By Desirée Keegan
Thousands of dollars have made their way to North Shore historical nonprofits, which will help continue to preserve Long Island’s rich history and educate others on it.
The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation funds Long Island’s history-based 501(c)(3)s, museums and universities to help with object conservation, historical preservation, education programs and exhibits. The organization was established in memory of Gardiner’s Island, a part of East Hampton town.
“The foundation grants have become highly completive,” Executive Director Kathryn Curran said. “For this round, the board reviewed 43 applicants that covered every form of historic outreach. Projects included restorations, exhibitions, programs and collection digitization.”
Most recently, local historical societies, Friends of Science East Inc., Suffolk County Historical Society, The Nature Conservancy, 3rd NY Regiment Long Island Companies and Stony Brook Foundation, among others, were the 2016 first round recipients.
Joseph Attonito, chairman of the board of directors, said there were many great groups to choose from.
“It is very gratifying to have so many worthwhile organizations overseeing our local heritage and preserving our history,” he said. “Bob Gardiner would be very pleased.”
Rocky Point Historical Society received $7,500 for restoration use and, according to historical society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel, the funds are being used for repairs and restoration of The Noah Hallock House, built in 1721.
“We feel very privileged to have the foundation choose us for that grant,” she said. “It is important to keep this historic house in good shape. We would’ve had a hard time fundraising that money.”
According to Stiefel, the house, which holds tours on Saturdays between 1 and 3 p.m., was the birthplace of revolutionary soldiers, and had the possibility of being torn down several years ago before Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, stepped in to help.
“We still have staircases that the servants and slaves used,” Stiefel said. “It’s filled with artifacts and photographs from the 18th and 19th century, and there’s even a 20th century room dedicated to the radio history of Rocky Point.”
The Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy received $16,354.09 for it’s annual Heritage Weekend festivities.
According to Nicole Christian, a consultant for grant writing for Port Jefferson Village, about 50 percent of the funding from the weekend came from the grant.
“The larger, more impactful exhibits and reenactments that would have lasting public benefit, that’s what they supported,” she said.
“We made sure that we tailored a lot of the activities that you see with the cars and the beach scene — we made sure that it all weaves together to celebrate the history of Long Island, particularly the 18th century.”
All 19 locations around the village that hosted the event covered a particular time period in Long Island’s history. According to Christian, the funding helped Port Jefferson be able to create a larger and grander event than would have originally been possible.
“We had all levels of recreational activities here,” she said. “We’re hoping that [visitors took] away a greater appreciation for Long Island’s role in 18th century history, the colonial period, the Revolutionary War, a recreational pastime. People don’t know that [Port Jefferson was] a magnet of recreation for all families.”
The Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson also received grant money, totaling $22,000 for restoration purposes.
The 3rd NY Regiment Long Island Companies was awarded $12,000 to substitute payment customarily made by collaborators, host sites and venues during the campaign season, allowing those organization to apply those resources to other priorities associated with their missions. The Regiment partakes in re-enactments to educate Long Islanders on the Revolutionary War.
“They are quite an extraordinary group of volunteers who perform a vital role in helping our county’s residents and visitors get a very personal education about colonial life and the role Long Island played in the Revolutionary War,” Richard Barons, the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society, said.
The Smithtown 350 Foundation received a $5,000 grant toward anniversary events, as the town celebrated its 350th anniversary this year. The Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park Preservation Society in Nesconset received $100,000 for restoration and preservation purposes.
The Huntington Historical Society received a $12,728 grant that Executive Director Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano said will be used to purchase new technology products and technical support.
“With the new technology and updated software that [the] funding will provide for, the society can continue to stay relevant in the 21st century,” Fortunato-Napolitano said in an email. “We will be able to stay better connected with our members and donors, while increasing the number of people who we can help with their research… [It] will lead directly to the growth of the organization as the goal is for the society to successfully engage more members of the public and the community. For small not-for-profits like ours with a limited budget, vital technology updates is often an item that can seem too costly to afford.”
The Old First Presbyterian Church in Huntington received $50,000 for restoration and conservation of the steeple.
The Ward Melville Heritage Organization was awarded $22,500 for an educational program called Distance Learning.
According to Gloria Rocchio, president of the organization, an instructor will give a lesson, in say, the Bewster House, and it would be filmed and broadcasted onto the Distance Learning website.
“People from around the world could learn about the rich history we have here,” she said. “We already have the cameras installed in the Thompson House and the Brewster House, and we’re developing programs for them. Once program should be ready this fall, and the other should be ready next spring. It’s very exciting.”
Friends of Science East Inc., more commonly known as Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, received $17,500 for capacity-building technology and $3,800 for collections care.
According to board of directors President Jane Alcorn, the funding will be used to survey the property, especially the lab building and power base, to study its historic nature — identify which parts are historic, have architectural drawings done, and figure out which parts are critical to preserve and protect, and how to do it.
“The funding will help as we continue to protect the site as we work toward getting it on the National Register of Historic Places,” Alcorn said. “We know the history of the project is historic. It has significance because of Tesla’s work there — it’s a scientific site. Its architectural origins, in inspiration of Stanford White, an important architect at his time, [are also significant].”
Alcorn said that every dollar is significant, as the nonprofit looks toward the future of turning part of the site into a museum — and the funding makes the creation of a museum more exciting, if the organization can get the property on the national list.
“We believe in preserving and making the best possible choice in how we use that space,” she said. “Having the grant enables us to develop ideas that bring together the past and the future. We have far more fundraising to do moving forward, so the contribution really helps us realize and achieve the steps necessary to move forward. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation has been magnificent, and we applaud their foresight into giving to organizations such as ours, who want to preserve the best of the past.”
Victoria Espinoza and Alex Petroski contributed reporting.