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Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation

A drone captures a photo of The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill in Lloyd Harbor. Photo from The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary

One of the oldest industrial buildings on Long Island is about to get an upgrade.

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary recently announced in a press release that the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation awarded it a grant of more than $97,000. The matching grant will go toward the restoration of the 223-year-old Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill in Lloyd Harbor and the dam where it is located.

The tide mill sanctuary is a nonprofit established to preserve and promote public access to the three and one-half story 18th-century tide gristmill. Both the timber-frame wood tide mill and the 400-foot long earthen dam are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation’s mission is to advance Long Island’s regional history,” said Kathryn Curran, executive director of RDLGF. “All projects chosen to receive RDLGF funding each have their own individual impact, but mark a shared place in a larger story. The Van Wyck-Lefferts Mill is one of many local mills that dot this Island, each representing commerce, community devolvement and technology.”

According to the tide mill sanctuary, the grant will help to restore the earthen dam. The nonprofit will also be able to install a new roof on the mill building and do interior structural repairs. This work is expected to be completed in the middle of this year.

“The mill is considered one of the best preserved 18th-century tide mills in the United States and is one of only 10 surviving examples of tide mills in the northeast from Virginia to Maine,” said Robert Hughes, tide mill sanctuary board member and Town of Huntington historian. “The funding from the Gardiner Foundation will help to ensure the continued preservation of this remarkable structure, which was built in 1797 and continued to serve local farmers for the next three-quarters of a century.”

In the future, the nonprofit also hopes to shore up the bulkhead, which protects the mill’s stone foundation, and to restore the bridge over the spillway that connects the north and south sections of the dam.

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In 2020, Higher Ground was able to work on the roof of the Eato House on Christian Avenue. Photo from Higher Ground

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation is playing a part in helping to restore the historic Eato House on Christian Avenue in Setauket.

The foundation recently awarded the Setauket-based Higher Ground Inter-Cultural & Heritage Association, Inc. an Organizational Capacity Building Grant. Higher Ground, which works to preserve the culture, indigenous inhabitants and historic inventory of the Native and Afro-American community, is currently restoring the house.

According to RDLGF, this type of grant will enable Higher Ground to work with four professionals in the areas of governance, collections, site assessment and outreach as the foundation will pay for the services. Higher Ground has been working on the continued preservation of the Bethel Christian Ave., Laurel Hill Historic District, and currently, the organization co-owns the house with Bethel AME Church.

“The Higher Ground project speaks to a story of diversity,” said Kathryn Curran, executive director of RDLGF. “This association highlights this area’s role in establishing and recognizing that important cultural heritage.”

Robert Lewis, president of Higher Ground, said the first stage of the Eato House’s restoration was completed Dec. 1. He added that the first stage of work focused on preventing water from penetrating the structure. To accomplish the goal, existing roof rafters were fortified and a new roof was insulated. New gutters and leaders were also added to match the 1900 architecture and the

A future second stage of work will focus on the foundation of the structure and interior stabilization.

“The second stage is obviously dependent on funding availability,” Lewis said. “The prospects for acquiring additional funding in the future will be much brighter when the RDL Gardiner Capacity Building Project is completed.”

The grant from the RDLGF grant will enable members of the Eato House Restoration Committee to be trained “to pursue and manage historic preservation activities; manage projects, and to adequately fulfill standard requirements for State registered non-profits,” according to Lewis. The grant will also introduce the organization to promotional activities, marketing strategies and high technology processing.

“Participation in the OCB project will increase the competency of Higher Ground to protect structures, documented history, environmental history; to preserve artwork, oral history and archaeological documentation,” Lewis said.

While RDLGF is known for helping to preserve Suffolk County’s history, other works of the foundation aren’t as well known.

“Less known, but equally successful, are the efforts of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to identify, and engage with small, relatively hidden areas of valuable, Native, and Afro-American history being lost in minority communities where small preservation organizations labor to survive,” Lewis said.

In a 2017 interview with TBR News Media, Bethel AME historian, Carlton “Hub” Edwards, said the Eato House was once home to the Rev. David Eato, one of the church’s first pastors, and his wife Mary Baker, a freed slave.

Baker moved to the North after being freed from slavery and settled in Port Washington where she was an organist at a church. It was there that she met Eato and, after marrying, the couple moved to Setauket, and the reverend became one of the first ministers of Setauket’s Bethel AME in the early 1900s. Mary took on the role of superintendent of the Sunday school and held the position until the late 1930s.

Edwards said the members of the Eato family owned the house until the church purchased it a few years ago.

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The historic building that houses The Jazz Loft on Christian Avenue in Stony Brook. Photo from WMHO

Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, is always grateful when someone comes along and offers a helping hand, but during the pandemic, his gratitude is overflowing.

The Old Stone Jug, above, prior to being moved to its current site in 1940. Photo from Tom Manuel

Before New York State’s mandatory shutdowns, the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation awarded The Jazz Loft a grant in the amount of $40,000 to match funds coming from local resident and patron Dan Oliveri.

The money is being used to renovate the southwest section of the basement, which is under the Old Stone Jug area of the venue. The undertaken has been dubbed Project Coal Bin, Manuel said. While the basement dates back to 1941, the Old Stone Jug was built in approximately 1770. The grant also covers equipment needed to archive information.

“What’s exciting is it’s going to be a multipurpose space where the grant was designed not just to redesign the space but to outfit it as an area that will be used for our archiving,” The Jazz Loft founder said.

He added that the Stony Brook University Department of Computer Science worked last year to design the computer programming for the archiving, which will open up doors for other grants in the future for additional archiving and preservation.

“It’s amazing how a group like the Gardiner foundation could allow so many great things to happen even indirectly after their grant is done,” he said.

He called RDLGF a lifeline for nonprofits and a “blessing for people on Long Island.” The admiration is mutual.

Kathryn Curran, right, and The Jazz Loft founder Tom Manuel, left, in the Count Basie Garden. Photo from Tom Manuel

“The Jazz Loft is an exceptional organization that engages the community on many levels,” said Kathryn Curran, executive director of the RDLGF. “The adaptive reuse of their historic building brings new and inventive life to this early structure celebrating the history of jazz through performances and art and artifacts.”

While the grant process was lengthy, Manuel said it was an excellent experience for him where before the pandemic he sat in on a grant-writing workshop given by Curran, and was able to exchange ideas with others. He said it was inspiring to learn about grants and the bigger picture of the longevity of nonprofits and the history of Long Island.

“After a while you realize, wow, it’s not so much about me writing this grant anymore,” he said. “It’s about The Jazz Loft being here for 100 years. This is about being responsible with what has been entrusted to me.”

Manuel also praised RDLGF for the funds they granted to nonprofits during the pandemic. Curran said the board was aware of the new problems nonprofits faced in 2020, and in June the board members approved a limited reimbursement grant to historical societies. The grants were intended to help organizations cover expenses during unscheduled closings. In total, RDLGF awarded more than $63,000 to help pay bills over a three-month period.

As for Project Coal Bin, Manuel said work began a couple of months ago. He indicated before major construction could begin, the old drop ceiling had to be removed in the section of the basement, while the plumbing and the electrical system needed to be updated. Manuel said when a person is downstairs and looks up, the hand-hewn beams of the Old Stone Jug are now visible after 80 years following the removal of a plaster ceiling.

The section of The Jazz Loft is called the Old Stone Jug due to its facade and was added by philanthropist Ward Melville, who moved the structure from its original location and made it an addition to what was once the original Stony Brook firehouse. It was then used as the Suffolk Museum, the forerunner of The Long Island Museum. Before it was moved, the Old Stone Jug, through the decades, was utilized for town meetings, operated as a tin shop and was used to store molasses jugs.

Manuel said they named the new section of the basement the Coal Bin after a former establishment in Southampton called Bowden Square. The owner Herb McCarthy’s mother would cook southern food and play jazz music for Black patrons in the basement, called the Coal Bin, during a time when Southampton was segregated.

Manuel said renovations in The Jazz Loft basement are projected to be completed before the end of the year.

The Commerdinger home in Nesconset, as seen today, was expected in 2006 to become a living museum.

Instead of selling their property to a developer for nearly $2 million, the family of Walter S. Commerdinger, Jr. sold to Suffolk County in 2006 their property on the north side of Lake Ronkonkoma with its historic home, circa 1810, for a reported $1.2 million. The idea, said Commerdinger’s heir, Paul Albert, was to turn the site into a living museum to honor the legacy of the family, regarded as one of Nesconset’s earliest settlers.

The home, which was in pristine condition when sold, has sat vacant for more than a decade now and has been repeatedly vandalized. Despite being awarded $100,000 in grant money for repairs from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the county has allegedly not yet followed through with its end of the bargain.

The Commerdinger home in 2006, when the county purchased the site.

Both parties aim to renegotiate the agreement. 

Marie Gruick is a member of Nesconset Chamber of Commerce and she’s been helping Albert navigate the situation he’s facing with the government.

“They keep saying they’re broke,” Gruick said. “It’s been a bunch of empty promises. They just gave other communities $500,000 for a parking lot.”

The situation, though, highlights the challenges of preserving history on Long Island and in New York in general. Commerdinger Park and Marion Carll Farm, in Commack, are two examples of families hoping to preserve history with gifts of historic homes and properties to public entities. Both sites have historic homes that have fallen into a state of disrepair. 

Sara Kautz is the preservation director of Preservation Long Island. The not-for-profit organization works with Long Islanders to protect, preserve, and celebrate cultural heritage through advocacy, education, and stewardship of historic sites and collections.  The organization offers many services for free.  She said that more and more places are at risk.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) served as Nesconset’s county legislator in 2006 and helped facilitate the initial transaction for the Commerdinger site. Kennedy now serves as county comptroller and is running for county executive. His wife Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) now serves as county legislator for District 12. She said there are no new updates.

“There’s a contract that everyone is reading through, so Commerdinger can join up with Smithtown Historical Society,” Leslie Kennedy said. “But it’s all in the talk stage.”

Gruick said the park is the last green space in Nesconset and its trails stretch to Lake Ronkonkoma. If the county isn’t interested in maintaining the home, she said, they should give it back. The family formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit, W.S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park Preservation Society, in 2008 to serve as stewards for the site but have been unable to accomplish what needs to be done for the house and its buildings. They say they feel like they’re on a merry-go-round.

“How long is the county going to dangle carrots,” Gruick said. 

The most immediate task, Gruick and Albert said, is to get PSEGLI to hook up the electricity to the site, so they can install security cameras to prevent further damage and to get county water hookup. What Gruick doesn’t understand, she said, is why the county is telling them that hooking up to electricity needs to go to bid if PSEGLI is the business that connects electricity. 

The county said in response to our inquiries that the order is in with PSEG, which needs to schedule the work. They could not provide a time frame for electric hookup and could only say that the request has been in for a while. 

Albert said that he has collections of antiques, including pottery crafted in the first kiln brought to America. He had hoped to move the pieces into the site by now. Formerly a banker, Albert said that he needs a lawyer that specializes in preservation but is unsure who has that expertise.

Crolius family heirs hope to exhibit a rare pottery collection in the Commerdinger home museum.

Kathryn Curran is the executive director of the Gardiner Foundation, a philanthropic group that supports historic preservation projects for 501(c)3 organizations with an education mission, but not for schools. 

The foundation offers $5 million in grants annually and said that some projects go more smoothly than others. When a municipality owns a building, she said, they typically have a contract in place with a “friends” group to manage the property. 

“The money is allocated to the friends group, not the municipality,” she said. 

Because of the “friends” agreements with government, she said the group needs town approval for the work and the contracts it hopes to secure. For some reason, towns or government entities don’t always feel comfortable with the process.

“We’re trying to give historic educational experiences to enhance a community,” she said. “It’s a downtown revitalization gift.”

She said that local businesses benefit when these projects are completed, so she doesn’t always understand herself why governments are reluctant. She said that many people are willing to volunteer as part of a friends group. These people, she noted, are also a precious gift. 

“It appears they don’t want to be beholden to private money,” she said. 

Gruick and Albert said they are frustrated but remain hopeful. They plan to meet with officials in the Town of Smithtown in the upcoming weeks for help. 

Renovations on the Red Barn in the Frank Melville Memorial Park, including straightening the building, were recently completed. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The weather was finally ideal for Frank Melville Memorial Park trustees, volunteers and friends to celebrate the completion of much-needed repairs to a historic structure.

Workers began restoring the park’s Red Barn at the beginning of September and completed the project a few months later. The 1,056 square-foot barn needed structural restoration, which included straightening, and the building up of the existing foundation to a level where it will be protected from flooding.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience.”

— Kathryn Curran

On May 20 guests of the trustees enjoyed a reception complete with wine, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and desserts from Farm to Table Catering, as well as music from a few of The Jazz Loft performers.

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, thanked those who played a part in restoring the barn including Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, who helped to secure a $44,330 matching grant for the park.

“Kathryn Curran and the trustees of the foundation saw the real community value in what we’re doing here,” Reuter said. “I think they understood when they saw the application that this really is one of the centers of our community. It’s part of a large area that is rich in history, and it’s often interpreted as that by the historical society and some of the others who celebrate that history.”

He said in addition to the foundation’s endowment, the community’s support also played a big part in the restoration. Trustee Greg Ferguson’s family foundation and another trustee who wished to remain anonymous created a $10,000 matching challenge. Reuter said the trustees’ friends exceeded the goal and came close to matching the Gardiner grant. He said the balance needed for the barn came from park funds that were budgeted for park repairs.

Curran said the Gardiner Foundation seeks out projects through community outreach that advance regional history.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience,” she said.

Curran said she and the foundation board members were pleased with the completed project. Scott Brown was chosen to work on the renovations by the FMMF board and has worked on other Gardiner projects including the Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches, the Modern Times Schoolhouse in Brentwood and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven’s Carriage Shed in Setauket.

“As a restoration carpenter Scott’s empathy to our historic sites is rooted in respect for their traditional construction,” Curran said. “His work helps bring these buildings back to life for their newly designated purposes.”

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

The future of a historic lighthouse in Huntington Bay is looking bright.

The 105-year-old Huntington Lighthouse will undergo much-needed repairs this fall thanks to preservation efforts by members of the nonprofit Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which in August secured a $145,000 matching grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, when announcing the grant recipient, highlighted the lighthouse’s “vital role as a cultural entity, enhancing education and preserving heritage in the community.”

The Gardiner grant, which the preservation society applied for in July 2016, will be used to complete what members are calling phase one of restoration efforts to the lighthouse’s exterior foundation.

It will also allow the lighthouse to reopen for tours and educational groups again after two years of dormancy, as well as mark the return of the Lighthouse Music Fest.

Steel sheeting has been placed around the entire base of the structure to ensure more stability for the next 100 years against rough weather conditions. A brand new landing platform will be installed to replace a deteriorating one.

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, said she believes it was her passion for the historic landmark that clinched the highly-competitive grant during the interview process.

“For me, it’s just a dream,” said Setchell, a lifelong Huntington resident who has been exploring the lighthouse since she was young. “Just knowing she is going to be strong for another 100 years and hopefully go on to tell its story to everybody and to children and continue on … it means the world.”

She said without these restoration efforts, the lighthouse would become unstable and rapidly deteriorate, undoing the last 30 years of work the society has done to upkeep its interior. Setchell joined the society upon its formation in 1985 when threats of demolition loomed over the structure.

“We took it over in a deplorable state, put her back together and now she’s actually one of the poster children for offshore lighthouse restoration in the country,” Setchell said.

She pointed to the offshore lighthouse as unique among others on Long Island as it’s one of the few, due to its location, that allows the public to fully experience it. Many other lighthouses on the island are off-limits to visitors due to treacherous waters, she said.

Bernadette Castro, a longtime Huntington resident and former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, echoed Setchell’s admiration for the lighthouse.

“For 50 years, I have looked out my dining room window and sat on my back terrace and appreciated that magnificent little structure,” Castro said of the lighthouse. “It is part of the landscape of those of us who live nearby.”

The recently acquired $145,000 grant, in addition to the nonprofit’s previously-raised $740,000 to secure a $250,000 New York state matching grant, as well as fundraising efforts among Huntington Bay residents, closes the gap on the $1 million foundation repair.

Above, members of the Northport Historical Society and the Gardiner Foundation. Photo from Northport Historical Society

Northport Historical Society recently announced that the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation has awarded the Society a capacity building grant in the amount of $37,271. The funding will be used to strengthen and enhance the stewardship of the Society’s historic collection and resources and provide for greater outreach to the communities it serves, namely Northport, East Northport, Asharoken, Eaton’s Neck, Crab Meadow, and Fort Salonga.

Funds earmarked for the Gardiner capacity building grant center around the development of a comprehensive business plan designed to expand awareness about the Society’s projects, services, and events; determine methods to catalogue and share its Collection; and develop exciting ways to incorporate technology into its exhibits.

“We’re elated that the Gardiner Foundation awarded the NHS this substantial grant and in doing so, validates the Board’s belief that it is imperative for the Society to develop a long range business strategy at this moment in time,” said NHS President, Ted Kaplan. “We’re intent on growing the NHS’s audience and engaging the communities we serve to the best of our ability — and this grant lays the foundation for doing just that,” he added.

“The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation views the Northport Historical Society’s location, collections and programming as a vital part of its community and a key to the economic growth of downtown Northport. This grant will prepare them to move forward to a new era of outreach and engagement,” said Kathryn M. Curran, Executive Director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

In order to meet the needs of its community and better prepare for future audiences, The Society’s Board of Directors has determined that its single most important capacity building requirement is to make the 100-year old Museum building ADA accessible. By instituting the methods and goals outlined in the Gardiner grant, the NHS is confident that the development of a multi-tiered business plan will increase community involvement in the project and provide the framework to make that goal a reality.

Located in the historic 1914 Carnegie Library building on Northport Village’s Main Street, the NHS is the only local organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of the communities comprising the Northport-East Northport School District.

Open six days a week, year-round, and operating with a part-time staff and numerous volunteers, the Society provides educational programs for both children and adults, and its Museum building serves as a central repository for the historic objects, photos and papers which encompass the heritage of the area. NHS exhibits and programs like their “Sunday at the Society” lecture series, historic walking tours, and quarterly Book Club meetings, encourage interest and appreciation for all things historical in the Northport area and make the Northport Historical Society one of the most active organizations in the area.

For more information, call 631-757-9859 or visit www.northporthistorical.org.

The William Miller House is located at 75 North Country Road in Miller Place. File photo

A Gardiner grant is growing one local historical society’s reach.

The Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society announced the approval of a $4,750 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, which will be used to upgrade and enhance the format and capabilities of its website and social media platforms.

The Daniel Hawkins House was donated to the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society. Photo from Edna Giffen

“The website itself will allow us to better communicate with our members and the general public, and to build awareness about our society and the local history that we are stewards for,” historical society trustee Matthew Burke said. “Once the upgraded website is unveiled, we anticipate launching multiple social media outlets that will seamlessly connect with and populate our website to further enhance our outreach efforts.”

The Miller Place Historical Society was founded in 1979. In 1982, the name was changed to Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society to reflect the membership and the close ties that the two communities have had since the 1600s. Burke filled out the application, emphasizing how upgrading can continue to raise awareness of the historical significance of the hamlets and the buildings the society owns.

The main property is the 1720 William Miller House — the namesake of the town and the oldest house in Miller Place. Its listing on the National Register of Historic Places enabled the eventual preservation and restoration of the structure beginning in the early 1980s. In 1998, the Daniel Hawkins House, located just east of the William Miller House, both on on North Country Road, was donated to the society. It has undertaken a major fund drive to finance the restoration of the historic gem, with the hopes of using it an archival library and exhibition space. Doing this, will also allow for the William Miller House to become a living museum.

Becoming connected with the Gardiner foundation, according to Burke, could help the society in this process.

“We like to see organizations try to become more sustainable by broadening their outreach and embracing technology to make regional history more accessible.”

—Kathryn Curran

“We’re thrilled not only to have received the financial assistance, but to start developing a relationship with the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation,” he said. “Executive Director Kathryn Curran has already introduced us to other members of the Long Island preservation and history communities who may help us.”

Besides handing out the capacity-building grant, networking, according to Curran, is part of what the foundation is all about.

“We want historical societies to link to each other, so if somebody likes going to a Revolutionary War house or Civil War site, they would want to go to another — their success would be built on each other to create tourism,” she said. “We also want them to come to us in the future for funding for different kinds of projects to build their base, their audience and their supporters.”

She said history is hot — noting a rise in genealogy searching and finding different connections to their communities — so she said this is a good time for historical societies to be growing.

“We like to see organizations try to become more sustainable by broadening their outreach and embracing technology to make regional history more accessible to a new audience,” Curran said. “Historical societies don’t like change, and they really need to grow. These investments by the foundation are there specifically to help them become more self-sufficient and have a broader outreach. It’s all about making history an important part of the community.”

Caroline Church’s Carriage Shed has been fenced in and will receive much-needed repairs. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Two historical structures in Setauket are slated to get much-needed makeovers.

Recently Frank Melville Memorial Park and Caroline Church of Brookhaven were notified that they were awarded grants from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to offset the costs of upcoming restoration projects. The park will receive $44,330 to restore the Bates Barn, better known as the Red Barn, and the church will be awarded $23,700 to stabilize the Carriage Shed. Both are matching grants, which means the organizations had to raise funds to cover half of each project before requesting the other half in funds from the foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, shed some light on what made the organizations appealing options to receive the grants.

“The organization has to be truly historically significant to the community, have a great outreach educationally, and they also have to have the capacity to fulfill the request, meaning that they have to have money in place if it’s a restoration project,” Curran said.

The executive director said the Red Barn and Carriage Shed not only met the requirements but also were ideal choices.

Frank Melville Memorial Park’s Red Barn, the site of many of the park’s programs, is slated to be restored this fall. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“[Setauket] is such a historically significant community to Long Island so it was an easy understanding of the needs for the projects to move forward,” Curran said. “And, they have a proven record to being historic stewards of these sites.”

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, said the Red Barn is one of the structures that supports the park being on the National Register of Historic Places and is a transplant from Camp Upton in Yaphank, which was used by the U.S. Army during World War I. After the camp was closed, barns were recycled and the timber was used at various locations on Long Island. The Setauket barn was restyled as an English barn from the timbers and serves as the backdrop for the park’s concerts and programs and is also used for storage.

“After we get it restored, we’re going to use it even more,” Reuter said.

The foundation president said the 1,056 square-foot barn needs structural restoration, which includes straightening, and the building up of the existing foundation to a level where it will be protected from flooding, which Reuter said the park has experienced more frequently of late. The siding also needs to be replaced.

He said the restoration of the barn began as a proposal five years ago but during the last year and a half the trustees have worked in earnest obtaining architectural drawings, securing inspections and working on applying for the grant. Reuter said the Gardiner foundation is very explicit about having everything in order before submitting a grant proposal, including having permits in place, quotes and bids.

“It’s a great deal of work leading up to the point where you can make an acceptable application,” Reuter said.

He said park foundation trustee Linda Sanders worked on the grant and did a great job in compiling all the information about the barn that is “used as a touch point in talks and walks by the historical society.”

“[The grant] is a very compelling story about the importance of this building not only in its own right but as an integral part of the diverse story of our history,” Reuter said.

Reuter said some work can begin immediately but the bulk of the restoration will be done in the fall. First the roof will be pulled off to relieve the weight, and it will be a slow process to straighten and stabilize the barn, because “it’s starting to deform as buildings do.”

Sanders said it was Reuter and Barbara Russell, Brookhaven town historian, who originally envisioned the project. She said Reuter conceptualized the project and scoped out the work needed, while Russell researched the history. She said she was delighted that the foundation recognized the historical significance of the park and barn.

“This is really in the center of the Setauket historical crescent, as I call it, that stretches from the Village Green to down Main Street to the historical society,” Sanders said.

The foundation trustee said she sees the barn as an example of not only local history but also the “reuse, recycle and repurpose” sentiment.

“When we tour the Red Barn structure, children particularly are exposed to all of the individuals who have come before them that have participated in stewarding our community assets into the present,” she said. 

Sanders said the park was able to match the Gardiner grant due to the original endowment fund from the Melville family. However, due to the fact that the funds are usually needed for maintenance work such as landscaping and tree work the FMMF will make an appeal to the community to publicly raise the park’s $44,330 half of the project in the near future as it’s the board’s responsibility to raise money for larger projects.

The Caroline Church’s Carriage Shed circa 1956 before structural damage. Photo from Caroline Church of Brookhaven

Russell, who is a member of Caroline Church’s vestry, said the Carriage Shed, built in 1887, is located on the east side of Bates Road on the church’s property and is one of the four contributing structures to the church being on the National Register of Historic Places.

The $23,700 from the Gardiner Foundation was matched by funds raised by the church from parishioners and community members and will cover the cost of stabilizing the shed that once was a place for church members to park their carriages while attending services and in later years even cars. Currently the internal framework needs replacing, as the supporting locust posts are sinking into the ground, according to Russell.

The historian said the work should be completed in the fall. After the stabilization is done, another fundraiser will be organized to repair the cedar-shingled roof.

“We have a responsibility to keep these structures in good repair,” Russell said.

The Three Village Historical Society has used the shed for its Spirits Tour, and the church has held its annual blessing of the animals there as well.

Russell said grants like the one from the Gardiner Foundation are a big help to churches and she encouraged others to apply.

“For any older churches in Suffolk County, this is a prayer answered,” Russell said.

For more information on the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation and the grants they offer, visit www.rdlgfoundation.org.

The Noah Hallock House will undergo renovations with Rocky Point Historical Society’s newly received grant money. File photo by Erin Duenas

By Desirée Keegan

Thousands of dollars have made their way to North Shore historical nonprofits, which will help continue to preserve Long Island’s rich history and educate others on it.

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation funds Long Island’s history-based 501(c)(3)s, museums and universities to help with object conservation, historical preservation, education programs and exhibits. The organization was established in memory of Gardiner’s Island, a part of East Hampton town.

“The foundation grants have become highly completive,” Executive Director Kathryn Curran said. “For this round, the board reviewed 43 applicants that covered every form of historic outreach. Projects included restorations, exhibitions, programs and collection digitization.”

Most recently, local historical societies, Friends of Science East Inc., Suffolk County Historical Society, The Nature Conservancy, 3rd NY Regiment Long Island Companies and Stony Brook Foundation, among others, were the 2016 first round recipients.

A volunteer and child practice on a loom at an event at the Huntington Historical Society. File photo
A volunteer and child practice on a loom at an event at the Huntington Historical Society. File photo

Joseph Attonito, chairman of the board of directors, said there were many great groups to choose from.

“It is very gratifying to have so many worthwhile organizations overseeing our local heritage and preserving our history,” he said. “Bob Gardiner would be very pleased.”

Rocky Point Historical Society received $7,500 for restoration use and, according to historical society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel, the funds are being used for repairs and restoration of The Noah Hallock House, built in 1721.

“We feel very privileged to have the foundation choose us for that grant,” she said. “It is important to keep this historic house in good shape. We would’ve had a hard time fundraising that money.”

According to Stiefel, the house, which holds tours on Saturdays between 1 and 3 p.m., was the birthplace of revolutionary soldiers, and had the possibility of being torn down several years ago before Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, stepped in to help.

“We still have staircases that the servants and slaves used,” Stiefel said. “It’s filled with artifacts and photographs from the 18th and 19th century, and there’s even a 20th century room dedicated to the radio history of Rocky Point.”

The Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy received $16,354.09 for it’s annual Heritage Weekend festivities.

Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy used it's funds from the grant to host a larger and more in-depth Heritage Weekend celebration. Photo by Alex Petroski
Port Jefferson Harbor Educational and Arts Conservancy used it’s funds from the grant to host a larger and more in-depth Heritage Weekend celebration. Photo by Alex Petroski

According to Nicole Christian, a consultant for grant writing for Port Jefferson Village, about 50 percent of the funding from the weekend came from the grant.

“The larger, more impactful exhibits and reenactments that would have lasting public benefit, that’s what they supported,” she said.

“We made sure that we tailored a lot of the activities that you see with the cars and the beach scene — we made sure that it all weaves together to celebrate the history of Long Island, particularly the 18th century.”

All 19 locations around the village that hosted the event covered a particular time period in Long Island’s history. According to Christian, the funding helped Port Jefferson be able to create a larger and grander event than would have originally been possible.

“We had all levels of recreational activities here,” she said. “We’re hoping that [visitors took] away a greater appreciation for Long Island’s role in 18th century history, the colonial period, the Revolutionary War, a recreational pastime. People don’t know that [Port Jefferson was] a magnet of recreation for all families.”

The Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson also received grant money, totaling $22,000 for restoration purposes.

The 3rd NY Regiment Long Island Companies was awarded $12,000 to substitute payment customarily made by collaborators, host sites and venues during the campaign season, allowing those organization to apply those resources to other priorities associated with their missions. The Regiment partakes in re-enactments to educate Long Islanders on the Revolutionary War.

“They are quite an extraordinary group of volunteers who perform a vital role in helping our county’s residents and visitors get a very personal education about colonial life and the role Long Island played in the Revolutionary War,” Richard Barons, the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society, said.

Smithtown 350 Foundation volunteers walk in a parade celebrating the town. File photo
Smithtown 350 Foundation volunteers walk in a parade celebrating the town. File photo

The Smithtown 350 Foundation received a $5,000 grant toward anniversary events, as the town celebrated its 350th anniversary this year. The Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park Preservation Society in Nesconset received $100,000 for restoration and preservation purposes.

The Huntington Historical Society received a $12,728 grant that Executive Director Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano said will be used to purchase new technology products and technical support.

“With the new technology and updated software that [the] funding will provide for, the society can continue to stay relevant in the 21st century,” Fortunato-Napolitano said in an email. “We will be able to stay better connected with our members and donors, while increasing the number of people who we can help with their research… [It] will lead directly to the growth of the organization as the goal is for the society to successfully engage more members of the public and the community. For small not-for-profits like ours with a limited budget, vital technology updates is often an item that can seem too costly to afford.”

The Old First Presbyterian Church in Huntington received $50,000 for restoration and conservation of the steeple.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization was awarded $22,500 for an educational program called Distance Learning.

According to Gloria Rocchio, president of the organization, an instructor will give a lesson, in say, the Bewster House, and it would be filmed and broadcasted onto the Distance Learning website.

The Tesla Science Center in Shoreham is looking to get on the National Register of Historic Places with help from the grant funds. File photo by Wenhao Ma
The Tesla Science Center in Shoreham is looking to get on the National Register of Historic Places with help from the grant funds. File photo by Wenhao Ma

“People from around the world could learn about the rich history we have here,” she said. “We already have the cameras installed in the Thompson House and the Brewster House, and we’re developing programs for them. Once program should be ready this fall, and the other should be ready next spring. It’s very exciting.”

Friends of Science East Inc., more commonly known as Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, received $17,500 for capacity-building technology and $3,800 for collections care.

According to board of directors President Jane Alcorn, the funding will be used to survey the property, especially the lab building and power base, to study its historic nature — identify which parts are historic, have architectural drawings done, and figure out which parts are critical to preserve and protect, and how to do it.

“The funding will help as we continue to protect the site as we work toward getting it on the National Register of Historic Places,” Alcorn said. “We know the history of the project is historic. It has significance because of Tesla’s work there    it’s a scientific site. Its architectural origins, in inspiration of Stanford White, an important architect at his time, [are also significant].”

Alcorn said that every dollar is significant, as the nonprofit looks toward the future of turning part of the site into a museum — and the funding makes the creation of a museum more exciting, if the organization can get the property on the national list.

“We believe in preserving and making the best possible choice in how we use that space,” she said. “Having the grant enables us to develop ideas that bring together the past and the future. We have far more fundraising to do moving forward, so the contribution really helps us realize and achieve the steps necessary to move forward. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation has been magnificent, and we applaud their foresight into giving to organizations such as ours, who want to preserve the best of the past.”

Victoria Espinoza and Alex Petroski contributed reporting.