By Beverly C. Tyler
Holiday shopping at the local stores that help give our historic communities a sense of place just makes good sense. The upcoming Christmas and winter holidays are also good times to purchase a few of the wonderful gifts and books about the local area and to pay a relaxing visit to a few local not-for-profit shops that deserve our special support.
Three Village Historical Society Museum & Gift Shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket
The Society’s gift shop was expanded to complement the exhibit “SPIES! How a Group of Long Island Patriots Helped George Washington Win the Revolution.” There you will find gifts including many books, booklets and pamphlets on local history.
A new addition this year is “General Washington’s Commando: Benjamin Tallmadge in the Revolutionary War” by Richard F. Welch. I already knew a lot about Tallmadge but I couldn’t put Welch’s book down. It’s well researched, well organized and interesting. Other books of note include “Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring” by Alexander Rose. Rose is the consultant for the AMC series “TURN,” which is a dramatization of the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring.
“Upon Secrecy” by Selene Castrovilla is an engaging book that will delight both children and adults. Castrovilla’s writing brings the Revolutionary War to life as it carries us into the actions of the Long Island-based Culper spy operation. This story will keep you on the edge of your chair as the spy letters move from Manhattan to Setauket and across Long Island Sound to Washington’s headquarters.
“Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette” by Selene Castrovilla is a delightfully illustrated book that brings to life the relationship between Washington and Lafayette. Lafayette’s own words, inset throughout the book, are a real delight and add to an understanding of the Marquis’s relationship to both Washington and America. At the back of the book are time lines for Lafayette and Washington plus places to visit connected with Lafayette and Washington and details on Lafayette’s Legacy in America. Everyone of every age should read this moving account of a real American treasure.
The gift shop is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the gift shop and exhibits are open every Sundays from 1-4 p.m. (Closed Dec. 27 and Jan. 3)
Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket
The Gallery is diagonally across the street from the historical society. It is very easy to park at one and walk across the street to the other. The entire Gallery is a gift shop with many wonderful paintings and gift pieces by local artists for sale. The current exhibit is “Deck the Halls.” Local artists and artisans have created beautiful paintings, drawings, ceramic and sculpture works, each piece being less than 20 by 20 inches and set at affordable prices that are perfect for gift giving. Gallery North also is showcasing a diverse range of Long Island art. Gallery North current exhibit is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 23. Call 631-751-2676 for more information.
Long Island Museum, 1200 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook
The museum has a small gift shop in the History Museum, which has some wonderful books, and other items you probably won’t find anywhere else. Stop in for a visit and be sure to take in their current exhibits as well. In the Main Gallery of the History Museum is the exhibit “One Square Foot” featuring the works of LIMarts members in a variety of media and themes. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sundays through Dec. 20.
St. James General Store, 516 Moriches Road, St. James
This “old-fashioned” general store, not technically a not-for-profit, is run for the benefit of Suffolk County residents through the County Parks, as a part of Historical Services. There are two floors of 19th and 20th century goods, and lots of homemade goodies. They have an extensive collection of old-style candies; many date back to the 19th century. Be sure to also try one of their delicious molasses pops. On the second floor are books on Long Island covering many local communities, as well as lots of wonderful children’s books. This is now one good, close independent bookstore. The back room has an extensive collection of ornaments, some of which are reproductions of antique decorations. Back on the first floor there is a large selection of toys, dolls and games for children that also harken back to the 19th century. The St. James General Store is open every day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (631) 854-3740.
There are lots of unusual gifts at these three gift shops. If you are buying a gift for someone, you will almost certainly find something to suit every taste. There are many other wonderful local shops in Stony Brook Village Shopping Center, in Setauket and in the Village of Port Jefferson. A special one in Port Jefferson is Secret Garden Tea Room on Main Street. Have a cup of tea, maybe a scone and jam or a delicious lunch and look over their selection of gifts. Finding a special or unusual gift is not only a good idea, it supports our local businesses and brings us closer together as a community. And you never know who you will run into by shopping locally.
Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.