Holidays

The George Washington portrait. Image from Vanderbilt Museum

CENTERPORT: The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is displaying two artifacts in honor of Presidents Day, Feb. 17 – an oil portrait of George Washington and a letter to the mayor of New York City from Abraham Lincoln. The pieces are on view in the main hallway of the Vanderbilt Museum Nursery Wing through the end of February.

President Lincoln wrote the letter to Fernando Wood, then mayor of New York City, just after the start of the Civil War on May 4, 1861. Wood (1812-1881), who built a successful shipping enterprise in New York City, served several terms in Congress and was mayor of New York for two terms, 1854-58 and 1860-62.

The letter was in response to a letter Wood wrote to Lincoln shortly after the Fort Sumter attack, offering him whatever military services he, as mayor, could provide. Lincoln’s reply to Wood was in gratitude for his offer of assistance.

The Vanderbilt Museum Curatorial Department has no record of how this letter came to be in William Vanderbilt II’s possession. Originally, it may have been the property of his great-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was an acquaintance of Wood, and could have been passed down through the Vanderbilt family.

The Vanderbilt’s framed oil portrait of George Washington, though unsigned and undated, was believed to have been painted by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), widely considered one of America’s foremost portrait artists. 

Stuart produced portraits of more than 1,000 people, including the first six presidents of the United States. He painted a number of Washington portraits. The most celebrated is known as the “Lansdowne” portrait (1796), and one large-scale version of it hangs in the East Room of the White House. 

Stuart’s best-known work is an unfinished portrait of Washington begun in 1796 and sometimes called “The Athenaeum.” This image of Washington’s head and shoulders is a familiar one to Americans — it has appeared for more than a century on the U.S. one-dollar bill.

The Vanderbilt’s Washington portrait, found in the basement of the Suffolk County Welfare Department Home in Yaphank, was restored and presented to the Vanderbilt Museum in 1951. While the artist did not sign the work, a specialist reported that year that the painting was an authentic Gilbert Stuart.

In 1981, however, two curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art studied the portrait and advised the board of trustees that the work was not created by Stuart. As a result, the portrait, oil on panel and measuring 21.25 by 33.5 inches, is described in the archival records as “After Gilbert Stuart.” The curators’ closest estimate was that the painting was made sometime in the 1800s.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Winter hours for the museum, mansion and grounds are Saturdays and Sundays from 11:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m. with special winter recess hours from Feb. 17 to 21 from 11:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photo courtesy of WMHO

Here are some fun and educational ways for your kids to enjoy winter break:

Benner’s Farm

Ever wonder what it’s like to be on a real working farm in the winter? Kids ages 7 to 14 can enjoy winter break at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, E. Setauket on Feb. 17 and 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn how to make maple syrup, help care for the animals and more. Snacks provided. Bring lunch. $60 per day, $100 for both days. To register, call 631-689-8172 or visit www.bennersfarm.com.

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, 1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor will hold several winter break events from Feb. 17 to 21 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Make snow that won’t melt, make homemade ice cream and create slippery, sticky slime. Admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors, $5 kids ages 3 to 12. Call 516-692-6768.

Huntington Historical Society

Kids in grades 1 to 6 can join the Huntington Historical Society at the Conklin Barn, 2 High St., Huntington for a variety of hands-on history activities, including learning traditional weaving techniques and Presidents Day-themed crafts, games and activities on Feb. 17 and 18 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Campers will go home with a piece of their very own hand-woven fabric. Fee is $35 per day. Call 631-427-7045.

Smithtown Historical Society 

Enjoy February break with the Smithtown Historical Society,  239 E. Main St., Smithtown from Feb. 18 to 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Enjoy a different theme each day including Kaleidoscope Fun, Mid Week Mardi Gras, Snow Day and National Biscuit Day. Fee is $30 per day. To register, call 631-265-6768.

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

From Feb. 17 to 20 from 10 a.m. to noon children in grades K through 3 can take part in several workshops at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Learning Center, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. Participants will take tours of the museum’s collections and then create a related craft including an owl diorama, animal portrait and a mixed-media deep-sea collage. $20 per child. To register, call 631-843-5539.

Ward Melville Heritage Organization

On Feb. 18 to 20 from 10 to 11:30 a.m., the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook hosts a Puppet Making workshop for ages 6 to 11 with acclaimed artist Liz Joyce ($100 for all three days) and Music Mornings with Johnny Cuomo for ages 3 to 5 ($85 for all three days, $30 per day). To register, call 631-751-2244.

Stock photo

By Heidi Sutton

Chocolate, roses, heart-shaped notes — what’s not to like about Valentine’s Day? This sweet celebration, which happens every year on February 14, is all about spreading the love. Still don’t have plans for this special day? Check out these 14 events happening right in our own backyard.

1. Paint Night at Muse 

Muse Paintbar, 134 Main St., Harbor Square Mall, Port Jefferson will host a Paint Night from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Painting of the night will be ‘Lover’s Notch.’ $35 per person. Call 631-938-7800 to reserve your spot.

2. Williams Honor in concert

Join the Northport Arts Coalition for its Starlight Coffeehouse concert featuring Williams Honor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 270 Main St., Northport at 7:30 p.m. Comprised of singer/songwriter Reagan Richards and songwriter/producer Gordon Brown, the group is the Jersey Shore’s first ever country duo. Doors open and open mic sign up is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance at www.northportarts.org, $20 at the door.

3. Beatles love songs

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown welcomes The Cast of Beatlemania in concert at 8 p.m. Enjoy the most famous love songs written by the Beatles. Bring a date for this beautiful Valentine’s Day performance. Tickets are $50. Call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org to order.

4. An evening of jazz

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook presents “Here’s to the Ladies!” featuring The Jazz Loft All Stars, with Ray Anderson, on trombone; Tom Manuel on cornet/vocals; Peter Coco on bass; Steve Salerno on guitar; and Chris Smith on drums. Two performances will be held – one at 6 p.m. and another at 8:30 p.m. The venue will supply the live jazz music, champagne and chocolate. You supply the romance. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, and $30 for students. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Photo from CAC

5. ‘Casablanca’ at the CAC

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington invites all lovebirds and lonelyhearts to spend Valentine’s Day with them revisiting a classic, “Casablanca,” at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person, $15 members and includes a reception with champagne and chocolate-covered sweets. Call 631-423-7610 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org to order.

6. WinterTide concert 

The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson presents a groovy Valentine’s Day concert with the Grand Folk Railroad from 7:30 to 9 p.m. as part of its WinterTide series. Free. Questions? Call 473-5220 or visit www.gpjac.org.

7. Grounds and Sounds concert

Grounds and Sounds Cafe, UUFSB, 380 Nicolls Road, East Setauket hosts a concert featuring Martin Swinger at 8 p.m. With a three octave vocal range and a talent for writing award-winning songs, Swinger is a veteran of 40 years of performing award-winning original songs, traditional and contemporary Americana music as well as swing and jazz standards. Tickets are $15 per person, available in advance at www.groundsandsounds.org or at the door. For more information, call 631-751-0297.

8. An evening with Sal ‘The Voice’

The Suffolk Theater, 118 E. Main St., Riverhead presents an evening of wine, song, and the flawless vocals of Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti at 8 p.m. Influenced by the classic crooner sounds of Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, Valentinetti took the nation by storm on America’s Got Talent. Tickets are $65 per person. To order, call 727-4343 or visit www.suffolktheater.com.

Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

9. ‘Million Dollar Quartet’

Catch the 8 p.m. performance of “Million Dollar Quartet” at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. The popular show, now extended to March 8, features a treasure trove of hits from Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley including  “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Walk The Line,” “Hound Dog,” “Who Do You Love?” and “Great Balls of Fire.” Tickets are $75 per person. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

10. Valentine Challenge 

Harmony Vineyards, 169 Harborview Road, Head of the Harbor presents a Valentine Challenge at 8 p.m. Lovers, friends and wine drinkers are invited to join them for a fun night of trivia, charades, puzzles and a whole lot more! No more than 4 to a group. Winners will receive a bottle of wine and a gift card. Photo booth and surprises! Free admission. Email Nita@harmonyvineyards.com or call 631-291-9900 to sign up!

11. HeARTS for ART

Fall in love with art at the HeARTS for ART Valentine’s Day event at the Heckscher Museum, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick up a heart and explore the art in the Museum. Fall in love with a piece of art! If you like, decorate your heart however you wish — write your name, the name of the artwork or artist, or describe what made you fall in love. Snap a photo of your heart placed beneath your artwork crush, post it to your favorite social media site, and make sure to tag with #heckschermuseum and #heartsforart. The Museum will repost select photos on social media! Free with museum admission. Call 631-351-3250.

12. Comedy with Ron White

Comedian Ron “Tater Salad” White, who first rose to fame as the cigar-smoking, scotch-drinking funnyman from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour phenomenon, heads to the Paramount, 370 New York Huntington at 7 p.m. Over the past 15 years, White has been one of the top grossing stand up comedians on tour in the country. For ticket information, call 631-673-7300 or visit www.paramountny.com.

13. Valentine dinner dance

Time to put on your dancing shoes! East Wind Long Island, 5720 Route 25A, Wading River presents a Be My Valentine Dinner Dance in the Grand Ballroom from 7 to 11 p.m. Enjoy a four hour premium open bar, live DJ music and a four course dinner including heart shaped ravioli and surf and turf. $69.95 per person for table for two seating. For reservations, call 631-929-6585.

14. Tribute to Buddy Holly 

The Bellport Playhouse, 215 S. Country Road,  Bellport presents “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” at 8 p.m. featuring over 20 of buddy holly’s greatest hits including “That’ll Be The Day,” ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Everyday’, ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘Rave On’ and ‘Raining In My Heart’, plus Ritchie Valens’ ‘La Bamba’ and the Big Bopper’s ‘Chantilly Lace’. For tickets, call 631-286-1133 or visit www.thegateway.org.

 

A crowd of several hundred spectators booed and groaned as Suffolk County’s most famous weatherman’s prognostication was read at the Holtsville Ecology Site on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. At 7:25 a.m., Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley announced Holtsville Hal, the groundhog, had seen his shadow when he awoke Sunday morning, meaning six more weeks of winter for residents in the Town of Brookhaven.

While Nassau County’s fellow woodchuck, Malverne Mel, agreed with Hal, neither Staten Island Chuck, upstate’s Dunkirk Dave or Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, saw their shadows.

According to the peculiar Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow after emerging from his burrow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring should arrive early. 

Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro, who was not able to attend the event this year, issued a statement on Monday. “I’m always hopeful Holtsville Hal will not see his shadow and assist with my snow removal budget,” he said. “However, if Hal’s prediction proves to be correct, the Brookhaven Highway Department remains ready to handle whatever Mother Nature decides to send our way.”

After the event, festivalgoers were treated to bagels and hot chocolate and were able to visit the 100 animals that call the Ecology Site home including deer, horses, goats, llamas, hawks, a black bear and buffalo.

“I want to thank everyone who took the time to come out and take part in this fun, annual tradition, including Councilman Neil Foley, who was the honorary Mayor for the Day, as well as the Holtsville Fire Department, 7-Eleven, Bagel Lovers, WBLI and Max 103.1 FM,” said Losquadro.

All photos by Kristen D’Andrea/ Town of Brookhaven Highway Dept.

The Harmonic Tides Quartet. Photo by Chris Beattie

They’re back! Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Harbormen, the local choral group affiliated with the national Barbershop Harmony Society, will be available in groups of four to sing in homes, offices, restaurants, hospitals, schools and more for the romantically inclined.

“A great home video memory,” as one satisfied customer said, not to mention a good Instagram story with each quartet in bright red blazers and bowties.

Love songs have great histories and each has its own way of getting to the heart. Some evoke longing, others celebrate the object of affection. “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” one of the songs that the Harbormen quartets sing to Valentines, was written in 1910 by Leo Friedman and Beth Slater Whitson. It went on to be recorded by Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Pat Boone and was sung every year for decades by Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard on Mother’s Day. Bette Midler sang the song in “The Rose” and Shirley McLaine sang it in “Downton Abbey.”  It even ended up on the recent TV hit, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

Quartet members include scientists, salesmen, engineers, an air traffic controller, a chef, author and policeman, among others.

Fred Conway, a retired math teacher with the group since 1966, has sung in all kinds of situations.  “I remember showing up at an overcrowded bowling alley to deliver our songs to a bowler, and trudging through eight inches of snow to sing to a secretary and her audience of fifty amused colleagues.”

Herb Mordkoff, another member, remembers being hired to sing with his quartet to a waitress in a diner near MacArthur Airport one year, then being hired to return when her husband proposed. “Not a dry eye in the whole diner,” he said. A year and a half later, his quartet was singing for the couples’ child’s first birthday party.  

The package for $75 includes two songs, a box of chocolates, personalized card and a signature rose.  To book a quartet for a singing Valentine or any occasion, call 631-644-0129 or email music@harbormen.org. A portion of the proceeds go to the Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson.

GIVING BACK

During the holiday season, Suffolk Federal joined forces with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island and raised $5,932 for their Holidays for Kids Sake program. “Giving back and enriching our local communities is both a mission and a passion for Suffolk Federal,” said Ralph D. Spencer Jr., Suffolk Federal president and CEO. Pictured above, from left, Keith Miller, executive vice president and CLO at Suffolk Federal and BBBSLI president’s council member with Mark Cox, chief executive officer, BBBSLI. 

Photo from Suffolk Federal

Photo by Maryann Zakshevsky

Surprise your Valentine with a romantic dinner at an elegant mansion where luminaries from the 1920s and ’30s dined with members of one of America’s most famous and powerful families. 

On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport hosts its annual Valentine Dinner at Eagle’s Nest, the historic waterfront estate of Rosamond and William K. Vanderbilt II, one of the most glamorous and romantic settings on Long Island.

The estate and its beautiful, early 20th-century Spanish Revival mansion are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The estate is the home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

 This popular event offers limited seatings of 50 at 6 and 8 p.m.

The evening begins with hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer in the Memorial Wing of the mansion. After a brief tour of the living quarters, dinner will be served in the Northport Porch. Dessert and coffee will follow in the Lancaster Room and Moroccan Court, adjacent to the Vanderbilt Library. 

Choice of entrees include prime rib, chicken with Madeira sauce, stuffed sole with spinach and feta in a tomato dill sauce and heart-shaped cheese ravioli with vodka sauce.

The evening is a rare opportunity to enjoy an intimate dining experience with a spouse, partner or special friend and to celebrate in Gold Coast style. Seating at this exclusive event is very limited and sells out quickly. Tickets are $150 per person, $135 members. Reservations are online only at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Proceeds from this special evening will benefit STEAM education programs. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

 

 

 

 

Teens from The Chai Center’s CTeen chapter in Dix Hills (CTEEN West Suffolk County) spent the holiday season giving back by collecting toys and wrapping them to be donated to children facing serious medical issues through the organization Chai Lifeline.

 CTeen, the fastest growing Jewish teen network in the world, inspires and facilitates teens who want to give back to their community and environment. Chai Lifeline is a preeminent international health support network for seriously ill children, their families, and communities

Photos from The Chai Center

 

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By Beverly C. Tyler

The first Christmas card was designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole of England, later Sir Henry Cole. Cole was the organizer and first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London The card was printed in London by a method called lithography and was hand colored by a professional “colourer” named Mason. It was sent in 1843.

It was the custom at the time to send letters to relatives and friends at Christmas. Cole’s cards were to take the place of the letters that he would have to write to his large number of friends and family. A total of about 1,000 of these cards were printed.

Christmas cards were becoming popular in the United States by the 1870s, and by the 1880s they were being printed in the millions, and were no longer being hand colored. Christmas cards during the late 1800s came in all shapes and sizes and were made with silk, satin, brocade and plush, as well as with lace and embroidery surrounding the printed card. These cards were just as varied as those we have today and included religious themes, landscapes from every season, animals, the traditional Father Christmas, children and humor. The cards were very colorful and usually included some verse in addition to the greeting. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, humor was a favorite theme for postcards and Christmas postcards were no exception.

A modern take on a Christmas card poem:

GOD’S PROCLAIMING STAR

Three wise men from the east came following

God’s proclaiming star

It led unerring to the presence of our Lord

God’s proclaiming star

It brought God’s message of peace on earth

God’s proclaiming star

and showed the world God’s promise

God’s proclaiming star

that through God’s son our sins are forgiven

God’s proclaiming star

and introduced us to God’s first GPS

God’s proclaiming star

Poem by Beverly Tyler

Christmas cards were eventually sent through the mail as postcards. The lower price of postage — one cent for a postcard — was one of the reasons for the popularity of the postcard-greeting card. The postcard was most popular during the years between 1895 and 1914, when the craze for collecting cards was at its height. The beginning of the use of postcards probably goes back to the influence of the trade card, used to promote business and trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the visiting card, which included the sender’s name prominently added to the card, and was used to send a greeting.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, the collecting of picture postcards was the most popular hobby in the world. In the United States there were more than a half a million postcards mailed each year leading up to World War I. Many of these cards were postmarked at both the senders and the recipients post office. One postcard was postmarked Dec. 23, 1907, at 6 p.m. in Putnam, New York, and in East Setauket Dec. 24 (no time listed).

Beverly C. Tyler is a 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.