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Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum

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Port Jefferson’s annual Heritage Weekend celebration took place Aug. 20 and 21 at 19 locations throughout the village. Visitors made stops at the Village Center, Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, Port Jefferson Village Chamber of Commerce and more to take in historical sights and sounds during the two-day event. Funding for the event was provided in part by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

The historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum is open to the public. Photo by Wenhao Ma

By Wenhao Ma

Port Jefferson history buffs got a sneak peak back in time at an event July 21, which previewed new additions at one of the village’s most historic sites.

The exhibits on display at the historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum were revealed for those in attendance at the special event. The museum contains artifacts, including a handwritten letter legitimizing the involvement of Port Jefferson in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring during the Revolutionary War.

The historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum is open to the public with some added attractions. Photo by Wenhao Ma
The historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum is open to the public with some added attractions. Photo by Wenhao Ma

The museum was first opened in 2011, though it was closed shortly after. The re­opening of the house in 2015 was tied to the discovery of the letter, which is displayed at the museum and was written in 1780 by Loyalist solider Nehemiah Marks. The July 21 event also debuted the museum’s second floor, which had never previously been safe for occupancy, according to Georgette Grier-Key, village historian and curator of the house. She described the new addition as a “peek-a-boo deck” because visitors of the second floor can see some of the house’s exposed architecture, in addition to more exhibits that demonstrate the house’s history.

“It’s very significant to our shared American history,” Grier­-Key said of the museum. “It’s a surviving Revolutionary War structure circa 1755.”

The house belonged to Philips Roe. He and his brother, Nathaniel Roe, according to the letter, were providing intelligence and supplies to Washington’s army.

The house, located today at West Broadway and Barnum Avenue across from Port Jefferson Harbor, has been moved several times during its history. The most recent move took place in 2008 when the house was restored and made into a museum with the help of Robert Sisler, Port Jefferson’s first historian who passed away earlier this month.

“It’s very significant to our shared American history…it’s a surviving Revolutionary War structure circa 1755.” —Georgette Grier-Key

A foundation had to be built under the house to raise it high above the ground because the house is in a floodplain, according to Jim Szakmary, who has been assisting Grier­-Key in setting up the museum. Szakmary also said the house is so old that when restoring it they had to use steel rods that went all the way from the roof to the cement foundation to secure it.

Szakmary said private collectors and other museums donated or lent their collections to the Drowned Meadow Cottage museum in advance of the re-opening July 21.

“With the significance of the Culper Spy Ring,” said Mayor Margot Garant, who attended and spoke during the event, “it’s really mind-blowing to actually be standing in the house.”

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The Eckford Base Ball Club is set to play a game with rules from 1864 during Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

By Rebecca Anzel

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is fast approaching. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of Drowned Meadow, as the village was previously known, and fun, interactive activities.

The Port Times Record will preview each of the featured locations around the village leading up to Heritage Weekend. This week includes a look at the pop-up exhibit of community favorite Grammas’ Sweets restaurant; an old-time baseball game at the chamber of commerce; a photograph exhibit and tour of Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum; and a historic schooner available for attendees to explore.

Grammas’ Sweets

Grammas’ original neon sign is being re-created by craftsmen for Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village
Grammas’ original neon sign is being re-created by craftsmen for Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

The Home Art Gallery on Main Street will soon transform into a pop-up exhibit of cherished town restaurant Grammas’ Sweets.

Jill Russell, Port Jefferson Village media relations and marketing consultant, is the weekend’s chairperson and the woman in charge of the event. She said the right side of the space will be transformed into a re-creation of what Grammas’ looked like, complete with a checkered floor, candy cases and a soda bar.

The left, occupying what now is a gallery space, will be a timeline that tells the story of Grammas’ through photography, stories and anecdotes. There will be soda jerks behind the counter showing off old menus and display cases containing vintage candy around the space.

“What’s really going to get everybody’s attention is the re-creation on the right side,” Russell said. “But for me, the stuff on the left is going to be very, very fascinating. I just love the entire exhibit — I really do — for different reasons, and I think others will too.”

Despite rumors of Grammas’ original sign being used in the space, Russell said it was destroyed. Instead, she is working with craftsmen to create a new sign that will fit over the Home Art Gallery’s. It will be based on a photograph Russell found of the original neon sign.

Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce

The Eckford Base Ball Club is set to play a game with rules from 1864 during Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village
The Eckford Base Ball Club is set to play a game with rules from 1864 during Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce is hosting two attractions sure to draw in a crowd. Parked in front of the building on West Broadway will be several Model A Ford Club of America cars, which Chamber Director of Operations Barbara Ransome said will hopefully bring visitors inside the building, which was constructed in 1682.

The historic building, called Roe House, has ties to the Culper Spy Ring. Descendants of John Roe helped get information to General George Washington to help win the Revolutionary War.

Outside will be a vintage 9-inning baseball game played by rules used in 1864. The umpires will be operating using rules from that time, which Ransome said are “totally different from what we do today.” Village residents will be competing against players from Eckford Base Ball Club of Brooklyn — both teams wearing 19th century uniforms. A quick presentation will precede the game and the Chamber will be giving out ices.

Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum

The Lettie G. Howard schooner, one of the last vessels of its kind in existence, will be available for attendees of Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village
The Lettie G. Howard schooner, one of the last vessels of its kind in existence, will be available for attendees of Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

Down the road from the Chamber, on the corner of Barnum and West Broadway, sits Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum. Constructed around 1765, the building is named after the area’s original name.

Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, its historian and curator, will have two exhibits ready for Heritage Weekend. The first is called “History Squared,” where artists will use village archives to create artwork with various mediums on a 12×12 inch square. The second, called “Patriots’ Stand” will feature 28 rare prints from the American Revolution. Artifacts from Drowned Meadow will also be exhibited and tours of the building will be offered.

“This event is so exciting because it’s a way to celebrate our role in our nation’s independence,” Grier-Key said. “We take a lot of pride in this crowning jewel for Port Jefferson.”

Historic schooner

A national historic landmark schooner will be docked along the water. The craft, the Lettie G. Howard, was built in 1893 as a commercial fishing vessel and is one of the last vessels of its kind in existence. It will be representing Port Jefferson’s rich heritage of shipbuilding and be open to the public all weekend. Guides will be onboard to share the history of the boat and the village’s relationship with building such crafts.