By Wenhao Ma
Port Jefferson history buffs got a sneak peak back in time at an event July 21, which previewed new additions at one of the village’s most historic sites.
The exhibits on display at the historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum were revealed for those in attendance at the special event. The museum contains artifacts, including a handwritten letter legitimizing the involvement of Port Jefferson in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring during the Revolutionary War.
The museum was first opened in 2011, though it was closed shortly after. The reopening of the house in 2015 was tied to the discovery of the letter, which is displayed at the museum and was written in 1780 by Loyalist solider Nehemiah Marks. The July 21 event also debuted the museum’s second floor, which had never previously been safe for occupancy, according to Georgette Grier-Key, village historian and curator of the house. She described the new addition as a “peek-a-boo deck” because visitors of the second floor can see some of the house’s exposed architecture, in addition to more exhibits that demonstrate the house’s history.
“It’s very significant to our shared American history,” Grier-Key said of the museum. “It’s a surviving Revolutionary War structure circa 1755.”
The house belonged to Philips Roe. He and his brother, Nathaniel Roe, according to the letter, were providing intelligence and supplies to Washington’s army.
The house, located today at West Broadway and Barnum Avenue across from Port Jefferson Harbor, has been moved several times during its history. The most recent move took place in 2008 when the house was restored and made into a museum with the help of Robert Sisler, Port Jefferson’s first historian who passed away earlier this month.
“It’s very significant to our shared American history…it’s a surviving Revolutionary War structure circa 1755.” —Georgette Grier-Key
A foundation had to be built under the house to raise it high above the ground because the house is in a floodplain, according to Jim Szakmary, who has been assisting Grier-Key in setting up the museum. Szakmary also said the house is so old that when restoring it they had to use steel rods that went all the way from the roof to the cement foundation to secure it.
Szakmary said private collectors and other museums donated or lent their collections to the Drowned Meadow Cottage museum in advance of the re-opening July 21.
“With the significance of the Culper Spy Ring,” said Mayor Margot Garant, who attended and spoke during the event, “it’s really mind-blowing to actually be standing in the house.”