By Samantha Rutt
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recently organized a local history initiative to help tell the story of historic Mount Sinai.
Initially, “I want to try to bring together the local community and the historians to document the history of the Chandler Estate, Mount Sinai Congregational Church, Sea View Cemetery and Mount Sinai Harbor,” Anker said. “There’s a lot of fascinating history. I’ve spoken to a number of folks that are in their 80s and 90s, and they have really amazing stories.”
Through this undertaking, Anker said she hopes to enhance the existing historical archives by adding documentation, stories, photos and maps collected from the surrounding area.
The event will feature a round-table discussion of around 25 participants, including key members of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society, Brookhaven Town historians and other local advocates who will contribute to the documentation process.
“We’re meeting to talk about what information can be identified, and move forward hoping to open it up to anyone who has additional information,” the county legislator explained. “The meeting on Friday will be mainly focusing on the historians and how the process works and what information they have.”
For nearly 30 years, Anker has lived in the Mount Sinai community. Shortly after settling in, she came across the Mount Sinai Civic Association in a local newspaper. There on the cover stood a group of people from the civic association standing in front of bulldozers fighting to preserve the Chandler Estate as it was set to be a site for new development.
As a result Anker decided to get involved, becoming a member of the organization.
“When I saw that article, that picture sparked my interest because it’s near where I live,” she said. “I like that they’re getting involved with their community and doing good things. … And that’s when I became a member.”
The local history project will touch upon the Chandler Estate, originally an upscale resort that overlooked Mount Sinai Harbor. Years after closing, the resort caught fire, leaving minimal remains that have since been taken over by a great deal of brush.
Residents now use the land for leisure. “I grew up right by there,” said Noreen Guilfoyle, a Mount Sinai resident of the once-luxurious estate. “The land used to be a big fancy mansion. … It burnt down though. There’s a trail there now, it’s a really pretty trail. But there are a lot of old foundations from buildings that are no longer there.”
Anker has plans to open up the forum, pending the initial meeting’s success.
“Following that [initial meeting], in another month or two we could open it up … and see if folks want to come to sign up or send us [something in] writing,” she said. “Then we can add it to the information that we have.”
To help on the complex history project, Anker is partnering with Ann Becker, a local historian and librarian. Becker is an established author with her book, “Mount Sinai,” centered around the hamlet’s fabled history.
The project is set to include input from the Suffolk County Historical Society, Mount Sinai-Miller Place Historical Society and Stony Brook University Library Archives’ special collection.
“There are so many of our local folks that have the stories, but we’re going to lose their stories and information about their experiences if we don’t document them now,” Anker said.