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port jefferson history

The Bayles Shipyard Band is pictured on the steps of Port Jefferson’s Plant Hotel, June 10, 1919. The band performed at ship launchings, Friday night dances, receptions, and costume parties. Source: National Archives

Following America’s entry into World War I, the number of employees at the Bayles Shipyard in Port Jefferson jumped from 250 in November 1917 to 1,022 in January 1919. 

Since many of these workers could not find housing in the village, the United States Shipping Board campaigned to persuade the area’s homeowners to rent rooms to Port Jefferson’s shipbuilders.

A painting by commercial artist Rolf Armstrong was offered as a prize to the villager who did the most to alleviate the housing shortage. Since this and other efforts did not meet much success, the USSB retained architect Alfred C. Bossom to design cottages and dormitories in Port Jefferson for the burgeoning population.

Bossom recognized the urgent need to provide accommodations for the wartime labor force, his numerous commissions including the Remington Apartments high-rise complex built for workers at the Remington Arms munitions factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

To secure a site for Port Jefferson’s housing development, the Bayles Shipyard purchased almost 16 acres of land just west of Barnum Avenue from Catherine Campbell in July 1918. 

Nine detached, one-family homes were designed by Bossom to reflect the character of “old Long Island fishing villages” and erected along Cemetery Avenue, later renamed Liberty Avenue.

Between 1921-23, Port Jefferson’s Plant Hotel served as a United States Veterans Training Center. Source: Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Bossom also designed a dormitory unit called the Plant Hotel since it accommodated employees at the Bayles plant. The Mark C. Tredennick Company, which had constructed buildings at the Army’s Camp Upton in Yaphank, was named the general contractor.

Now the site of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, the Plant Hotel included 206 rooms, a cafeteria, powerhouse, athletic field and water purification facilities. A porch connected the three major wings of the complex.

Completed in December 1918 just after the Armistice on Nov. 11, the hotel soon became the center of social life for shipyard workers. A band was formed, a baseball team was organized and dances were held on Friday evenings. 

In April 1919, the Emergency Fleet Corporation commandeered the Bayles Shipyard because of the unsatisfactory progress at the facility. The seized property, which included the Plant Hotel, was then sold to the New York Harbor Dry Dock Corporation.

When the new owners fired hundreds of shipyard workers, the number of boarders at the Plant Hotel dropped dramatically. To compensate for this loss, the hotel began offering rooms to transients by the day or week.

The Port Jefferson Times scolded the hotel’s new clientele for destroying electric bulbs, smashing wash basins, spitting on the floors and generally behaving as if they were hoodlums. 

In December 1920, the NYHDDC shut down the Bayles Shipyard, dismissing all of its workers except for a skeleton crew. Confronted with a virtually empty Plant Hotel, the NYHDDC leased the complex to the Federal Board for Vocational Education, later renamed the United States Veterans Bureau. 

The Plant Hotel, which had been extensively damaged by some departing boarders, was refurbished as a training center charged with teaching disabled soldiers and sailors.

The initial group of 125 veterans arrived at the Plant Hotel in October 1921. During a typical three-month stay, the men prepared for new careers and received medical care. For recreation, they were entertained by theatrical troupes, went on field trips and enjoyed Friday night concerts. 

Port Jefferson’s Plant Hotel was still under construction on October 15, 1918. Photograph by Arthur S. Greene, National Archives

Despite pressure from local business groups and politicians, in June 1923 the Veterans Bureau left Port Jefferson as part of a nationwide plan to consolidate its rehabilitation facilities. 

As demobilization continued, local businessman Jacob S. Dreyer purchased the Liberty Avenue cottages, which have changed hands several times over the years and are still standing. In July 1929, taxpayers in the Port Jefferson school district voted to purchase the Plant Hotel itself and the remaining 13 acres.

In subsequent elections, the citizens authorized the board of education to sell some of the hotel’s furnishings, grade the grounds and construct an athletic field on the site. In June 1934, the taxpayers voted to build a high school on the property.

The board of education quickly sold the Plant Hotel to a high bidder for $250. Workers then demolished the building and hauled away the wreckage. 


Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson village historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

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The Hotel Echo was located immediately north of the LIRR tracks; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

For some of the residents of Comsewogue, now Port Jefferson Station, getting the mail once meant traveling from three to five miles to the post office in downtown Port Jefferson.

Tired of the inconvenience, a group of Comsewogue’s citizens petitioned the government in 1888 to establish a post office within their community.

The Echo Building on the west side of Main Street housed the Charles A. Squires Real Estate Agency, Port Jefferson Echo newspaper and Port Jefferson Station Post Office. Photo by Arthur S. Greene; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The Postmaster General responded that so many places in the State ended in “ogue” that to avoid confusion Comsewogue would have to be renamed if a post office was to be considered for the area.

The name Comsewogue and its many variants was an Algonkian term meaning “a walking place,” had appeared in Brookhaven Town records as early as 1805 and was rich in etymology and history.  

Nevertheless, the petitioners acquiesced and submitted several names as Comsewogue’s replacement: South Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson South, Maple Hill, Enterprise, Cedar Grove, and Jefferson Heights. Each was rejected, either for being too common or too long.

In the next round of proposals, William I. Wyckoff suggested Echo, the same name as a famous racehorse once owned by Comsewogue’s Nathaniel Dickerson. Echo — only four letters long — was accepted by the postal authorities and Charles A. Squires appointed as the office’s first postmaster.

A native of Good Ground (Hampton Bays), Squires had begun work as the depot agent at the Port Jefferson Railroad Station in 1886 and soon earned a reputation in Comsewogue for his competence and geniality.

Under Squires’ able leadership, the Echo Post Office opened in a building on the west side of today’s Main Street (Route 25A), immediately north of the LIRR tracks.  

Charles A. Squires, the “father of Port Jefferson Station.” Photo by Arthur S. Greene; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Squires also championed his bailiwick in the Port Jefferson Echo, a newspaper that he had founded with G. Frederick Hallock in 1892. The “Republican journal” helped establish the uniqueness of Echo and operated out of the same building as the Echo Post Office.

Following A. Jay Tefft’s purchase of the Echo in 1899, Squires devoted his considerable energies to buying and selling real estate, developing several subdivisions in the area including Belle Croft, Norton Park, Fairview Place, and Bergen Estates.

In 1904, Echo’s post office and newspaper, along with Squires’ Real Estate Agency, resettled a few steps north on Main Street in the new Echo Building. Hugo Kreitzberg then transformed the unoccupied property resulting from the move into the Hotel Echo.

The Echo Post Office was renamed the Port Jefferson Station Post Office in 1910. Squires had led a popular petition drive in support of the change and later became known as the “father of Port Jefferson Station.”

Key among the reasons for the switch, it was argued that Echo was a “meaningless place name” and that the presence of the Port Jefferson Railroad Station best defined the area.

After being called home for 22 years, Echo just faded away.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as s well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

Interior view of Fort Moultrie, Charleston, South Carolina, April 1861, where Scanlan served during the attack on Fort Sumter. Photo from a stereograph; Library of Congress

Cedar Hill Cemetery is located in Port Jefferson on a commanding site high above the village’s downtown and harbor.

Among those at rest in the cemetery, there are over 40 soldiers and sailors who served with the North during the Civil War.

Capt. C. A. Scanlan is also buried in the cemetery, but he fought against the Union forces in the South’s Lost Cause. His tombstone is inscribed with “C.S.A.,” the initials representing the Confederate States of America.

Who was this former Rebel officer and how did he become one of Port Jefferson’s permanent residents?

Charles Anthony Scanlan was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1825. Married twice, he had a daughter with his first wife.

Scanlan worked as a shipsmith on the docks in Charleston, South Carolina, worshipped at the city’s First Baptist Church, was a Freemason, and belonged to the local militia.

Scanlan’s tombstone at Port Jefferson’s Cedar Hill Cemetery.
Photo by Kenneth C. Brady

After South Carolina seceded from the Union, Federal troops transferred from the garrison at Fort Moultrie to the stronger Fort Sumter, both part of Charleston’s harbor defenses. Scanlan was among the Carolinians who then occupied the abandoned Fort Moultrie.

Scanlan began his duties at the emplacement on Jan. 1, 1861, served as an acting military storekeeper and readied the stronghold’s guns and ordinance for what would become the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

The action began on April 12, 1861, when a ring of Confederate batteries around Charleston Harbor hammered Fort Sumter, the barrage announcing the start of the Civil War. Described as a “sergeant” in a later account of the assault, Scanlan led a detachment of six men in Fort Moultrie’s magazine, one of the emplacements blasting the Union forces

Following the evacuation of the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter, Scanlan was assigned to Fort Walker on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island. In official accounts of the battle, Scanlan was identified as a “lieutenant” and commended for his work in the citadel’s magazine.

After tours at South Carolina’s Castle Pinckney and Fort Beauregard, Scanlan was assigned to Fort Sumter, where he was wounded in August 1863 during the Union’s bombardment of the Confederate stronghold.

Scanlan ended his days in the military as a captain. He returned to Charleston where he resumed his work as a shipsmith, later pursuing an entirely new career.

Phosphate rocks, which existed in large quantities near Charleston, were used in the manufacture of commercial fertilizer. Scanlan fabricated machinery that improved the dredging of the valuable rock from South Carolina’s riverbeds. Securing patents on his inventions in 1877 and 1883, Scanlan profited handsomely from the extensive phosphate digging in the Ashley River region.

During the mining operations, fossils were found in the phosphate deposits. Fascinated with natural history, Scanlan began gathering the specimens, amassing the largest private collection of fossils in South Carolina and among the largest in the nation.

Following the death of his second wife Eliza in 1890, Scanlan moved to Port Jefferson to live with his daughter Mary Estelle who had married Henry Randall, a prominent Port Jefferson businessman and banker.

The Randalls spent summers at their house on Port Jefferson’s Myrtle Avenue and winters at their home in Brooklyn, with the elder Scanlan joining in the seasonal move.

Scanlan quickly became well-known in Port Jefferson. In 1893, he exhibited portions of his fossil collection at the village’s Athena Hall (Theatre Three) and later in many of Port Jefferson’s storefronts.

But two events brought Scanlan even wider acclaim. His fossils were displayed at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and at the Agricultural Palace during the Charleston Exposition, both shows earning Scanlan rave reviews for his superb collection.

Interior view of Fort Moultrie, Charleston, South Carolina, April 1861, where Scanlan served during the attack on Fort Sumter. Photo from a stereograph; Library of Congress

Besides providing his fossils for public viewing, Scanlan donated items from his collection to universities and museums in the United States and abroad, where paleontologists used the specimens in their studies of early forms of life.

Growing older, Scanlan reflected on his years in the military, thinking that at the time of the Civil War he had been “in the right” to support disunion, but later coming to believe he had fought in a “mistaken cause.”

Although he had once worn Confederate Gray, Scanlan was treated respectfully in Port Jefferson by his former foes. During Decoration Day ceremonies at Cedar Hill Cemetery in May 1905, he was among those honored by Lewis O. Conklin Post 627, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a Union veteran organization with a “camp” in the village.

Scanlan died in Brooklyn in 1907. Following Baptist services held at his son-in-law’s Port Jefferson home, Scanlan was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

In 1913, Scanlan’s massive collection of fossils, amounting to over nine barrels of diggings, was sold by his estate to Connecticut’s Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History where Scanlan’s legacy lives on.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as s well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

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The second Bayles Chandlery, left, was destroyed in an 1897 waterfront fire and the Willse-Bayles Homestead, right, was leveled in 1917. Photo by George B. Brainerd; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Professional photographer Arthur S. Greene and amateur photographer John M. Brown are well known for their images of early Port Jefferson, but another talented photographer who also recorded life in Port Jefferson is hardly a household name. 

Unlike Greene who had a studio in Port Jefferson or Brown who besides being a shutterbug was Port Jefferson’s postmaster, photographer George B. Brainerd primarily documented urban Brooklyn.

Razed in June 1965, the Petty Building stood on Port Jefferson’s Main Street and housed the Port Jefferson Times weekly newspaper. Photo by George B. Brainerd; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Renowned for his city scenes, it is often forgotten that Brainerd also photographed the rural landscape on his jaunts throughout Suffolk County including then sleepy Port Jefferson.

Born in 1845, Brainerd attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, worked as a civil engineer, was Brooklyn’s deputy water purveyor from 1869 to 1886, and is considered a pioneer of amateur photography.

Over the course of his trips to Port Jefferson in 1878 and 1879, Brainerd photographed a variety of the village’s buildings — many of which are no longer standing. 

One image shows the Methodist Church, which was later sold at auction, moved from Port Jefferson’s Spring Street to Main Street, converted into a storehouse, and destroyed in a September 1904 blaze.

Another view depicts the office of the Port Jefferson Times. The weekly newspaper was housed on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street in the Petty Building which was razed in June 1965. 

Brainerd’s photo of the north side of Port Jefferson’s East Broadway pictures the second Bayles Chandlery which was destroyed in a July 22, 1897 waterfront fire and the iconic Willse-Bayles Homestead which was leveled in December 1917 to make way for what is now the Port Jefferson Village Center.

Additional images show the Port Jefferson Flour Mill on West Broadway, sold in 1918 and later dismantled; Smith’s Hotel on Main Street, renamed the Ardencraig Inn and lost in a 1920 blaze; and Raynor’s Hotel on East Main Street, commonly known as the Port Jefferson Hotel, demolished in 1949. 

Raynor’s Hotel on Port Jefferson’s East Main Street was demolished in 1949. Photo by George B. Brainerd; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Besides these shots, Brainerd’s panoramic views of Port Jefferson capture the village’s Cedar Hill Cemetery, original railroad station, Emmett B. Darling Shipyard, John R. Mather Lumber Shed, tranquil harbor, inviting streets, and gracious homes. 

Gifted in freezing the Port Jefferson scene for posterity, Brainerd has left us with a treasure, providing an invaluable record of what it was like to live in the village before its suburban development.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

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Prohibition agents examine barrels of booze found on a rumrunner seized by a Coast Guard cutter. Photo from the Library of Congress

On Saturday afternoon, Aug. 22, 1931, William Fillbach was sitting in his car, which was parked on the ferry dock at Port Jefferson, waiting to serve a warrant on a man due there at 5:30 p.m.

An investigator for the Suffolk County District Attorney, Fillbach was turning the pages of a newspaper when he caught a glimpse of a boat being hauled out of the water and on to the ways of the Port Jefferson (aka Long Island) Shipyard at the foot of Main Street.

The rumrunner Artemis was hauled out of the water and on to the ways of the Port Jefferson Shipyard shown at the foot of the village’s Main Street. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

All Fillbach could read on the vessel were the letters “Art,” but they were enough for him to identify the boat as the notorious Artemis, a rumrunner that had disappeared following her heated battle with a Coast Guard cutter.

Fillbach climbed aboard the now high and dry craft, which had been moved into a shed, and carefully observed the scene. There was no contraband on the battered booze boat, but the bullet-riddled vessel was strewn with broken glass and three planks on her port side were smashed inward.

Fillbach learned that the crippled Artemis had been towed to Port Jefferson by the swordfisher Evangeline, but workers at the Port Jefferson Shipyard claimed not to know who owned the disabled craft, which bore no registration numbers, or who gave the orders to make her seaworthy.

Fearing that the mysterious smugglers might attempt to spirit the stranded Artemis out of Port Jefferson, Fillbach and five deputy sheriffs guarded the fugitive vessel until Sunday, Aug. 23, when a Coast Guard cutter took over the watch.

Just days before, on Thursday evening, Aug. 20, CG-808 was patrolling Long Island Sound, searching for suspected rumrunners. The cutter had sighted the 53-foot Artemis about two miles east of the Cornfield Point Lightship and commanded her to stop.

Although loaded down with illicit liquor, the speedy rumrunner answered by racing off into the darkness, propelled by her powerful Liberty aircraft engines that had been converted for marine use.

The Coasties gave chase and fired hundreds of shots at the fleeing craft, many hitting the mark. During the thick of the running battle, the agile Artemis suddenly turned about and rammed the 45-foot CG-808, forcing the severely damaged cutter to stop the pursuit and limp back to the Operating Base in New London, Connecticut.

Known as a ‘Six Bitter,’ a 75-foot Coast Guard patrol boat is docked at Port Jefferson’s Bayles Landing. During Prohibition, the government’s patrol boats waged a relentless war against rumrunners operating in local waters. Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

The rumrunners then landed on the beach three miles west of Orient Point, where two badly wounded men were taken off the speedboat and driven to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport while the vessel’s prized cargo was quickly unloaded by swarms of willing local residents. 

Angered by the attack on CG-808, and miffed by the escape of the Artemis, Coast Guard officials brought in a private airplane and dispatched two patrol boats to locate the infamous rumrunner. Despite their best efforts, the Artemis was secreted away, stopping briefly in Mattituck Harbor for some patchwork before moving on to Port Jefferson for major repairs.

In the aftermath of the incident, the two crewmen who were aboard the Artemis and severely injured by gunfire from CG-808 were discharged from the hospital, both refusing to talk with the authorities.

The Artemis was seized by the United States Marshal, who claimed that her owners had an outstanding debt at the Gaffga Engine Works in Greenport. After the dispute was settled, the Artemis posted bond and quietly left Port Jefferson, much to the dismay of the Coast Guard.

Over the ensuing years, the Artemis changed hands and home ports several times, but never lost her reputation as a lawbreaker. In May 1935, the Coast Guard captured the Artemis off Chesapeake Bay and brought her to New York Harbor on suspicion of rumrunning, but without any evidence of illegality, the speedboat and her crew were released by the government.

Cases of Scotch Whisky fill the hold of a rumrunner captured by the Coast Guard. Photo from the Library of Congress

With the end of prohibition, the Artemis began a new, but less exciting career, running as a ferry between Bay Shore and Fire Island.

In Port Jefferson, however, the Artemis will always be remembered for bringing the rum war directly to the village.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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The steamship Nonowantuc, which ran from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson, 1884-1902, is shown underway in Port Jefferson harbor. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

On July 4, 1840, the diarist George T. Strong arrived in Port Jefferson for the holiday, not on a packet or other sailing ship, but on the Sun, the first in a succession of steamboats to make regular runs between New York City and the village.

In his account of the trip, Strong wrote that the Sun had left Manhattan at 8 a.m., stopped at Cow Harbor (Northport) and arrived in Drowned Meadow (Port Jefferson) at 2:30 p.m., all in all “a comfortable voyage.”

Excursion ticket for the steamer Favorite which sailed the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson route. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The vessel had carried about 100 passengers who were entertained by a “cotillion band” that, according to Strong, had “squeaked, twanged, and tooted Hail Columbia.”

The Sun, which began serving Port Jefferson in spring 1840, was replaced during the ensuing years by a series of steamers including the Mt. Pleasant, Suffolk, Island Belle, Golden Gate and John Faron.

The steamships typically ran for three seasons but discontinued service during the winter months. Over time, Huntington and Stony Brook were added to the ports of call. Stages were made available in Port Jefferson to convey travelers to Old Mans (Mount Sinai), Miller Place and other locations. The Mt. Pleasant charged 50 cents for passage from New York City to Port Jefferson while the Suffolk priced tickets at 75 cents and the John Faron at $1.00. 

Long at the mercy of outsiders who had monopolized steam navigation on the sound, a group of prominent businessmen from Port Jefferson and the vicinity began talks in 1858 to incorporate the Long Island Steamboat Company as a way to exercise more local control over routes, schedules and fares.

Engraving of the steamship Ocean Wave from an 1860 stock certificate issued by the Long Island Steamboat Company. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Led by investors Thomas Ritch, Reuben Wilson and Thomas Strong, the company purchased the sidewheeler Ocean Wave which started its trips between New York City and Port Jefferson in summer 1859.

In July 1860, the Ocean Wave struck a rock off Crane Neck, beached but safely landed her passengers. Although the steamer was repaired and returned to service the following month, low ridership led to the company’s bankruptcy and the sale of the Ocean Wave in a December 1861 auction.

Beginning with the Pioneer, a succession of steamboats followed the Ocean Wave. Often cited in the diary of Azariah H. Davis, the Sunbeam made the New York City run from 1867-1868 and the Mattano from 1868-1869, both sidewheelers stopping at Stony Brook. 

With the coming of the Long Island Rail Road to Port Jefferson in 1873, the public had a convenient means of traveling between the village and New York City other than on a steamboat. As business opportunities in one market came to an end, attention shifted to developing a steam ferry link between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The June 1860 schedule for the sidewheeler Ocean Wave which ran from New York City to Port Jefferson with a stop at Stony Brook. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The steamer Brookhaven, known locally as the “Little Bedbug,” ran the Port Jefferson to Bridgeport route from 1872-1881 except for 1873-1874 when it was covered by the Spitfire. Besides carrying passengers, the steamships transported strawberries and other produce from then agricultural Long Island to industrial New England. 

Succeeding the Brookhaven, the 115-foot Favorite crossed the Sound from 1882-1883 and became well known for her special excursions to visit P.T. Barnum’s circus in Bridgeport and to see Jumbo the Elephant. 

The incorporation of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company in 1883, followed by the beginning of ferry operations on the 120-foot steamer Nonowantuc in 1884, brought order, consistency and dependability to cross-Sound travel, a tradition of service which continues today. 

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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A trolley from the Suffolk Traction Company is shown in Patchogue. Although track was laid along Port Jefferson’s Main Street, Suffolk Traction never ran a streetcar in the village. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Port Jefferson was not immune to the trolley fever that swept the United States during the late 19th century.

Orange T. Fanning, Thomas O’Donnell, Charles E. Tooker and other prominent village businessmen met in 1895 and called for the construction of an electric trolley line that would cross Long Island from Port Jefferson on the Sound to Patchogue on the Great South Bay.

According to its supporters, the proposed trolley would provide a connection with the Port Jefferson ferry that sailed to Bridgeport, Connecticut; increase tourism among day-trippers; and carry passengers from the Sound to the Bay in less than one hour.

The project’s cheerleaders also claimed the trolley would enrich property owners along the line and improve transportation by intersecting with the LIRR’s stations at Patchogue, Waverly (Holtsville) and Port Jefferson.

Note the trolley tracks. A procession leaves Athena Hall, crosses Port Jefferson’s Main Street and marches up Spring Street for the 1914 cornerstone laying ceremonies at Port Jefferson High School. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Seeing enormous profits in the trolley venture, parties from Long Island, New York City and Bridgeport organized the Patchogue and Port Jefferson Traction Company on Jan. 29, 1896.

Port Jefferson Traction announced that its 14-mile trolley road would be finished and in operation by April 1, 1903, but several factors kept the project from moving ahead.

Confronted by the high costs of equipment and materials, the corporation delayed work waiting for prices to fall. Word that New Haven, Connecticut, might run a steamboat to Port Jefferson and link with the trolley worried investors in Bridgeport who had backed Port Jefferson Traction’s scheme. 

Arguments also arose over the trolley’s hours of operation, rate of speed, type of roadbed and method of power. The streetcar’s proponents quarreled over whether the line should be built from Patchogue to Port Jefferson or vice versa. 

Mired in endless trolley talk, Port Jefferson Traction was acquired by the Central Long Island Electric Light and Railroad Company. Chartered on Dec. 17, 1903, the new corporation amended the proposed Patchogue-Port Jefferson route to include a Setauket-Stony Brook branch line. The organization also sought to build a power plant in Port Jefferson and develop land in an envisioned “Jefferson Manor” section of Echo.

Notwithstanding its glowing prospectus, Central Long Island never ran a streetcar in Port Jefferson, opening the door for the Suffolk Traction Company and its plans for a Cross Island trolley road.

Incorporated on June 27, 1906, Suffolk Traction soon became embroiled in legal disputes with its competitors over franchises, the LIRR over grade crossings and property owners over condemnation proceedings.

When the court battles finally ended and construction actually began, Suffolk Traction diverted resources that had been earmarked for Port Jefferson to expanding service on the South Shore. As a result, track was not laid along Port Jefferson’s Main Street (Route 25A) until 1909-13, but by then it was too late. Even discounting the years lost to inactivity and sporadic work, the trolley plan was already doomed in the village.

A self-propelled crane enters Port Jefferson’s Bayles Shipyard, East Broadway, April 1918. The crane arrived by the LIRR and then steamed down to the waterfront traveling on the Suffolk Traction Company’s trolley rails and temporary tracks. Photo by Arthur S. Greene; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Automobiles were revolutionizing travel, giving Long Islanders the freedom to explore the open road and making them less dependent on public transit. In addition, Suffolk Traction was facing competition from faster buses that carried passengers between Port Jefferson and Patchogue on the “Auto Trolley Line.”

While managing to run a battery-powered streetcar between Patchogue and Holtsville, a bankrupt Suffolk Traction ceased operations in 1919.

Although the trolley never ran in Port Jefferson, the existing tracks were supplemented by temporary rails and used during World War I to move a self-propelled crane downhill from Port Jefferson’s LIRR station to Bayles Shipyard on the village’s waterfront. 

The rusting trolley tracks, viewed as a nuisance by Port Jefferson’s motorists and pedestrians, were torn up as improvements were made along Route 25A, although rails were still visible at the foot of the village’s Main Street as late as September 1956.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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On Spring Street, the 1944 Hurricane brought down a tree which crashed against the Methodist Church. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Port Jefferson is no stranger to hurricanes, having been pummeled by the big blows several times in its past. But while most villagers are familiar with named storms such as Carol and Donna, few are aware of the powerful Great Atlantic Hurricane of September 1944 and its impact locally.

At the Port Jefferson Shipyard, yachts were driven ashore by the 1944 Hurricane and a building demolished. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

World War II was the news in 1944, not the weather, relegating stories about an otherwise major storm to the back pages. In addition, the United States was sensitive about releasing information that could benefit the enemy, such as revealing that a defense plant had been battered by wind and wave. With little or no media coverage, the Great Atlantic Hurricane became a forgotten storm, but not by those in Port Jefferson who had experienced its fury.

The hurricane arrived in the village on Thursday, Sept. 14, about 5 p.m., beginning with torrential rains, but did not become a full force storm until about 10:30 p.m. when wind velocities ranged from 75 to 85 mph.

The gusts, combined with a normal flood tide, drove whitecaps from Long Island Sound into Port Jefferson Harbor and over the village’s shorefront, inundating some areas with more than two feet of seawater.

The 1944 Hurricane destroyed the Long Island Ice Company’s refrigeration plant on Port Jefferson’s East Broadway. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Surf Avenue (East Broadway) was particularly hard hit. The hurricane wrecked the lunchroom and gift shop at Bayles Landing, destroyed the Long Island Ice Company’s refrigeration plant, tore off the back of the Keystone Coal Company’s building, blew away the planking at the Standard Oil Company’s dock, and lashed what was once Wilson’s Sail Loft.

The bulkhead was undermined, plantings were washed away and the pavilion was damaged at Brookhaven Town’s new waterfront park, now Mary Bayles Park, which had been completed just days before the storm.

Seawater entered the Harborview Hotel, covering the ground floor, and the Vandall Building, bringing muck and mud into the Port Jefferson Service Club, a hospitality center for America’s uniformed military personnel.

But Surf Avenue was not the only area in Port Jefferson to feel the hurricane’s savage force. On West Broadway, the storm hammered the South Bay Water Company’s pumping station, the Tydol Oil Company’s pier and the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company’s freight office. Six yachts stored at the Port Jefferson Shipyard were driven ashore and a building was demolished.

The proprietor of Teddy’s Hotel at the foot of Main Street reported that 36 to 40 inches of water had flooded his cocktail lounge and dining room. In nearby stores, basements were submerged, the deluge spreading up to the police station on Arden Place. At Bishop’s Garage on the corner of Main Street and West Broadway, cars were ruined as seawater fouled their engines.

The 1944 Hurricane hammered the South Bay Water Company’s pumping station along Port Jefferson’s West Broadway. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

On the west side of the village, a large oil storage tank was toppled at the Swezey Coal and Feed Company’s property on Beach Street. Numerous boats sank in the yacht basin and small craft were later found along area beaches and in the salt meadow off West Broadway, blown far from their original locations.

Trees and utility poles were downed by the hurricane, taking out electric and telephone lines throughout Port Jefferson. On the corner of Main and Spring streets, one old tree cut wires as it crashed against the Methodist Church, but miraculously spared the building from serious damage. Two weeks after the storm, the village was still without full electric service.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department performed tirelessly throughout the emergency, pumping out flooded cellars in the village’s homes and businesses. The dedicated volunteers also provided electric generators at lightless Mather Memorial and St. Charles hospitals.

With so many draft-age men serving in the armed forces, younger citizens assisted police and highway departments in the days following the hurricane. The Minute Men Cadets, a unit of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office, patrolled downtown Port Jefferson’s darkened streets, protecting property from looters and vandals. Members of the Junior Auxiliary Brookhaven Town Police Department directed traffic in the village and cleared debris from its clogged roads.

The 1944 Hurricane blocked Port Jefferson’s East Broadway with downed utility poles, toppled trees and storm wreckage. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Although it would be tempting to compare the 1944 storm with other hurricanes that have walloped Port Jefferson, the effect of World War II on the village must be considered, making ranking difficult. For example, was power restored slowly in Port Jefferson because of the widespread damage resulting from the 1944 storm, wartime labor shortages, or both? Regardless, the Great Atlantic Hurricane was hardly a “forgotten storm” among villagers who had lived through the harrowing event.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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The Townsend House was located in Port Jefferson at the southeast corner of today’s Main and East Main streets. Photo by George B. Brainerd, photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Members of the Tile Club, a group of New York City artists, arrived in Port Jefferson on Oct. 26, 1881 and spent a week in the village sketching the local scene.

The Century Magazine chronicled the artists’ Port Jefferson sojourn in “The Tile Club Ashore (February 1882),” a lighthearted narrative featuring 20 drawings.

During the Tile Club’s sojourn in Port Jefferson, they stayed at this hotel, which bears a striking resemblance to the Townsend House. Sketch by F. Hopkinson Smith, sketch from The Century Magazine

The article is actually a composite account of the cosmopolitan Tilers’ two trips to Long Island, one by tugboat in summer 1880 to an undisclosed location on the North Shore and the other by train in fall 1881 to Port Jefferson.

Blurring time and place, the story was written by Tile Club member William Laffan as if there had been a single excursion. 

Besides recounting the adventures of the Tile Club in The Century Magazine, Laffan also promoted Nassau and Suffolk as vacationlands in travel guides he had written while a passenger agent for the Long Island Rail Road.

Laffan had lauded Port Jefferson for “its sandy shore, its still woods, and its placid bay” in The New Long Island, an 1879 LIRR handbook, and continued to extoll its appeal in The Century Magazine, describing the village as a “conservative, steady-going, sensible settlement,” “rich in historical interest” and “a delightful place.”

After deboarding the train at Port Jefferson’s railroad station, the Tilers walked down a path to an inn where the kindly landlord assigned the artists “to neat and comfortable bedrooms,” charged them “astonishingly low” rates and encouraged the Tilers to make as much noise as they liked.

Although the hotel is not identified in Laffan’s article, F. Hopkinson Smith’s sketch of the establishment, The House of the Reckless Landlord, bears a striking resemblance to a vintage photograph of the Townsend House which was located on the southeast corner of today’s Main and East Main streets.

Seeking artistic inspiration in picturesque Port Jefferson, the Tilers “invaded the town in every part” and found “there were no closed doors to them.” Unearthing a “bewildering wealth of material” in the surroundings, they drew the village’s orchards, hills and valleys, sail loft, pebbly beach, shipwrecks, and residents, including “a great jovial sea-dog with a skin of leather.”

Arthur Quartley sketched A Corner by the Harbor which shows one of the shipyards that graced Port Jefferson’s waterfront during the late 19th century and Alfred Parsons portrayed one of the village’s quaint cottages in A Sea-Side Homestead.

Sketch by Arthur Quartley of a shipyard that once graced Port Jefferson’s waterfront; sketch from The Century Magazine

While the Tilers were so-named for their painted ceramic tiles, they did not limit themselves to this medium, evident in J. Alden Weir’s vibrant Port Jefferson, 1881, a pencil and watercolor on paper.

Before leaving Port Jefferson, the Tilers honored the genre painter William S. Mount by visiting his Stony Brook house, sketched by Smith in Home of the Artist, a charcoal on paper.

Published at a time when Port Jefferson was transitioning from a shipbuilding center to a vacation spot, Laffan’s article depicted the unspoiled village as a haven for artists but also as a tourist destination.

His story in the mass-circulation Century Magazine put Port Jefferson on the map and introduced its readers to the village’s beautiful countryside and harbor, inexpensive accommodations, and rail connections, but most important, to Port Jefferson’s welcoming residents.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

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Montfort, pictured on cribbing, was moved from the south side of Myrtle Avenue to make way for the construction of Infant Jesus School. Photo from the Peter Colen Collection

It was once common in Port Jefferson to see a house or other structure being moved from one location in the village to another.

Buildings were relocated to avoid flooding, preserve a historic property, clear the site for redevelopment, escape bad neighbors, profit from a land sale, improve the view and numerous other reasons. 

The high costs of labor and materials generally made it less expensive to move a structure than to build anew. There was less concern with auto traffic, overhead utility lines, tree branches, and other obstacles that would impede a move in today’s Port Jefferson.

Using a wooden carriage system and the energy provided by a team of horses or oxen, early house movers — known as “machinists” — plied their trade. With the advent of modern technology, hydraulic jacking systems and dollies replaced the primitive equipment of yesteryear.

Montfort, pictured on cribbing, was moved from the south side of Myrtle Avenue to make way for the construction of Infant Jesus School. Photo from the Peter Colen Collection

There are several references to the work of the village’s past house movers in the diary of Azariah H. Davis who chronicled life in nineteenth-century Port Jefferson. In May 1868, he recounted how the Townsend House on the southeast corner of the village’s Main and East Main streets was split in two halves and a new structure was erected in the center.   

In a July 1868 entry, Davis noted that Port Jefferson tin merchant Tuthill Corwin had his “old shanty” moved from the village’s beach and in March 1870 that machinist John Marvin had moved “the old store which formerly belonged to James M. Bayles” of shipbuilding fame.

Francis A. Hawkins, a civil engineer and surveyor, was another of Port Jefferson’s original house movers. Among his many and varied contracts, he moved a boat shop from one side of Water Street (East Broadway) to the other and a shuttered jewelry store from East Main to West Broadway. Hawkins also turned around a house so that it would front on Myrtle Avenue.

Port Jefferson’s residents not only hired local house movers, but also their counterparts from outside of the village. In 1893, Napoleon Bonaparte Overton of Patchogue, who advertised himself as the “Great American House Mover,” was tasked with transporting a “wing” of the Townsend House to Echo (Port Jefferson Station).

Among other notable buildings that were relocated in Port Jefferson, in 1873 the Methodist Church was moved from Thompson to Spring Street. The chapel was sold at auction in 1893, moved to Main Street and remodeled as a storehouse, only to be destroyed in a 1904 fire.

The Custom House, which squatted in front of the Baptist Church at the intersection of East Main and Prospect streets, was moved in 1898 to 417 Myrtle Avenue and converted into a private residence.

The former home of Zachariah Hawkins, Port Jefferson’s first postmaster, stood near the southeast corner of Myrtle Avenue and Main Street. The house was moved to 204 Chestnut Street, allowing for the construction of Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church, which opened in 1912. 

The Point House was moved along Main Street to its new location at 125 South Street. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The Point House, which once backed on the salt marsh in downtown Port Jefferson, was moved in 1922 from the west side of Main Street to its present location at 125 South Street.

In 1929, the home of village postmaster John M. Brown was moved to 105 Tuthill Street from its prior location on the northeast corner of Main and Tuthill streets where the New York Telephone Company subsequently built an office on the choice site.

Montfort, a Catholic home for handicapped children, was moved from the south side of Myrtle Avenue to make way for the building of Infant Jesus School, which was dedicated in 1938.

For the early residents of Port Jefferson, moving buildings was not only routine, but it also demonstrated their commitment to preservation, so often absent in the throwaway society of today.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson