by Beverly C. Tyler
April 14 will be the 360th anniversary of the establishment of the town of Brookhaven at Setauket.
From 1 to 6 p.m., the public is invited to view the Vance Locke murals in the Woodhull Auditorium of the Setauket School, Main Street, Setauket. Costumed historians will be available to detail many of the features of the murals. This is the only day of the year that the murals are open to public view.
“In this project, where historical background was so important, a great amount of research had to be done by Vance Locke, so much that the actual painting took up only one-fifth of the time spent on the murals,” local historian William B. Minuse said in 1974.
In 1951, artist Vance Locke painted the series of murals in the Setauket School auditorium to commemorate the opening of the school and the founding of the town. The murals represent the history of the early days of Setauket and Brookhaven. The murals, completed in 1952, were a gift to the community by Ward and Dorothy Melville.
The murals begin with “Setalcott Native American Village” circa 1600. The next mural in time depicts the “Purchase of Land of the Setalcotts” by the agents for the English settlers in 1655. Five mural scenes picture important industries in Brookhaven, including “Colonial Farming,” the “Grist Mill,” the “Blacksmith,” “Shipbuilding” and “Cutting Ice.”
These murals depict the time periods from 1700 to 1900. The remaining five murals represent the Revolutionary War period on Long Island from 1776 to 1780.
Painted more than 60 years ago, Vance Locke’s wonderful murals, now completely restored to their original color and brightness, offer a realistic, visual look back at the history of our community and town.
Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.