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Port Jefferson Village Center

Port Jefferson’s annual Heritage Weekend celebration took place Aug. 20 and 21 at 19 locations throughout the village. Visitors made stops at the Village Center, Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, Port Jefferson Village Chamber of Commerce and more to take in historical sights and sounds during the two-day event. Funding for the event was provided in part by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.


The Long Island Seaport and Eco Center in Port Jefferson held its sixth annual “Quick ‘n’ Dirty” boat build on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14 at the Village Center. The competition allows four hours for teams of two to build boats out of wood on Saturday, which are then painted and raced around Port Jefferson Harbor on Sunday. John and Stephanie Marino came out on top in the field of eight boats, and raced their “Popeye” themed boat to victory.

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is fast approaching. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of the village that used to be known as Drowned Meadow, as well as fun, interactive activities.

The Port Times Record will preview each of the featured locations around the village leading up to Heritage Weekend. This week includes a look at the attractions that will be take place at the Village Center during the weekend. If you missed part one, click here.

Historic recreation photo exhibit

At the Village Center, an exhibit featuring vintage photos featuring the fun of bygone summers will be on display. The exhibit, called Not Just Child’s Play — Rewinding Our Pastimes, depicts what Port Jefferson was like as a tourist attraction, weekend getaway spot and community staple nearly 100 years ago. Costumed actors will be present amid the exhibit and on the beach at Harborfront Park outside of the Village Center dressed in vintage swimming attire.

Sue Orifici, who handles graphic design for the Village Center, and Village Historian Chris Ryon each spoke about what to expect from the exhibit.

“It’s just going to be another [chance] to go back in time where you can show your children what it was like to be young in those days,” Orifici said. “That visual is something that people need. It’s more than just telling them.”

Ryon said he hopes the exhibit will dispel some common misconceptions.

“People had fun a long time ago and I don’t now if everybody thinks that,” he said. “We want to show that people did relax. They weren’t working constantly. They weren’t all dying of small pox.”

Orifici said there remains many similarities between the village as it was then and now.

“People love to come to Port Jeff because they can walk around,” she said. “You didn’t have to have a car to get around because everything is walking distance.”

Model A Ford Club of Long Island

Vintage Model A Fords built between 1929 and 1931 will be visible all over the village during Heritage Weekend. The car club will be stationed at the Village Center and the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce for a majority of the weekend, though club member Jon Reiff said the group will circulate around the area to show off their cool rides.

“They’re not museum pieces — we do drive them on a regular basis,” he said.

The club is also planning to head to Belle Terre Village during the weekend for a photo opportunity. Reiff said he expects at least 10 vintage Fords to be on display throughout the weekend, but depending on weather, there could be a fleet of Model A’s flooding Port Jefferson streets for Heritage Weekend.

Liberty Balloon Company

The Liberty Balloon Company will be supplying a 60-by-60-foot hot air balloon to be stationed at the Village Center on Saturday. Carroll Teitsworth, a pilot from the company, will be sending a representative to conduct an educational presentation about the science behind the balloons and what makes them fly through the air.

The exhibition will address the history of ballooning as a means of transportation and the impact weather has on traveling by a balloon-suspended basket.

The display will be followed by a live demonstration featuring the inflated balloon in action.

By Ellen Barcel

The Port Jefferson Village Center will present a very special exhibit, The Natural Beauty of Plum Island, from July 2 through Aug. 30. Two artists, photographer Robert Lorenz and painter John H. Sargent, will be showcasing approximately 70 of their works.

Shown previously in Connecticut and the East End of Long Island (including Plum Island itself), this is the first time that the show will be presented so far west. Lorenz, who lives in Connecticut but works in New York City, said, “I’m looking forward to having the show getting closer to New York City.” He added that the PJVC is such a great venue for showing the work because of its large size.

Sue Orifici (head of Graphic, Archival & Special Projects at the PJVC) noted that while the exhibit touches on the fact that the animal disease research at Plum Island is being moved, and the island scheduled to be sold, “mostly [the exhibit] is about the art.” She added, “The artists wanted people to understand how much life there is on the island.”

“The bulk of the island is undeveloped — about 85 percent — in its natural state,” said Lorenz.

Plum Island (technically part of Southold Township) is particularly important to the Long Island area, now, since the work on animal diseases research, carried out by the federal government, is scheduled to be moved to Kansas. Plans to sell the island for development have been met with much controversy. The Preserve Plum Island Coalition is working to keep the island undeveloped.

The island is currently under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. In 2009 Congress passed legislation that stipulated that if the animal disease center was moved off the island, the government could sell the island subject to government interests, to the highest bidder. “The animal research facility on Plum Island is still very active,” said Lorenz. “It has a long list of wonderful accomplishments. It’s the premier lab of its type in the world.” He noted that one of the major research accomplishments of the lab has been the control of hoof and mouth disease. “There has not been an outbreak in this country since the 1920s.” But it is found in other countries that rely on the lab for assistance. Because of its research projects, access to the island has been very limited. But, said Lorenz, “the years of secrecy did them no good,” as far as public relations is concerned.

The island consists of 830 acres of both wildlife habitat and historically significant sites such as the Plum Gut lighthouse built in 1870 and the 1897 Fort Terry army barracks and weapons batteries. The island was originally home to Native Americans who sold the island to a colonist in the 1600s. It is also home to threatened and endangered species of plants and animals. Noted Sargent, “It is the largest seal haul out in southern New England.” Anywhere from 180 to 200 seals at a time can be seen on the rocky southern side of the island, he said.

How did this unique exhibit come about? Lorenz and Sargent met on a tour of Plum Island organized by Save the Sound, a bi-state project of the nonprofit, Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “I was the only person allowed to photograph the island,” said Lorenz, who had applied beforehand and gone through a vetting process.

While Lorenz was photographing the natural beautify of the island, Sargent was sketching. Said Sargent, “Because we had to be escorted it didn’t allow me time to paint [on the scene] … I did most of my work in the studio,” based on his sketches and photographs as well as some of Lorenz’ photos.

A representative from Save the Sound suggested producing a traveling exhibit together. “Because access to Plum Island was limited, I saw it as a challenge,” said Lorenz who was always interested in environmental issues. “We went out 12 to 14 more times over a two-year period,” to photograph and sketch the island. “We were told when we could go out,” so the time of day and weather varied with each visit.

“In our shows we have some images that are similar,” a photo and a painting of the same scene said Sargent. These will be shown side by side. But many of their other works are very different and grouped by themes: night scenes, bluffs, winter scenes, etc. There are also scenes of the historic lighthouse.

Sargent was an art teacher for many years. Retired now, he is a professional, freelance artist who works in acrylics and pastels. “I have lived along the Connecticut shore most of my life, along the waters of Long Island Sound. I have an appreciation of the beauty and a concern for the health of the Sound,” he noted. Chris Cryder of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition will be making a presentation at the opening reception. According to Laura McMillan, of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the coalition consists of 60 to 70 organizations and individuals working to prevent the development of the island. “Plum Island is not just a local, but a regional and even global area of concern,” she said.

Cryder noted that half of his presentation will be a virtual tour of the island. There will also be a panel discussion with several legislators [as of this writing, NYS Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and NYS Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) are scheduled to attend] discussing the current status of legislation pending in Congress. Cryder added that the Town of Southold created a conservation zone on the island.

If the legislation requiring the sale of the island is repealed, Cryder added that there are a number of possible uses for the island, “another research center? A renewable energy research lab? A marine research lab?” Possibly the island could be transferred to the National Parks Service. Long-term goals include saving the jobs of many of the people who work on Plum Island, saving the endangered species and opening up the island to public access — ecotourism.

The Natural Beauty of Plum Island, featuring work by Robert Lorenz and John Sargent, will be on view at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A East Broadway from July 2 through Aug. 30. An opening reception, to which all are invited, will be held on Thursday, July 7, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Both artists will be in attendance.

For further information, call 631-802-2160 or visit www.portjeff.com/facilities/village-center. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday).

The cast of TURN on AMC. File photo

By Joseph Wolkin

Students of history will have the opportunity to participate in TURN ACADEMY, a program highlighting the significance of the Roe brothers’ involvement in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring.

The North Shore has been more interested in the Revolutionary War-era spies since AMC began airing the TURN television series about Gen. Washington’s turncoats a few years ago, and now a six-week lecture series will break down the role of Port Jefferson’s Phillips and Nathaniel Roe, who were among those who helped supply Setauket’s Caleb Brewster with information for the patriots and Washington. The academy is held at the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum in Port Jefferson Village, at Barnum Avenue and West Broadway.

The program will include a letter from Loyalist soldier Nehemiah Marks from Dec. 21, 1780, which informed his comrades about the Roe brothers. The lecture series will also feature multiple maps and other documents.

Historical consultant Georgette Grier-Key, a Long Island resident, detailed the academy in an interview.

A historic letter detailing the involvement of Port Jefferson brothers in George Washington's Culper Spy Ring is on display at the Drowned Meadow Cottage. Photo by Giselle Barkley
A historic letter detailing the involvement of Port Jefferson brothers in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring is on display at the Drowned Meadow Cottage. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“It’s important because it is all about our local history,” she said. “There has been this new way of how history is being told. The importance of it has to do with the Culper Spy Ring. The program will mainly be about showing the reality versus fiction. We’re going to have a bunch of local historians that have specialized in fact and fiction. It’s entertainment and education conjoining.”

Grier-Key created an exhibit at the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum based on Marks’ letter. The letter, according to Grier-Key, proves Port Jefferson’s involvement in the Culper Spy Ring.

“The importance for the Port Jefferson Village is the fact that we have this newly discovered letter,” Grier-Key explained. “It’s rediscovered because the letter was originally found in the early 19th century. The letter resurfaced, and that’s a really important part of [the] history of Port Jefferson.”

The program began on June 24 and runs weekly through July 29, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at the Port Jefferson Village Center.

Mark Rothenberg, Mark Sternberg and Jim “Zak” Szakmary will lead the discussions. Each speaker will lead two lectures, with a cost of $120 to attend the series.

Rothenberg is a senior reference specialist, along with being a history liaison for Suffolk cooperative library system and Patchogue-Medford Library, while Sternberg is an entertainment attorney who represents independent film, television and news media producers; creative talent; production companies and distributors. Szakmary is a former president of Narrow Bay Historical Society and a current Suffolk County Historical Society researcher.

Grier-Key said the program is open to any age group, and is still accepting participants.

“The goal is to provide a learning opportunity for history within the local region,” Grier-Key said. “More importantly, the fictional series that people know is fiction is something we can use as education, and compare it to what really happened. This is our history of how early America started and how the local community evolved with patriotism.”

Mayor Margot Garant discusses the new historic letter mounted on the wall at the Drowned House Cottage museum in Port Jefferson. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Mayor Margot Garant discusses the new historic letter mounted on the wall at the Drowned House Cottage museum in Port Jefferson. Photo by Giselle Barkley