Tags Posts tagged with "Culper Spy"

Culper Spy

The Drowned Meadow House was once home to a family of Culper Spies during the Revolutionary War making it a local historical structure. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Village of Port Jefferson is looking to turn the Drowned Meadow House into a museum.

Located on the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, the small, gray-colored structure is a piece of Port Jefferson history that many say needs to be recognized.

“This building is a surviving Revolutionary War structure, and we feel that alone is absolutely fabulous,” said Georgette Grier-Key, historian and consultant to the project, during the Jan. 18 Board of Trustees meeting. “But we also cannot negate the fact that the historical landscape, and the cultural resources of the village is very unique and rare.”

Grier-Key went on to speak about the history of the Roe family, along with the other Roe structures and places in the village that had a significant impact on American history — particularly the American Revolution.

The Revolutionary War-era Roe House, now known as the Drowned Meadow House, was originally constructed circa 1760. Phillips Roe, a member of the Culper Spy Ring, was known to have lived there. 

During the virtual presentation, the historian broke down what the plan is to make the house an official museum, along with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit certification.

“The reason that museums are important is because they are incorporated under education law,” she said. “So, we are an extension of the education system, we have that charge, and it allows us to do things very differently.”

Mayor Margot Garant noted that the cottage is the sister building to the current chamber of commerce building. Brothers Nathaniel and Phillips Roe owned the properties in the 18th century.

With the help of village historian, the late Robert Sisler, both structures were saved as they were known to be special. Eventually, in 2013, a letter was found that verified the brothers were in fact part of the Culper Spy Ring — a local network of spies active during the Revolutionary War organized by Major Benjamin Tallmadge and Gen. George Washington during the British occupation of New York City.

“That letter, known as the ‘Letter of Significance’ comments about the brothers Roe, and how the spy ring intelligence is coming directly from them,” Garant said. “The letter confirms the village’s history and bring us front and center to Washington’s Culper Spy Ring.”

Grier-Key added that people have come from all over the world to look at these letters.

“As we continue to move the building forward in a fashion that is self-contained, and proves it can handle itself as a museum, we foresee a strong educational future,” Grier-Key said.

She added that over the years, the community locally and at large have accepted the building and love it. Collections have been compiled, too, of what Phillips Roe’s life would have looked like during that time, thanks to dozens of donations of various valuable artifacts. 

Showcases of what clothing looked like, thanks to the late Nan Guzzetta and her collection, would be another exhibit the museum would host.

Mark Sternberg, another local historian working on the project, disclosed that many documents and further proof that the brothers were instrumental in the spy ring, and the war, have been discovered as recently as this summer and would be part of the first exhibit at the museum.

“We’re continuing to uncover documents to put the structure in the middle of the George Washington’s Spy Ring,” said historian Chris Ryon. “Now everybody knows Port Jefferson as a shipbuilding community, but it’s more than that — it’s a nation building community.”

Grier-Key added that the plan to gain museum distinction of the cottage is a continuous five-year plan. 

“2026 is a very important year for us and for our country, that we have the 250th anniversary celebration of the American Revolution,” she said, adding that the museum could help bring business Down Port by shopping and eating after a visit.

The presentation was read to the village board to start a plan to help get the museum designation, as it has to go to the New York State Board of Regents to get a charter and become a museum. 

Although the cottage hasn’t been sitting vacant all this time and has been transformed during the holiday season, it transforms into Santa’s Workshop as part of the Dickens Festival, the building would have to be dedicated to a year-round basis of having archival exhibits and interactive learning programs.

And the next step is for Grier-Key to send out a proposal to start the charter process. 

“As Port Jefferson village continues to modernize, being able to retain — and not only retain but celebrate our history and put that at the forefront,” said trustee Rebecca Kassay. “This is one that we feel very strongly about not letting change, only in the sense that we’re inviting this great team and inviting more people to learn and engage in the origin of this village as in reference to the Revolutionary time period.”

by -
0 4243
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) in the Uniform of the New York Artillery (oil on canvas) by Chappel, Alonzo (1828-87). Photo from Michael Tessler

By Michael Tessler

The “Culper Spy Adventure,” a special presentation by TBR News Media, is an immersive digital attraction that will allow locals and tourists alike to be recruited into the ranks of General Washington’s secret Setauket spy ring. Accessed by scanning a special QR code on a panel of the Three Village map or visiting www.TBRNewsMedia.com/Culper, you will begin an interactive 45-minute journey that puts you into the starring role of your very own secret spy adventure!

Become a time traveler as you arrive in the year 1780, crossing paths with legends and heroes: Abraham Woodhull, Anna Smith Strong, Caleb Brewster, George Washington himself! Enjoy interactive games between each episode that are filled to the brim with intrigue, action and fun!

Created with the whole family in mind, the “Culper Spy Adventure” is great for all ages.

 Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) in the Uniform of the New York Artillery (oil on canvas) by Chappel, Alonzo (1828-87). Photo from Michael Tessler
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) in the Uniform of the New York Artillery (oil on canvas) by Chappel, Alonzo (1828-87). Photo from Michael Tessler

Long before we started production on the “Culper Spy Adventure,” and long before I listened to the sound track of the musical, Alexander Hamilton was my favorite founding father. He embodied America: brave, innovative, steadfast, flawed yet relentlessly moving toward progress. He was an immigrant who moved to a country that did not yet exist and still adopted it as his own and fought for it both before and after the war. He was perhaps the most famous New Yorker of the 18th century and his brilliant system of banking and government are still alive and thriving today. Our wealth, our luxury, our mantle of “global superpower” can very well be attributed to his foresight and vision.

“Hamilton: The Musical” has ingeniously provided a whole new generation with an incredible medium to learn and love history. Using show-stopping numbers, dancing, and elements of hip-hop, the show’s creator Lin Manuel-Miranda has successfully made history accessible to everyone (or those who can get tickets that is, I’m still waiting for mine!)

Some two centuries after his death, Alexander Hamilton is again providing America with a great gift, a refreshing glimpse into our nation’s founding and the ideals that make America great.

When we started writing the “Culper Spy Adventure” it was very clear that we wanted to include Hamilton in the story. He was just a young man when the Declaration of Independence was signed, not yet a founding father, but one of America’s sons fighting on the frontline for liberty. Though he came from nothing, he used his brilliant tactical mind to achieve the title of war hero. His superiors took note and he was offered various promotions by officers in the Continental Army. He refused them all, that was until General George Washington offered him a position as his “right hand man” as an aide-de-camp and that’s when our stories intertwine.

Hamilton was one of the very few individuals who knew of the Culper Spy Ring and its operations throughout the war. Being one of Washington’s most trusted advisers, Hamilton was tasked with reading many of the intelligence reports created by Townsend, Woodhull, Strong, Brewster and Tallmadge. Though he didn’t know their real names, he knew of their tremendous sacrifice and bravery in delivering those secret messages.

One of Hamilton’s best friends was Hercules Mulligan, another star from the musical. This tailor’s apprentice stayed behind in New York after the British occupation and would gather intelligence for the Continental Army. He and his slave Cato reportedly saved Washington’s life twice and would occasionally work directly with the Culper Spy Ring.

All of this coalesces in 1780 when Hercules Mulligan informs Culper spy Robert Townsend (a.k.a. Culper Jr.) of the British plans to attack the French in Rhode Island. This piece of intelligence drastically altered the course of the war and very well saved the revolution. We serialize this mission in the “Culper Spy Adventure” as you race against time to deliver that message to George Washington at his headquarters, along the way meeting and interacting with Setauket’s spies and some great historical figures.

Though I don’t want to spoil anything, you do get to meet Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton in one of the film’s best sequences. So don’t “throw away your shot.” Begin your “Culper Spy Adventure” today!

By William Grayson

The “Culper Spy Adventure,” a special presentation by TBR News Media, is an immersive digital attraction that will allow locals and tourists alike to be recruited into the ranks of General Washington’s secret Setauket spy ring. Accessed by scanning a special QR code on a panel of the Three Village map due out later this summer, you will begin an interactive 45-minute journey that puts you into the starring role of your very own secret spy adventure!

Become a time traveler as you arrive in the year 1780, crossing paths with legends and heroes: Abraham Woodhull, Anna Smith Strong, Caleb Brewster, George Washington himself! Enjoy interactive games between each episode that are filled to the brim with intrigue, action and fun! Created with the whole family in mind, the “Culper Spy Adventure” is great for all ages. We are also offering a special American Sign Language version as well as a handicap-accessible edition! Join the revolution later this summer!

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Karen Overin who plays Anna Smith Strong in this interactive journey.

Tell us about Anna Smith Strong.

Anna Smith Strong grew up in Setauket; she was a little bit older than most of the characters involved in the Culper Spy Ring. She was almost like a mentor in a lot of respects. She was very passionate about her home. Her residence was taken over by the British and she lived for a time in her servant’s quarters. AMC’s “TURN” portrays her as a barmaid when in reality she was much closer to an aristocrat. She was married to Selah Strong who had been imprisoned by the British for a time. She had grown children and did everything she could to make sure that they’d grow up in a free country.

Do you see similarities between you and Anna Smith Strong?

She wanted to protect her family at any costs, even if it meant betraying the crown. I’m also very passionate about my family and my children. She was a strong woman, and she knew what she wanted and would go after it no matter what. So yes, I do feel Anna and I have a bit in common.

What efforts did you take to make the film historically accurate?

We were striving for authenticity to the best of our ability. I’ve got a background in costuming since 1995. I like sewing, I like creating costumes, I like creating visuals. In a production like this you have to work so hard to achieve believability and accuracy. Nobody can be wearing a ring made after 1780, every hairstyle has to match something that would make sense for the time. We were blessed that we had a lot of men who weren’t folically challenged. We were able to have genuine pony tails and hairstyles that reflected life in 18th century America. We really made an effort to do it right.

Did you know anything about the Culper Spy Ring before filming?

When we were researching the characters and the history, we never realized just how much happened right here. I love that we’re able to bring the history to life and share it with the community. It’s amazing how history had forgotten this incredible chapter. It’s truly an honor bringing it back to life.