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Nan Gazzetta

Nan Guzzetta. Photo by John Griffin

By Michael Tessler

It was devastating to hear of the passing of one of our community’s greatest treasures. For those of us lucky enough to have known Nancy Altman “Nan” Guzzetta, we all knew just how special she was. It’s important that everyone who didn’t know Nan knows just how she impacted their lives too.

Nancy Altman “Nan” Guzzetta. Photo by John Griffin

Most in our community knew Nan as the owner of Antique Costume & Prop Rental on Main Street in Port Jefferson. For decades, she helped quietly bring to life every festival, celebration, and fun historical event in the area. When Nan was called to service, she didn’t just show up; she would move heaven and earth. Truthfully, on more than one occasion I saw her hoist a mannequin twice her size over her head … just to ensure a Civil War general would have the proper brass buckle. To say she took her work seriously would be an injustice; she didn’t just love history … she lived it. 

To Nan, her costumes weren’t just pieces of fabric … they were living pieces of history and art, many of which were originals or perfectly replicated to exact historical specifications. She explained to me that it wasn’t so much the details that mattered. It was about the respect that came with it. To her, it was personal that we honored legacies properly. 

Nan was feisty, funny, witty, and smart. She was both ahead of her time and yet seemed to belong to a bygone era. She was sophisticated, cultured, and worldly. For a woman of such small stature, she stood taller than most and never relented when she knew she was right. She was a woman of great principle and yet always shared a tenderness with those who knew her.

Here’s the truth though. Nan changed lives with her gift of time travel.

For the small child lacking in self-confidence whom she transformed into a Dickensian character of old and unleashed upon the streets of Port Jefferson, they will always know the joys and confidence that community service can bring. For the young woman who heard the forgotten story of a Setauket suffragette during a Three Village Historical Society (TVHS) Spirits Tour, she’ll spend the rest of her life knowing she too can transform policy and shape the future. For the Ward Melville High School freshman celebrating Culper Spy Day who sees a little of themself in Setauket’s Revolutionary War heroes, their lives will forever be transformed by Nan Guzzetta, a woman who made it her business to bring history to life and ensure no story go untold.

Nan left an incredible impact on so many, but to me, she was an unlikely friend and unforgettable mentor and confidant. Despite an age difference of some 60 years, our lives were wonderfully intertwined. We first met when she costumed me at just 10 years old as a Dickensian pickpocket for the Village of Port Jefferson’s annual Charles Dickens Festival. By chance, her son and his family had bought my childhood home which brought both of us great joy. 

Nan costumed Times Beacon Record News Media’s (TBR) first major film project, The Culper Spy Adventure, and helped introduce me to the wonders of film. We became great friends and our chats around history and politics would sometimes last for hours and hours. Occasional tea with her and her wonderful husband became some of my favorite memories. 

I’d always look forward to volunteering at the TVHS Spirits Tours, not just because they’re fun but because I knew it gave Nan such a thrill to see her costumes come to life when worn by such a passionate group of actors. Nan quite literally saved TBR’s Revolutionary War feature film One Life to Give on more than one occasion, procuring us silk stockings and enough tricorn hats to outfit a Continental Army. She was always there when her community needed her and she was always there for me. 

A few years ago, Nan picked up the phone, and on the other side of the line was a Hollywood producer in need of some costumes for a new series. Despite the fact I wasn’t yet a mature and/or responsible adult (as Nan often liked to remind me when I failed to bring back properly cleaned frockcoats) she insisted that the producer speak with me and consider hiring me to work on the show. He did. 

Some dozen or so television shows later here I am on my third year in Los Angeles running my own production company and because of Nan, I’ve now had the chance to work in Hollywood and achieve my dream of being a storyteller. Without her, I’m genuinely not sure where I’d be. I’ll forever be indebted to her for jumpstarting my journey and for all the kindness, understanding, and generosity she showed me. 

My last conversation with Nan was just about a month or so ago. We didn’t talk much about the past, but about our optimism and hope for the future. For her, history was a blueprint and a guide to help us do better. She had so much hope, especially in today’s young people.

Nan will forever stand among the greats in this community, no less than a Melville, Mather, Woodhull, or Strong. In everything she did, she thought about her neighbors, and the joy she could bring them, and the magic of history she could share. Her passion for the past was only surpassed by her love of family. To her, her children and grandchildren were and are the greatest gift she could leave behind to the place she calls home. 

Nan, you can rest easy knowing that the community you inspired will pick up that mantle and continue your work. Now it is time for us to honor your legacy and to ensure that future generations know of the extraordinary life you lived and the standard of service you set for us all.

Until we meet again, Nan. Thank you for making history. 

From left, Michael O’Dwyer and Annie and Stephen Healy enjoy last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Kyle Barr

If there’s anything that we know about the 1920s, it’s that the parties were wild. Despite, or likely because, of Prohibition, the music was loud and idiosyncratic as jazz came onto the scene, and the alcohol flowed as if by fountains into the expecting mouths of flappers and bootleggers alike.

Setauket’s Three Village Historical Society, in collaboration with The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook is hoping to bring that period of time back to life with the second running of their annual Prohibition Night fundraiser at The Jazz Loft next Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Montauk Brewing Company, will include snacks, wine, beer and raffles.

This time the TVHS is adding an extra layer of early 20th-century history with a new emphasis on the women’s suffrage movement and how that tied into a time of cultural revolution.

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

“You had this revolution with the women’s movement and the right to vote, and you had this revolution with the clothing, with flappers and the Charleston and the bobbed haircuts,” said Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft. “These were real renegade statements of society and culture, and its cool when you put them together.”

The Jazz Loft will have several items on display relating to women’s suffrage, including several articles, papers and artifacts housed in display cases as well as a mannequin fully dressed up in the class women’s suffrage garb with a large purple sash reading “Votes for Women,” courtesy of Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson.

“[The movement] was really ahead of its time,” said Stephen Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society. “It’s interesting to see if history is going to repeat itself or we will move on from here. The movement has been a longtime coming.”

That historical revolution collided with the cultural revolution of the 1920s, as many of the same women who campaigned for the women’s vote also stumped for the temperance movement. Suddenly, with the ban of the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, a whole new era of organized crime and mass criminality was born as the sale of alcohol eclipsed any decade before or after it.

“Everybody became creative with getting alcohol,” Healy said. “From everything with potato farmers out on the east end of Long Island and vodka creation, and I can’t imagine [the activity] between the water and the farms and the amount of backdoor distributing that was taking place on Long Island.”

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this “Vote Yes” stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

But it wouldn’t be the 1920s without jazz, and Manuel said he has that covered. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be performing live music straight from the jazz giants of the period such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas “Fats” Waller and more.

“I think for us it really supports and makes a statement about who we are,” Manuel said. “Our mission is jazz preservation, jazz education and jazz performance. Any time we can take history and allow it to come to life, we served our mission.”

Last year’s Prohibition Night was supremely successful with sold out tickets and a packed room. Healy said he expects this year to do just as good or even better.

“It was a great success, it sold out, and it gave us some cross pollination between history and The Jazz Loft,” Healy said.

Manuel agreed that the event is the perfect blend of history and recreation. “Any time we collaborate with something in the community, it really solidifies the statement they say about jazz, which is that it’s all about collaboration,” he said. 

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the 2nd annual Prohibition Night: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in New York State on Thursday, June 14 from  6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft, right, shown with TVHS President Steve Healy, will be honored at the awards dinner on March 21. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

On Wednesday, March 21, the Three Village Historical Society will once again host its annual Awards Dinner honoring volunteers, local businesses, society members and area residents who have made significant contributions to help preserve the shared heritage within the Three Village area.

Among the honorees will be Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costume and Prop Rental by Nan Guzzetta of Port Jefferson, who has been chosen to receive the Kate Wheeler Strong Memorial Award in recognition of significant contribution toward the fostering of interest in local history and a fuller appreciation of the rich historical and cultural heritage of this community. Guzzetta has earned this award with her years of inspiration and guidance with costumes for society events, especially the Spirits Tour.

Eva Glaser a longtime member and volunteer will receive the Maggie Gillie Memorial Award for contributions by a member of the society in recognition of overall dedicated service and for significant contributions furthering the goals of the society. Glaser’s award is for her years of support to the society and as the co-chair and inspiration for the first Candlelight House Tour 40 years ago.

An interest in volunteering led Richard Melidosian to the Three Village Historical Society. Melidosian has been and continues to be a docent at the SPIES Exhibit and the Candlelight House Tour and a guide at the Spirits Tour and Founder’s Day. For that, he will receive the Gayle Becher Memorial Award in recognition of volunteer efforts to help the society by performing those necessary tasks that facilitate its efficient operation. This award honors volunteers whose work consists of loyal support repeated on a regular basis.

Rebecca Fear, a student at Ward Melville High School, is this year’s honoree for the R. Sherman Mills Young Historian Award, a prestigious award presented for contributions to the society by a young person. Rebecca and her family have volunteered at many events including Culper Spy Day, the Long Island Apple Festival, the Spirits Tour and the society’s annual Yard Sale.

Three community award certificates will be handed out this year. The first, for enhancing or restoring a building used as a commercial structure in a way that contributes to the historic beauty of the area, will be awarded to Thomas J. Manuel of The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook for the conversion of this historic building to a cultural center for music in the Three Village area. The second, for house restoration or renovation and ongoing maintenance and preservation in keeping with the original architectural integrity, will be awarded to Andrew and Kathy Theodorakis for their home at 242 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook. The third award, for ornamental plantings or landscaping that enhances the beauty of the Three Village area, will be granted to Charles Regulinski of 24 Dyke Road, Setauket.

The event, now in its 41st year, will be held at the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook from 6 to 9 p.m.

A three-course dinner, which includes a Caesar salad with rosemary focaccia croutons, choice of entree (pan-seared salmon with baby spinach and beurre blanc sauce, seared breast of free-range chicken with haricot vert and saffron potatoes or sliced Chateau steak with red wine sauce with Yukon Gold potato puree and baby carrots) and an apple crumb tartlet with whipped cream for dessert, will be served. (Vegetarian meal available upon request.) The evening will feature a cash bar, raffles and live music by the Ward Melville High School Honors Jazztet.

Please join them in honoring these worthy awardees. Tickets are $65 per person, $60 members. To order, visit www.TVHS.org or call 631-751-3730.