By Sofia Levorchick
The 8th annual Chicken Hill Country Picnic and Barbecue, hosted by the Three Village Community Trust on Saturday, Aug. 19, gathered over 100 people on the grounds of the Bruce House at 148 Main St. in Setauket to celebrate the history of Chicken Hill and support TVCT.
Attendees enjoyed live music and the spread of barbecued food catered by Bagel Express, with opportunities to participate in raffles and learn about Chicken Hill’s history through TVCT’s videos.
The event began around 4 p.m., with TVCT president Herb Mones delivering a speech of gratitude, thanking the community members for their continual support. He awarded The Mr. and Mrs. De Zafra Scholarship and Dr. Watson Scholarship to two devoted teen volunteers: 15-year-old Lily Rosengard and 17-year-old Eve Rosengard, respectively.
“The organization has a large impact on our community, and I am beyond grateful to play a part in their events and help out my community,” Eve Rosengard said of this honor.
Eve and her sister Lily assisted in setting up this year’s Chicken Hill event as volunteers and the daughters of the trust’s artistic director, Michael Rosengard. Michael Rosengard featured prominently in organizing the event, enhancing the grounds with antiques, paintings, handmade decorations and photographs.
Motivated by his ownership of two of the factory homes on his street and his membership in the TVCT, Michael Rosengard took it upon himself to research the historical background of the factory homes. He further coordinated that with articles that state when the houses were built, solidifying their origins.
“This event is aimed toward commemorating the history of Chicken Hill,” Michael Rosengard said. “Without that recognition of our history, people wouldn’t realize the importance of where they live.”
As Mones concluded his speech, he shifted his focus to commemorating the history of the Chicken Hill area, which was home to factory tenements that accommodated immigrants who worked at a five-story factory that was previously situated across from the Bruce House.
That factory produced shoes, belts, baskets and hoses until it burnt down in the early 20th century. Chicken Hill was deemed its name as those who lived in the area began raising chickens that were often let out to run awry and came back home at night to be fed.
Mones connected this history to the present-day community. “The three houses behind me were those provided to the immigrants by the factory, and they have been preserved by the Trust,” he said. “I think what’s important is that we come and celebrate Chicken Hill. We look back, but we also recognize with gratitude where we are today.”
Among the attendees present were numerous community leaders, including New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Setauket), former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) — who is running against Anthony Figliola for the Suffolk County Legislature’s 5th District — and business leader Dave Calone, a Democrat running against Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) for Suffolk County executive.
Kornreich has been involved in this event for years, this time strumming the guitar and singing some tunes in the live band. He said the event has progressed significantly each year, particularly noting its emphasis on celebrating the land on which it is held.
“I admire the opportunity to get together with the people who are the original inhabitants who grew up here, like Helen Sells,” president of the Setalcott Native American Council, Kornreich said. “It’s important to honor them and respect their continued residency in this area.”
Calone had attended the event in the past and said he had enjoyed it every time. “I think what’s great about the event is that it brings people of all different ages from all around this community to understand the history we have in our area,” he said. “It helps us remember where we came from as a community.”
While in office, Englebright helped secure funds to preserve the historical houses on Chicken Hill. Englebright’s successor Flood said he plans to continue this work, preserving the Chicken Hill houses and maintaining their historical significance within the Three Village community.
“This area is rich in history, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” Flood noted. “It’s highly important to maintain the history so that the future generations can continue to learn about the history of their neighborhoods.”
Sells, also known as Morning Star, took part in this event. She was raised on the lands of Chicken Hill, describing a sense of deep connection to the area.
“This is home,” the Setalcott leader said. “It will always be home. There are so many memories here,” adding, “I love it here. This event means a lot to me.”
Volunteers and trust members said the event has made notable progress over the past eight years. While raising money for the trust, the event has also fostered awareness about the value of the Three Village community’s local history.
“Throughout the years I’ve attended and volunteered, the event has grown and expanded,” Eve Rosengard said. “I’m ecstatic to see that growth, and I can’t wait for what next year has to bring.”