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Landmark

Landmark status is granted to The Jazz Loft building in Stony Brook. File photo

The following is an edited Town of Brookhaven public comment presentation made Sept. 1.

Good evening, Mr. Supervisor and town board members.

My name is John Broven, author of three books on American music history. I am privileged to live in a historic district of East Setauket, part of the beautiful Three Village area. My late father-in-law, Clark Galehouse, founded Golden Crest Records out of Huntington Station in 1956 and released many jazz albums among others — I think you know where I’m coming from.

I fully endorse the recommendation of Town Historian Barbara Russell and the Historic District Advisory Committee to accord The Jazz Loft building at 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook, landmark status. I would like to read my historical notes in support of my position.

The Jazz Loft building, in fact, consists of two historic structures: The Stone Jug and the 1921 firehouse. The building accommodated the first museum in Stony Brook, founded in 1935 by real estate broker and insurance agent O.C. (Cap) Lempfert, a keen hunter and taxidermist. At first, the museum was located in the home of Arthur Rayner where Saturday nature talks for children became a weekly event; naturalist Robert Cushman Murphy, of R.C. Murphy Jr. High School, led some of the nature walks.

Originally called the Suffolk County Museum of Natural History, it became known as the Little Museum in the Jug after it was moved to the Stone Jug storage building — a former tavern and social center of the village — with the backing of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville. The museum was formally incorporated as the Suffolk Museum in 1939.

You may be amused by a quote from a history of the Museums at Stony Brook, a later name before it became today’s prestigious The Long Island Museum: “The move was no small task since by that time the collection include a 400-pound loggerhead turtle, an eagle with a 6-foot wingspread, a trumpeter swan, and hundreds of small collection items.”

I am aware that Mr. Lempfert’s granddaughters, Mary and Jane L’Hommedieu, who both now live on the West Coast, are delighted at the town’s potential recognition of their grandfather’s museum building — and thus his pioneering work. Jane tells me he also made and exhibited duck decoys, collected Native American artifacts from his property for the museum and even constructed a wigwam. A major achievement of the museum to this day was to collect and show the fabulous paintings of William Sidney Mount.

It is wonderful that the building has come alive this year after careful restoration as The Jazz Loft incorporating a museum — how appropriate! — live jazz and education facilities. What Tom Manuel, a talented jazz musician, educator and historian, his board and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization have done to date is very impressive, not only for the Three Village area but also for Long Island tourism — and jazz itself. I know Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) attended the opening. By granting The Jazz Loft building landmark status, in effect the town will be protecting and preserving our past, present and future heritage. I trust the town board will support its Historic District Advisory Committee because I consider all the historical and cultural boxes have been ticked.

The result: A unanimous vote in favor.

John Broven is a member of the editorial staff of this newspaper. He gives thanks to Joshua Ruff, director of collections and interpretation of The Long Island Museum, for providing historical detail by way of “The Carriage Museum” (1987) publication.

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Dominick-Crawford Barn is now a historic landmark. Photo by Giselle Barkley

It’s history in the making.

Brookhaven’s Three Village Historical Society is continuing its quest to preserve the town’s history and educate the community after the Town of Brookhaven’s meeting on Thursday Sept. 17, at 5 p.m.

That Thursday, the town established the Three Village Society’s Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey house in Setauket and the dismantled Dominick-Crawford Barn, which will be located nearby, as historic landmarks in Setauket. The goal isn’t only to establish these buildings as historic landmarks but also classify them as a museum where residents can visit and learn about the history behind the house and the barn.

But it may take some time before the society fulfills its goal. The society had the nearly 155- to 168-year-old Dominick-Crawford Barn dismantled as part of its Crawford Barn Renovation Project.

According to John Cunniffe of Stony Brook, the architect of this project, the Village of Old Field originally wanted to take the barn down and use the land. Cunniffe said the village received the deed for the property several years ago but it didn’t do anything with the property until it decided the barn was “in their way.”

“The barn was left in a neglected state for quite some time,” Cunniffe said. “So the Historical Society found some funding to pay a contractor to carefully dismantle [the barn]. So it was that or watch the barn be demolished.”

Cunniffe also said establishing the barn as a historic landmark was not only important because of the barn’s long history but also because there is a town code requirement to classify the barn as a museum as it will rest on a residential property.

According to Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) the Society for Preservation of Long Island Antiquities used to own the property where the barn and the house will be located. They used to have an auction out of the barn that was there at the time. When SPLIA moved its headquarters from the Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey house location in Setauket to Cold Spring Harbor, it took the barn that was there at the time.

The Dominick-Crawford Barn, which was located on the east side of the junction of Old Field Road and Quaker Path in the Village of Old Field before it was dismantled, will be located to the left of the Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey House parking lot.

Thus far Englebright has helped provide $625,000 in grants to help fund the project. He also said the organization has held fundraisers with the hope of collecting additional funds to pay for the project.

While the Crawford barn was built around 1847 to 1860, the house was built in 1800. Former President of the Three Village Historical Society Steven Hintze said the house is of great importance to the community’s history.

“It was built before [the] Civil War. And many of [those houses] haven’t lasted. They haven’t made it to this point due to neglect,” Hintze said. “We were able to see [the Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey house] was starting to fall to disrepair so we started to move.”

After SPLIA moved, the Three Village Historical Society left its old headquarters for its new one in the house. The Three Village Society was originally operating out of an upstairs room in a house before purchasing the Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey house on May 14, 1998.

Cunniffe was unsure how long it may take before the organization can reassemble the barn, as the town’s decision to make it a historic landmark is one of many steps in the approval process to put the barn back together near the Three Village Society’s headquarters. Regardless, the Three Village Society wants to continue giving back with the hope that the project will allow residents to learn more about the history of the house and the barn. It’s a desire that Englebright supports.

“They are doing a great job and as long as I can possibly support them, I’m going to continue to do so,” Englebright said. “They are making it possible for us to have an even stronger sense of place, and that’s at the core of what it means to be a part of a community.”