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Artifacts

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The Smithtown time capsule sits in the hole it will remain inside for 50 years. Photo by Pat Biancanello

Smithtown’s Sesquarcentennial year, which began on March 3, 2015, has come to a close.

Smithtown concluded its yearlong 350th birthday celebration this past March 3 with the burial of a time capsule on the lawn in front of Patrick R. Vecchio Town Hall.

“I think it surpassed anything that any of the members of the committee might have guessed or hoped for,” Maureen Smilow, of Smithtown 350 Foundation, said in a phone interview. She was one of the members of the foundation, which was responsible for organizing the events over the course of the year.

Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) was also involved with many of the events over the course of the year.

“I think that the public who participated in the events will take a lot out of it because they were living history,” Vecchio said. “For me the last year was a wonderful experience.”

“The gala ball that was held in the midst of basically a blizzard turned out to be a huge success,” Vecchio said when asked which of the events were most memorable for him. The gala dinner-dance was held at Flowerfields in St. James last March.

A time capsule buried in 1965 in front of Town Hall was opened to kick off the celebrations on March 3 a year ago. The Sesquarcentennial year got off to a rocky, yet funny start.

Supervisor Pat Vecchio makes his contribution to the Smithtown time capsule. Photo by Pat Biancanello
Supervisor Pat Vecchio makes his contribution to the Smithtown time capsule. Photo by Pat Biancanello

“The smell was unbelievable,” Smilow said about the moment the half-century-old milk can was opened. “Everyone on stage had to stand back, it was horrendous,” she said laughing.

The can was not properly sealed when it was buried, so over the course of 50 years moisture got in and reeked havoc on the contents, which were arguably not that exciting had they been in mint condition. The milk can contained two hats, a phone book, a local newspaper, a flyer for pageant tickets and an assortment of coins.

Before members of the town board assembled in colonial costumes at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts to open the capsule, they first had to find it.

Members of the parks department searched for the 1965 time capsule in the area they believed it was buried, but after a lengthy search that involved poking a metal rod into the Town Hall lawn, finally it was found. A few days later, it was discovered that the town engineering department, who buried the capsule 50 years ago, had left a map with the precise location.

“That was more humorous than anything else,” town historian and Smithtown 350 Foundation member Brad Harris said in a phone interview. “Had we known there was a map in engineering all that time, we would have saved a great deal of effort and time by the parks department.”

Harris said that he envisions the Smithtown residents who open the 2016 time capsule in 2066 will have a more pleasurable time opening this one, thanks to the efforts of Smilow. They will find a smartphone, baseball cards, menus from town restaurants, letters from community members and Smithtown students, and pieces of memorabilia from the 350th anniversary celebration events, among many other things.

“This time, my good friend Maureen Smilow, really was very careful about how things went in there and how they would be preserved,” Harris said. “We took care so that they would be there for people who open it. We hope they will get a cross section of what the community was like. I think it was a great time capsule.”

Smilow said she ordered a marker for the new stainless-steel, waterproof time capsule. That way it will be both easy to find and preserved in 50 years.

Smilow mentioned the parade that took place on Sept. 26 as one of her favorite events from the year. She said there were more than 2,000 people marching in the parade, which was led by Richard Smith from Nissequogue, who is a direct descendent of the town’s founder Richard Smythe.

Harris said one of his favorite events was the fireworks display that was on the same day as the parade, at Sunken Meadow State Park.

“They were spectacular,” he said.

Some other memorable events included the unveiling of Richard Smythe’s life-size statue in front of the Damianos Realty Group building on Middle Country Road in September and the recognition of Marie Sturm last March, the oldest native-born resident of Smithtown.

Recently appointed Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy, who attended High School East and lived in Smithtown for most of his life, said that he was glad to learn more about the town that he grew up in during the year in an interview Tuesday.

Harris reflected on what the Smithtown 350 Foundation accomplished in executing all of the events, both large and small.

“I just think the year and the celebrations we pulled off over the course of the year made it a memorable one for the members of the community,” he said. “I think they’ve got lasting memories of the Town of Smithtown and some of its history. I hope that’s what sticks.”

Smilow was also proud of how successful the year was.

“It was a great year,” she said. “Everyone was really happy. It was just amazing how we had all of these people from different walks of life, different ages and backgrounds coming together.”