincoln had at his disposal to preserve the Union and end slavery. 

It was at this moment many years ago that Lincoln received word that Petersburg and Richmond fell and that the Union would be preserved due to the support of Grant and his armies.

Rocky Point students Sean Hamilton and Zachary Gentile helped contributed to
this story.

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This photo by John M. Brown shows what is now the village’s East Main Street and captures the Port Jefferson Hotel on the left. The view is toward the Baptist Church and the intersection with Prospect Street. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

By Kenneth Brady

Two boys are shown sitting on a dock. The west shore of Port Jefferson Harbor is pictured in the background. Photo by John M. Brown. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Amateur photographer John M. Brown recorded life in Port Jefferson, his images conveying what it looked like and felt like to live in the village at the beginning of the 20th century.

Simple cameras, then for sale in Port Jefferson, had democratized photography, once largely the realm of professionals, enabling Brown and other laymen to take pictures of their surroundings.

Brown’s work contributes to our understanding of Port Jefferson’s past, but is unique in offering the unvarnished perspective of a common man, not the stylized view of a commercial photographer.

His straightforward snapshots of the village capture a variety of people, places, objects and events including bathers at the East Beach, Petty’s Confectionery, an American flag and sailboat races, respectively.

Brown’s direct photographs also include views of Port Jefferson’s yacht basin, Methodist Church, post office, ferry Victor, Athena Hall, residents, Parker’s Pond, school, Overton’s Agricultural Implements, and bank, all combining to create a shutterbug’s portrait of the village during the early 1900s.

Opening in 1900, the First National Bank was located on the corner of Main and East Main streets. This image by John M. Brown shows the building without its 1922 addition. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive.

Described in the Port Jefferson Times as “an enthusiastic photographer,” three of Brown’s one-of-a-kind shots of the Aug. 2, 1902 launching of the schooner Martha E. Wallace at the village’s Mather and Wood Shipyard were even made into printed post cards and then sold by local stationers.

Brown was appointed Port Jefferson’s postmaster in 1900 and served in that capacity until 1916. During his tenure, the village’s post office was upgraded to second class and its employees were required to take civil service examinations, a Postal Savings Bank was established, and Parcel Post was introduced. In 1911, the Port Jefferson Post Office opened at its new address, 202 Main Street.

Brown’s house in Port Jefferson, often the subject of his photographs, was moved to 105 Tuthill Street in 1929 from its former location on the northeast corner of Main and Tuthill streets where the New York Telephone Company subsequently built an office on the choice site.

Brown resided at his new address until March 1940, dying there at the age of 86. He was buried in Port Jefferson’s Cedar Hill Cemetery where his wife, Evelyn, had been interred in May 1930.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

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Jefferson’s Townsend House, shown in 1908, was located on the corner of Main and East Main streets. Under the Parking District Plan, the historic building would have been demolished and replaced with Woodard Square. Photo by Arthur S. Greene. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

By Kenneth Brady

Visiting the beautiful downtown Port Jefferson of today, it seems inconceivable that the village’s commercial center of the 1950s was thought to be dead, stagnant and depressing.

Businesses were leaving Port Jefferson and relocating along major highways and at malls, where in contrast to the village, there was adequate parking for customers.

Abandoned by some merchants, Port Jefferson’s shopping section was characterized in local newspapers as ramshackle and dilapidated.

pictures five of the proposed parking lots within the Port Jefferson Parking District. The construction of the squares would have entailed the demolition of historic buildings in the village’s commercial center. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Absentee landlords were lambasted for not razing structures that had been gutted by fire, particularly burnt-out properties along the village’s East Main Street and East Broadway, while indifferent businessmen were faulted for running drab, seedy stores with dirty, unimaginative window displays and dated, limited stock.

Making matters worse, heavy trucks rumbled through downtown Port Jefferson day and night hauling oil, sand, stone, gravel and fly ash from the various industries along the village’s waterfront. According to critics, the lumbering vehicles created noise, dust, spillage  and traffic problems on the streets in Port Jefferson’s business district, driving potential customers away.

In 1957, the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce conducted a study to determine what could be done to revive the village’s ailing retail center and found that 87% of the shoppers surveyed were dissatisfied with parking conditions in Port Jefferson. The report called for enlarging public lots, routing trucks off Main Street, relocating store entrances and other suggestions.

In response to these recommendations, Brookhaven Town appropriated $20,000 in 1960 for a Parking District Committee to study the creation of a Port Jefferson Parking District. In 1961, the committee proposed the establishment of seven parking areas in the village including “Crystal Lake Square” and “Round the Block Square.”

The construction of these lots would have entailed the demolition of historic buildings in Port Jefferson’s downtown business district such as the Townsend House and Aldrich House both of which would have been razed and replaced with the asphalt of “Woodard Square.” 

A public meeting was held at Port Jefferson High School on August 22, 1961 to present the plan and allow villagers to voice their reactions. Over 600 indignant residents attended and expressed their overwhelming opposition to the scheme that they believed would destroy the historic character of the community. 

Many villagers were bothered by what they saw as the patronizing attitude of an “elite” that had decided that urban renewal, condemnation and eminent domain were best for Port Jefferson.  

Residents were also insulted by the contents of a 132-page report that had been prepared for Parking District Committee members only, but had been leaked to the public, and had concluded that 30% of the homes in Port Jefferson were deteriorating, there were slum-like pockets within the village and Port Jefferson’s citizens were poor and aged.

While conceding that improvements were warranted and long overdue, many villagers were miffed that control over parking would have been placed in the hands of a distant Brookhaven Town Board in Patchogue, not the people who actually lived in Port Jefferson.

Brookhaven Town’s unwavering support of the parking plan, even as most villagers emphatically rejected the proposal, sparked the creation of the Port Jefferson Property Owners Association. Organized in September 1961, the civic group soon formed a committee to study incorporation.

Jefferson’s Townsend House, shown in 1908, was located on the corner of Main and East Main streets. Under the Parking District Plan, the historic building would have been demolished and replaced with Woodard Square. Photo by Arthur S. Greene. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The idea of home rule was not new to Port Jefferson. As early as 1895, the Ladies Village Improvement Society of Port Jefferson had called for incorporation, but the parking plan and an indifferent Brookhaven Town Board had prodded villagers into action and awakened a sleeping lion.

On Dec. 7, 1962, by a 2-1 margin, Port Jefferson’s residents voted to incorporate, deciding in favor of local control and the right to govern independent of Brookhaven Town.

The Parking District Plan was dead.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

The Mount House by William Sidney Mount, 1854

By Melissa Arnold

Looking at a painting is like a window to another time — the world is frozen, just as the artist remembers it. But of course, nothing stays the same in real life, and the scenes depicted in paintings will often change as well.

With this in mind, Joshua Ruff of the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook had an interesting idea: What if they tried to return to the scenes in some of the museum’s paintings to see what they look like now?

The Mount House in Stony Brook as it stands today.

The result is Twin Peeks: Scenes Seen Twice, Paintings and Photographs, an exhibit of works from the museum’s permanent collection laid side-by-side with recent photos of their locales. The unique show opens in the Art Museum’s Main Gallery on March 19. 

Pursuing this idea was the beginning of a months-long adventure for Ruff, Deputy Director, Director of Collections and Interpretations at the LIM and curator for the exhibit. After choosing more than 60 paintings to include in the show, including artwork from the museum’s coveted William Sidney Mount collection, he had to figure out what — or where — the artists were painting.

The Mount House by William Sidney Mount, 1854

“Artists didn’t leave behind GPS coordinates for their work,” he joked. “There are so many scenes in our collection that are real places, but it’s not always conveyed in the title exactly where it is. Landscapes can change dramatically. We wanted to try to get as close as we could to the vantage point of the original painting, while thinking about how artists tell a story of place.”

Using maps from the approximate time period of each piece, Google’s street view feature and some research savvy, Ruff set out with his family and a camera to get the job done. It was far from easy, though — some of the locations are now on private property, inaccessible or unidentifiable. Other abstract or impressionist pieces can offer a vague sense of place without the details required to pinpoint it. Still, he did the best he could.

“We have several examples of historical photographs of certain locations, but more than 90 percent of the photographs were speculative on our part. In some cases, we may not ever be able to crack the code of where the actual spot was,” Ruff explained.

In some cases, he had to enlist the help of some friends. The museum’s conservator, Alexander Katlan, lives part-time in New England and was able to take photos to accompany two paintings by William Trost Richards. And some of the staff at the Freeport Memorial Public Library took to the water to find a match for Charles Henry Miller’s 1885 painting, “Freeport Oyster Houses.”

The site of the Setauket Rubber Factory today at the corner of Route 25A and South Jersey Avenue.

“The oyster industry thrived in Freeport in the 1800s, and our library archives include many photographs from that time, so I knew exactly where we needed to go,” said librarian Regina Feeney. 

To get the right angle for the photo, the team would need a boat. They talked with the owner of a Freeport marina in search of a way to get down the Freeport River, and were ultimately connected with bayman Danny Miller. It was a chilly November day when they set sail, but armed with old maps and a sense of humor, they got the job done. The photo was taken by Jason Velarde.

The Setauket Rubber Factory by Edward Lange;

“I really enjoy now-and-then exhibits because it gives people perspective about how things have changed over time,” Feeney said. “We were happy to make a contribution, and it was fun getting out of the building and enjoying some time on the water together. We had quite the adventure.”

The exhibit is evenly divided among geographic areas, with one third focusing on the East End, one third on the middle Island, and one third on Nassau County, New York City and New England. The paintings feature a range of medium as well, from watercolor to oil and acrylic, and span in time from the 1830s through the 1970s.

“Seeing this collection of paintings really drives home the sense of how the area has evolved — some of the subjects, like the Setauket rubber factory, are gone now. Other areas that were quiet and natural are more developed now. I hope it will be enjoyable for people of all ages to reflect on the past and consider what the future will hold,” Ruff said.

In conjunction with Twin Peeks the Victoria Costigan Gallery in the Art Museum will be home to “Artists Abroad,” a mini exhibit focused on travel and foreign landscapes.

The museum’s collection includes a small, yet compelling group of works by artists who traveled abroad between the 1860s and 1960s. American artists have always been drawn to European art and landscapes. They visited museums and copied famous works of art, and roamed cities and the countryside to paint and sketch scenes of daily life and picturesque views. Sketches in ink and watercolor quickly documented form and color, with some becoming inspiration for future works in oil. 

“Generally when we do an exhibit, the focus is on America or on Long Island. But the works in this exhibit were created abroad and don’t get as many opportunities for exhibition,” said curator Jonathan Olly. “You’ll get to see things you wouldn’t usually get to see here, from the Italian countryside to an Azorian mountain or Cannes as seen from the harbor — it shifts the lens to other places and perspectives.”

“Both of these exhibits are about travel in a time where we haven’t really been able to travel — we’re all a little tired of being inside, and this celebrates the joy of going outside and exploring in a safe way,” said Ruff.

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The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook presents Twin Peeks: Scenes Seen Twice, Paintings and Photographs and Artists Abroad when the museum reopens for the season March 19. The exhibits run through Aug. 1. Visitors are also welcome to explore the Carriage Museum; however the History Museum will remain closed. 

Hours are Friday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Physical distancing will be required and masks are mandatory. The LIM follows CDC-prescribed cleaning protocols for all buildings. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 students, children under six free. Tickets are available at the Carriage Museum entrance, credit cards only please; pre-registration is not required. For more information, visit longislandmuseum.org.

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A photo of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington D.C. This month commemorates the anniversary of the battle, which ended in 1945. Photo from the Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli 

By the end of February 1945, the United States made significant progress within its island-hopping campaign to operate closer toward the Japanese mainland. Since 1942, Gen. Douglas MacArthur pursued a movement across the Pacific Ocean that saw Americans land on islands like Guadalcanal and Tarawa, along with the recapture of the Philippines. This fighting was waged against an enemy that refused to surrender and was willing to take heavy losses.

For American military and political leaders, this period was an extremely bloody part of the war. In Europe, the United States began its slow advances into Germany after Hitler’s last-ditch attempt to split the Western Allies through the Battle of the Bulge. For MacArthur and Nimitz, the taking of Iwo Jima presented a harsh dilemma for the Japanese. If the American Navy and Marines took this island, it brought our forces 750 miles from the main Japanese home islands. Now, their soil, people, munitions plants and Emperor Hirohito would be directly assaulted during the latter part of this war.

The taking of Iwo Jima also denied the Japanese the use of airfields for attacks on American B-29 Superfortress bombers. At this time, these bombers did not have the support of American fighter planes to guard against the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero aircraft. A victory on this island, allowed the Army Air Forces a strip of land for its bombers and fighter planes to bring increased pressure against the entire Japanese war effort. 

As the American forces kept pushing forward, the Japanese resistance grew stiffer by kamikaze aircraft that targeted our major naval vessels. The sight of these enemy planes that targeted American ships was a horrifying reminder that the war was far from over.  

Bob Feller was called Ace of the Greatest Generation, and he was stationed on the USS Alabama battleship in the Pacific. This Hall of Fame pitcher and Cy Young Award winner was a called a hero when he returned to the Cleveland Indians in 1946. Recalling the determination of the Japanese, he firmly stated that he was not a hero, but ”a survivor” of combat against this nation. For Feller and the other veterans of World War II, they were constantly targeted by these enemy pilots that sunk some 47 Allied vessels.  

American war machine

Even as the Japanese government sent few reinforcements and supplies to their garrisons, they were left on these islands to fight to the death. The Japanese, unlike the Germans, realized that they were unable to stop the strength of the American war machine. But they understood that our citizens hated losses and the Japanese were determined to increase the blood toll. In battles like Iwo Jima, Japanese officers instructed the necessity of their soldiers to kill at least 10 Americans before they were overrun by our forces.

During the Iwo Jima planning stages, there was a lack of information from the American pilots who were unable to see any major signs of Japanese soldiers on this island. Instead, they observed a rugged terrain of rock and mountains that offered few luxuries for any of its inhabitants. But the Japanese deployed almost 22,000 soldiers to contest any American landing. They operated in the caves, a series of tunnels, and placed heavy guns in well-concealed positions. They gained valuable time in building these lines of defense by delaying the American conquest of the Philippines. 

Before the American military planners assaulted Iwo Jima, they ordered their “frogmen” — or the earliest SEALs — to attack the Japanese in the effort for them to reveal these gun emplacements. In anticipation of heavy resistance, the Marines requested that the Navy should fire at the suspected areas of Japanese fortifications and guns for 10 days. Instead, there were only three days of naval bombing, and this resulted in the later extreme losses for American land forces. A flotilla of about 450 ships laid off the coast of Iwo Jima, where 60,000 Marines and 10,000 Navy and Army personnel were used to capture this small island. On Feb. 19, when the Marines landed with their waves of men and materials, the Japanese barely resisted these early American actions.

Led by veteran Japanese leader Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, it was his intention to allow the landings to reach the shores unopposed. The Americans were permitted to move inland where they would be heavily targeted by Japanese forces. Kuribayashi believed that if his forces created massive American losses, it was expected that our officers would lose their willingness to continue fighting on Iwo Jima. He utilized the steep terrain of the beaches, as the first wave of 8,000 men had to wade ashore through deep beaches. This sand was also difficult for the motorized American vehicles to operate on, as tanks, trucks and jeeps were targeted by Japanese guns.

Opening assault

On the first day of the assault, there were 2,400 casualties that surprised the American military leadership, as these losses were lower than those that were suffered at Tarawa and Saipan. The biggest mistake that the Japanese made on this day was to fire from their positions at Mount Suribachi.  Japanese firing at the tip of the island, proved to be fatal for the enemy, as it allowed the American Navy, fighter planes and ground forces to hit these enemy troops and their guns. On the fourth day of the fighting, photographer Joe Rosenthal captured perhaps the most historic military picture ever taken.  The “flag raising” depiction on the top of Mount Suribachi presented the commitment of the Marines to place the colors of this nation. As Americans were elated by this picture, the dangerous reality for the Marines was that this contest was far from over.  

Unlike other battles that showed the willingness of the Japanese to use banzai assaults against American positions, Kuribayashi discouraged these methods. If large groups of Japanese soldiers went into the open to attack the Marines, they would eventually be killed, and this would only weaken his forces.  While there was some fighting at night, the Japanese stayed close to their tunnels, guns and cover, and this prevented an early victory for the Marines. Our military leadership became increasingly worried about the resistance that the Japanese had showed on the northern part of Iwo Jima. The Japanese used larger mortars which increased losses and the Marines began to utilize napalm against the enemy.  There was a kamikaze assault of the Navy off the island, with the USS Bismarck Sea and the USS Saratoga being targeted by Japanese aircraft.  For both sides, the 36 days of warfare at Iwo Jima proved to be a battle that was bent on total carnage.

Even as American strength was far superior, the Japanese often waited for the sight of the Marines before they opened fire. Gen. Holland McTyeire “Howlin’ Mad” Smith came ashore several times to personally observe the fighting, and he believed that the Marines were in perhaps the worst battle that they had ever experienced. It was estimated that 14 out of 24 Marine infantry battalion commanders were killed or wounded leading their men on the front lines. Mostly through hand-to-hand combat, this was the only way to chip away at the Japanese defenses.  

Severe losses

By March 14, the Marines felt confident that Iwo Jima was taken into possession by American forces.  While the Japanese lost most of their positions, there were still moments that they infiltrated the rear parts of American lines to kill Marines. On both sides, the losses were severe, with the Japanese having more than 20,000 casualties. It was estimated that 30% of Americans were casualties, with most of the damage being done against the infantry.  The losses of this battle never discriminated, as noted combat figure John Basilone, a gunnery sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient, was killed during his earliest moments on Iwo Jima. Every type of Marine fought on this island from the most decorated, to a 16-year-old that experienced some of the hardest warfare. 

Some 76 years ago this month, over 6,000 Marines were killed during an immensely challenging time within the history of this branch of service.

Rocky Point students Chloe Fish, Sean Hamilton, Carolyn Settepani and Madelyn Zarzycki contributed to this article. 

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Athena Hall, now Theatre Three, is shown in 1909 on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street. The building has been remodeled extensively during its 133-year history and used for a variety of purposes. Photograph by Waters, photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

By Kenneth Brady

In an 1873 column appearing in the weekly Long Island Leader, the newspaper’s publishers bemoaned that Port Jefferson lacked a suitable public hall for lectures, exhibitions, shows and parties.

Lamenting that the village did not have a meeting place to accommodate a sizeable audience, the Leader called upon an investor to build a “creditable” hall in Port Jefferson for assemblies and performances.While waiting for a public-spirited person to construct a large hall in the village, its residents got together at some of Port Jefferson’s smaller venues.

Typical of these settings, Lee’s Hall occupied the top floor of John S. Lee’s tin shop on what is now Port Jefferson’s East Broadway. Dances, suppers, cake walks and sociable’s were held in the building.

Bayles Hall, located in rooms above the second Bayles Chandlery on today’s East Broadway, was another popular gathering place. During one evening, the audience enjoyed a play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Though horribly cramped, Henry Hallock’s Hall on Main Street featured vocal groups, magicians and outside speakers.

Athena Hall, now Theatre Three, is shown in 1909 on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street. The building has been remodeled extensively during its 133-year history and used for a variety of purposes. Photograph by Waters, photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Besides these three halls, other meeting places in Port Jefferson were important to the village’s cultural and social life. Tom Thumb performed at Smith’s Hotel, exhibits were displayed at the local schoolhouse and, in a unique use of the space, concerts were held in John R. Mather’s lumber shed.

Port Jefferson’s houses of worship also hosted a variety of events. Swiss bell ringers played at the Baptist Church, minstrels entertained at the Presbyterian Church and temperance lecturers held forth at the Methodist Church.

Villagers continued to get along without a large hall until 1888 when construction on a spacious meeting house finally began. Fifteen years had passed since the Leader claimed that the demand for a public hall was “growing rapidly” in Port Jefferson. What could explain the delay?

The financial Panic of 1873 and its aftermath brought tight money, sluggish sales and hard times to Port Jefferson, perhaps dampening any enthusiasm for the venture.

The cast of the H.M.S. Pinafore is pictured in 1897 on the stage at Port Jefferson’s Athena Hall. Photograph by Arthur S. Greene, photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

As the economy improved, there was renewed interest in the project. L. Beecher Homan, publisher of the Port Jefferson Times, grocer D. Oliver Petty, who’s building also housed the Times, and insurance agent Albert T. Norton were among the investors who financed the hall’s construction. 

Their timing could not have been better. During the 1880s, Port Jefferson began transitioning from a shipbuilding center to a vacationland. With the influx of tourists, businessmen could turn a profit in entertaining visitors on top of the money to be made in satisfying the needs of villagers.

The New Hall, later named Athena Hall, was located on the west side of Main Street and opened on Thursday evening, Sept. 20, 1888, following a parade. The night’s playbill featured local talent.

The public entered the New Hall using a broad staircase leading up to a wide veranda. The frame building, which purportedly could seat 1,000 people, had two levels.

The upper floor included the main hall, a U-shaped balcony, the stage, a space for the orchestra, dressing and property rooms and a committee room. The lower floor contained a coal room and a hot air furnace, pantry, dining room and lower hall.

Remodeled extensively throughout its storied history, what was once Athena Hall has been used as a playhouse, graduation site, movie theater, community center, polling place, machine shop, steam laundry, roller skating rink, radio and television sales store, dance hall and cabaret.

Known today as Theatre Three, the 133-year-old building is a Port Jefferson treasure.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

When talking about Ireland and its culture and symbolism, many different images come to mind. Affectionately known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland is perhaps best known for its bright green hue. Irish flags and even harps are symbolic of the nation, but there is perhaps one symbol that most widely represents the country: the shamrock. 

A shamrock, by definition, is a young sprig of clover. However, plant experts actually have said that shamrocks are a distinct species of the clover plant, believed to be the white clover. The word “shamrock” is derived from the Irish “seamróg,” which translates as “young clover.” Over the centuries, this diminutive plant has come to symbolize Ireland and many things Irish. The shamrock also is a popular symbol of St. Patrick’s Day. 

The shamrock and Irish culture are so intertwined thanks to Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. Legends attest to St. Patrick using the three petals of the shamrock to illustrate the mysteries of the Holy Trinity to the Celtic pagans. Each leaf represented the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The shamrock of Ireland has three leaves, not four as many people believe. The number three had significance in Ireland long before St. Patrick began to convert the masses. According to Blarney.com, the number three was believed to have magical properties and was a recurring theme in Celtic folklore. Because the Celts were familiar with the shamrock, it became easy to convert their knowledge of the shamrock to the magic of the trinity. The three leaves are also said to stand for faith, hope and love. 

The four-leaf clover is a separate entity and a rarity. That is why the fourth leaf is deemed to be “lucky.” But that lucky clover is not the traditional Irish symbol.

Thanks to their connection with Ireland, shamrocks are often gifted by the Prime Minister (Taoiseach) to the President of the United States in the White House each St. Patrick’s Day. They are presented in a special Waterford crystal bowl featuring shamrocks in the design. This practice started in 1952.

Shamrocks also can be seen on Irish clothing designs, the Erin go Bragh flag and the uniforms of several Irish sports teams. Of course they also are seen during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The shamrock and Ireland will always be linked. 

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Courtesy of Middle Country Library

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The pictureS and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Courtesy of Middle Country Library

Clarence “Cad” Dare, pictured here at his post atop the 70-foot Bald Hill Fire Tower, directed forest fire management in the woodlands of Suffolk County and the town of Oyster Bay as Fire Ranger for over 32 years.

A lifelong Selden resident, Dare also served as Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent during the years 1915 through 1920, before accepting the District Forest Ranger position. 

A colorful firefighter, Dare directed every major forest fire in both counties. To detect and locate fires, Dare and associate fire rangers scanned the region through a powerful telescope mounted on a compass base. A telephone on the lookout platform allowed the observer to call any fire in to the nearest Fire War-den.

Courtesy of Middle Country Library

In April 1952, at age 70, Dare was credited with working for over two days straight, extinguishing a forest fire that burned from Holtsville all the way to Selden, requiring the use of 90% of Brookhaven’s fire appa-ratus to subdue it. As the Patchogue Advance reported on Dec. 4, 1952,  Dare was “eating smoke with men half his age keeping at his fingertips a knowledge of what was going on over hundreds of acres of burning trees and scrubs.” 

The value of service to country and community was held in high regard in the Dare family. His father Samuel, a native of Selden, served in Company C, 165th Volunteer Infantry of the Union forces in the Civil War, and before his death, in 1913, he was a town trustee of the Town of Brookhaven.  

Following in his father’s footsteps, Clarence Dare was active in community affairs, serving as vice presi-dent and director of the National Bank of Lake Ronkonkoma, and also as a treasurer and trustee of the Board of Education for the School District of Selden. 

During World War I, he was a member of the New York State National Guard. Additionally, Dare belonged to various fraternal organizations, including the Suwasset Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Patchogue, the Patchogue Commandery of the Knights Templar and the Kismet Temple Shrine of Brooklyn. 

Dare passed away at the age of 70 in 1952 and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Patchogue with his wife, Florence Eugenia Gould, daughter of George E. and Eugenia (Hallock) Gould, both natives of Lake Grove.