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Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

'Genessee' – William K. Vanderbilt II’s 100-foot schooner,1910. Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum Archives

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport  will offer a series of three lectures on Long Island maritime history beginning in August. Following the lectures, which will be given in the Reichert Planetarium, the Museum will hold book signings and offer refreshments. Tickets are $6 per person. Members are free. JOIN NOW!

“Little Known Aspects of Long Island’s Maritime History”
Bill Bleyer, Author and Journalist
Wednesday, August 11, 2021, 7:00 pm

This PowerPoint lecture covers the development of submarines and torpedoes, the landing of Pan Am Clippers in Port Washington, the world’s most innovative whaling captain, and more. Mr. Bleyer, a former Newsday staff writer, has written four books on Long Island history, including Long Island and the Sea: A Maritime History and Long Island and the Civil War. He is a freelance contributor to Newsday and magazines.

Willie K. and Harold S. (Mike) Vanderbilt: Gilded Age Yachtsmen
Dr. Robert B. MacKay, Historian and Author
Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 7:00 pm
This lecture will focus on how the Vanderbilts used their yachts for racing, cruising, and epic voyages. An avid sailor, noted author, and preservationist, Dr. MacKay is director emeritus of Preservation Long Island. Among his books are Great Yachts of Long Island’s North Shore, The Golden Age of Newport Yachting: Between the Wars, Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects 1860-1940.

“Fire and Ice: The Loss of the Steamship Lexington”
Brian E. O’Connor, Retired Attorney and Author
Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 7:00 pm

For 40 years, Mr. O’Connor handled complex commercial litigation as a partner with a Wall Street law firm. He will tell the story of the Steamship Lexington – built by Commodore Vanderbilt in 1835, for service on Long Island Sound – and its tragic fire, sinking, and loss of life on January 13, 1840. The tragedy had profound legal significance, prompting Congress to enact the Shipowners’ Limitation of Liability Act in 1851, which overruled an earlier Supreme Court decision and held the Lexington’s new owner liable for the loss of cargo on board when she sank. The Lexington’s loss was also a catalyst for Congressional legislation to regulate steamboat safety.

A view of the bell tower from the Vanderbilt Mansion courtyard. Photo by Cayla Rosenhagen

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

Passing through the elaborate iron gates leading into the Vanderbilt Eagle’s Nest estate, visitors are swept back through time to a decade long gone. Guests are immersed in the decadent Gold Coast era of Long Island’s history. 

For many years, the Eagle’s Nest mansion and the rest of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport have been one of my favorite locations to explore. My family and I are frequent visitors. On July 16th, we had the pleasure of returning to the Vanderbilt property to attend the 31st annual Shakespeare Festival.

Eagle’s Nest, a 24-room Spanish Revival mansion, was constructed by famed architects Warren and Wetmore by order of William K. Vanderbilt II, great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1910. In 1950, the estate and grounds were transformed into an education center, inviting the public to come visit and live like a Vanderbilt.

On the evening of our visit, Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” was being performed by the Carriage House Players in the grand, cobblestone courtyard situated in the middle of the manor. Arriving early to picnic on the back garden terrace, we indulged in delectable take-out from a local café. We set up our lawn chairs by the fountain, where we had a breathtaking vista. Across the well-manicured, grassy slopes, Northport Bay stretched calmly between us and the peninsula of Eaton’s Neck. It was a clear evening and the Sound with Connecticut beyond it was in perfect view. Robins foraged nearby and swallows practiced their aerial acrobatics overhead.

Shortly before the play began, we gathered in the courtyard with several dozen other audience members to take our seats. The courtyard, an ideal setting to watch one of the Bard’s most beloved plays, was illuminated by intricate iron lanterns and string lights overhead. Lined with garden beds of vibrant flora, the space radiated with Mediterranean splendor. The half-moon shone brightly over the terracotta-roofed belltower above the portcullis entrance. 

The play itself was a joy to watch. The actors truly enraptured the wit, humor, and magic of Shakespeare. By the time the show ended with an extended applause, the sun had set, and the stars appeared above us in the twilight sky. As the other guests exited, I took a moment to myself on the back patio, soaking up the enchanting moment. In a dream-like state, I watched the glimmering fireflies over the lawn and gazed out upon the water. Sailboats, only visible in the night by their multihued lights, paraded by with chiming bells. A faint melody of whimsical, classical music filled the salty, sea air. As I left the fairytale-like setting, I knew I would be back there again soon.

Throughout the summer, the museum hosts live theatrical performances in the courtyard every Wednesday and Friday at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 7 p.m. This year, the featured plays are “As You Like It,” “Titus Andronicus,” and “Richard III.” Tickets for the shows are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and children. In addition to plays, the Vanderbilt grounds also host a variety of other events. These include tours of the mansion and museum exhibitions, magic shows, concerts, art workshops, yoga classes, and a wide array of planetarium shows at the Reichert Planetarium for the whole family’s enjoyment. Please see their website, vanderbiltmuseum.org, for more details.

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

Huntington Town Clerk Andrew Raia, New York State Senator Jim Gaughran, Huntington Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Mark Baron, Will Harnos, Luke Kowalchuk, Ryan Farrington, Thomas Albero, Paul Ritter, Joe Sledge of Northport VA Medical Center, Suffolk County From left, Legislator Rob Trotta, Northport Chief of Police Chris Hughes.

Troop 41 of Northport conferred the Boy Scouts’ highest rank, Eagle, on six young men in its June 20 Eagle Scout Court of Honor, held on the grounds of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport. The occasion included remarks from local dignitaries.

New York State Senator Jim Gaughran noted that for a troop to have six Eagles in a single year is “unheard of and speaks to the content of their character.”

Five of the new Eagles are seniors at Northport High School (NHS) and one is a junior at St. Anthony’s High School in Melville. They acknowledged the support, mentorship, and help they received from their adult leaders, fellow scouts, and families.

The scouts completed their projects during the pandemic – when many other troops had shut down operations – which only added to the honor and level of accomplishment. Their projects are sustainable and will benefit their community for years to come.

Other local dignitaries who spoke included Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Huntington Town Clerk Andrew Raia, Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class John Revere, Huntington Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman, Northport Chief of Police Chris Hughes, and Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy

Ryan Farrington created a Meadowlark Park/Northport Veterans Administration (VA) walking/running/biking/5K trail. He also installed 30 posts and navigation signs and has maintained the trail.

Will Harnos renovated two, lean-to camping structures at West Hills County Park and installed new roofs.

Lukę Kowalchuk built and installed three handicapped-accessible tables for the Northport VA Medical Center in honor of his grandfather, a Korean war veteran.

Paul Ritter constructed a 36- by 20-foot stone retaining wall at the Northport VA Medical Center Library memorial garden. He also renovated the garden by weeding and adding new plants and mulch.

Mark Baron built and installed a wheelchair-accessible picnic table for the PTSD Residential Treatment Unit at the VA Medical Center.

Thomas Albero, a junior at St. Anthony’s High School, built and installed a bookcase at the Long Island Cares food pantry in Huntington Station. He filled it with more than $1,500 worth of new English, Spanish, and bilingual Spanish/English children’s books, and cookbooks. He also collected more than two dozen boxes of gently used children’s books to replenish the bookcase and donated $1,100 of remaining funds to Long Island Cares for the purchase of new books.

Christopher Henigman, now a freshman at SUNY Plattsburgh, completed his project in 2020 before the pandemic, but passed his Court of Honor during the pandemic. He built and installed two marimba instruments for the outdoor classroom at The Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI).

Troop 41, sponsored by the Northport American Legion post, has produced dozens of Eagles since it was established in 1924.



Tickets are still available for JoyRide: A Dave Matthews Celebration tonight, Saturday, July 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the courtyard of the Vanderbilt Mansion at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport.

JoyRide’s seven musicians recreate the experience of a live Dave Matthews Band (DMB) show, complete with violin and horns. The group’s goal is to recreate the experience of a DMB live show, complete with violin and horns. DMB fans know their concerts are musical journeys filled with tight musicianship, extended jams, and fun.

JoyRide fans say the band’s performances are the next best thing to actually being at a DMB show. JoyRide will play all the hits that the casual DMB listener will be familiar with, as well as the deep tracks that hardcore fans know and love.

Drinks will be available for purchase at the Bubbly Bar.

Tickets are $40 per person, $35 members. BYO chair and picnic!

To order, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

The Carriage House Players continue the 32nd annual Shakespeare Festival at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport with As You Like It, the classic pastoral comedy of mismatched lovers and mistaken identity. The play runs through August 1.

Evan Donnellan, executive director of the CHP, said, “The Carriage House Players are so excited to return to the Vanderbilt Museum Courtyard for our annual Shakespeare Festival! We cannot wait to entertain you.”

The festival continues with:

Titus Andronicus: August 8-29 (excluding 8/27)

Shakespeare’s first tragedy, a tale of ambition and revenge, comes to the Vanderbilt stage with a modern spin on the classic material.

Performances are Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm. Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and children. Visitors must bring their own chairs. To order, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Visit www.carriagehouseplayers.org for more information.


Photo by Patrick Keeffe

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport now offers Walk and Talk Tours through mid-October.

Come for an intriguing Walk and Talk tour of the Vanderbilt Estate and gardens with knowledgeable Vanderbilt Museum educators. Learn about Warren & Wetmore’s design and the exterior architectural details of the 24-room Spanish Revival mansion – including the striking ironwork of Samuel Yellin, considered the greatest iron artisan of the early 20th century – and explore Mr. Vanderbilt’s passion for travel, marine biology, and auto racing.

“The grounds are beautiful at this time of year and the walking tour is a perfect way to be introduced to the history of the estate and collections. There is an abundance of beauty in the eclectic architecture and the unique details that reflect William Vanderbilt’s interests,” said Beth Laxer-Limmer, associate director of education.

William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944) spent summers at his Eagle’s Nest estate and mansion on Northport Bay between 1910 and 1944. He and his wife, Rosamond, hosted intimate gatherings and entertained well-known guests, such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Pierre Cartier, Conde Nast, Charles Lindbergh, and the Tiffanys. Eagle’s Nest is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Created by the Vanderbilt Education Department, the tours are  limited to 10 people each and are held on  Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at noon and again at 1 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the door: Adults $16, seniors/students $15, children under 12 $13, members free. For more information, call 631-854-5579.


Members of Long Island Chamber Music
Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Long Island Chamber Music (LICM) will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium on Friday, July 23, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the Mansion Courtyard.

Songs of Celebration is a joyous program of song and dance music. The playbill will span multiple genres including traditional folk, baroque, and jazz from the swing era arranged for violin, viola, cello, clarinet, and French horn.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport.  Tickets are $20 per person, $15 members. Bring your own chair & picnic. To order, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.


LICM is an arts organization that provides exceptional classical music concerts, community events, educational programs, and private lessons for Long Island communities.

Programming is tailored to each individual event. The organization works with its community partners, educators, students, and individual patrons to creatively select and arrange music that is thematically relevant and compelling to listeners.

LICM musicians are of the highest caliber, drawn from Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Astral Artists, and several other of the country’s most prestigious musical institutions. Visit lichambermusic.com for more information.

Vanderbilt visitors enjoy a trip into space. Photo by Jennifer Vacca

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport found a way in the late 1960s to honor William K. Vanderbilt II’s (1878-1944) love of science and exploration – and to create a new revenue source – when it decided to build a planetarium. Last month, the Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium observed its 50th birthday.

Opened on June 29, 1971, the Planetarium began generating income to support Museum operations. The Planetarium was a testimony to Mr. Vanderbilt’s passionate interest in science and astronomy and his use of celestial navigation in the early 20th century while circumnavigating the globe in his yachts. Most importantly, the Planetarium was and is essential to the Museum’s mission to provide high-quality astronomy and science education.

The Planetarium, which was popular with visitors immediately, became an invaluable teaching tool. By the second decade of this century, however, the facility and its technology were worn and years out of date. In 2012, the Vanderbilt, with substantial help from Suffolk County, undertook a $4-million renovation and complete technological update of the facility, which reopened on March 15, 2013.

The renovation design allows the star projector to retract out of audience sightlines. This feature, along with removable rows of seating, provides flexibility for the William and Mollie Rogers Theater to be used also as a venue for lectures, performing arts, and large-group meetings. Flexible theatre space allows the Museum to expand its audiences, visibility, and regional appeal.

In February 2020, the Vanderbilt received approval from Suffolk County to use Museum endowment funds for significant technological upgrades. The Vanderbilt purchased two advanced systems – laser phosphorus full-dome video projectors that generate sharper imagery and laser-beam projectors to enhance laser-light entertainment shows. Dave Bush, director of the Planetarium, said this state-of-the-art equipment adds dimension and excitement and greatly improves the visual experience.

The Planetarium is an education center with astronomy programs for visiting school groups that align with New York State educational standards. The facility also offers science entertainment programs and laser-light shows. The Observatory recently added a solar telescope for safe viewing of the Sun.

The Planetarium, which has a 60-foot-diameter dome, is one of the largest and most advanced in the United States. More than 85,000 visitors see shows there each year.

In honor of its largest benefactors, the Vanderbilt renamed the facility the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium in 2019. Their unprecedented gift is helping to ensure the Planetarium’s future.

Visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org for upcoming shows and programs.


Reichert Planetarium educator Erin Bennett teaches astronomy via Zoom. Vanderbilt photo

The National Grid Foundation (NGF) – a longtime partner of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and its STEM programs – has been essential to the Museum’s outreach efforts to high-needs schools on Long Island.

For nine years, NGF support has enabled the Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium to take its highly regarded astronomy and science education programs into under-served schools – free of charge – and to serve more than 25,000 students.

The current 2020-2021 school year marks the third year in a row that NGF has supported the Exploring the Universe: Traveling Astronomy Program, taught by educators from the Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. Normally, they teach on-site in schools. This year, however, the educators traveled to schools virtually, live via Zoom. During the current school year, 1,685 students in more than 60 classes participated.

Dave Bush, director of the Reichert Planetarium, said, “We are happy to extend our professional expertise in the field of astronomy education to schools that would not otherwise be able to visit the Reichert Planetarium. Our goal is to provide quality programming that sparks curiosity, wonder, and excitement. Students who partake in our presentations are afforded highly engaging visuals and activities that leave lasting impressions.”

Exploring the Universe (ETU), developed and presented live by highly trained Vanderbilt science educators, immerses students in grades K-8 in an engaging astronomy course. An exciting multimedia presentation primes students to learn and inspires them to consider a variety of astronomy topics. ETU offers two live virtual programs, Space Adventure to the Moon and Exploring the Solar System.

Exploring the Universe is designed to offer educational experiences beyond the walls of the Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium. Educators provide materials to help students learn and explore in greater detail the topics taught in the classroom. The program serves the communities and schools of Nassau and Suffolk counties to provide exciting learning experiences about the world of astronomy.

For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.


Vanderbilt Planetarium

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will reopen its Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium on Friday,  June 4, with limited seating capacity. Only 27 tickets will be sold for each show., with limited seating capacity. Safety protocols – masks and six-foot social distancing – will be observed. Seats and restrooms will be cleaned between shows.

Dave Bush, director of the Planetarium, said, “We are very excited to reopen and will offer a wonderful schedule of programming that appeals to a wide range of audiences. In addition, we are bringing back our ever-popular, one-hour live lectures about the nighttime sky on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm.

“Our planetarium technology has never been better. We are ready to amaze and astound our audiences with the breathtaking wonders of the nighttime sky, our solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and beyond.”

In June 2020, Bush added two new advanced systems that greatly improve the visual experience for visitors – laser-beam projectors to enhanced laser light entertainment shows and laser phosphorus full-dome video projectors that generate sharper imagery. The state-of-the-art equipment adds dimension and excitement, he said.

For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.