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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

'Eel Spearing in Setauket' by William Sidney Mount
Jennie Melville. Photo from WMHO
Dorothy Melville. Photo from WMHO

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) in Stony Brook will host a walking tour titled “Against the Grain” on Thursday, March 16 at  10:30 a.m. session and again at 2:30 p.m.

While participants stroll, their guide will share stories recognizing the women who helped shape Stony Brook Village into what it is today: the hidden roles of the Melville women; Alida Emmet and the Center for Twilight Sleep; Rachel Brewster and the women of color in famed artist William Sidney Mount’s paintings; the scandalous will of the Smiths and Edward Kane; and the role of Stony Brook’s women in forming the environmental conservation movement.

Tours will leave from the Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook. Rain date is Friday, March 17 at the same time.  $12 per person and includes a complimentary dessert with the purchase of an entrée at Mirabelle Restaurant & Tavern at the Three Village Inn and the Country House Restaurant. Advance reservations required by calling 631-751-2244.

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A scene from the 43rd Annual Holiday Festival presented by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Stony Brook Village Center was buzzing with holiday activities on Sunday, Dec. 4. Thousands of residents from the Three Village and surrounding communities attended the 43rd Annual Holiday Festival presented by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

Santa was on the scene in the afternoon to take children’s requests and pose for photos in front of the Stony Brook Post Office. Attendees also strolled through the shopping center to listen to music, visit the petting zoo in front of Rustic Loft and enjoy a performance from the Roseland School of Dance students.

The holiday celebration featured the Legends & Spies Puppet Parade led by the Ward Melville High School marching band. Handlers marched through the shopping center with giant puppets depicting local famous people, including Culper spies Anna Smith Strong, Caleb Brewster and Benjamin Tallmadge as well as philanthropists Ward and Dorothy Melville.

The night was capped off with a tree lighting on The Village Green with a countdown led by Santa Claus. Following the tree lighting, Santa Claus gave a recap of the gifts children asked for that day at the WMHO Holiday Thank You Party. He said he’s always surprised that among the more modern items requested, children still ask for classic toys such as trucks, and on Sunday, he said 18 boys and girls asked for yo-yos.

He said the funniest encounter of the day was when a girl told him she wanted a toy dog, loud enough so her mother could hear. She then whispered to Santa and said, “I really want a live one, but please don’t tell my mom.”

Photo from WMHO

On Dec. 4, participants of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Holiday Tree Competition will bring holiday cheer to Stony Brook Village and decorate 45 premium balsam trees that will line the open-air center’s walkways at the 43rd annual Holiday Festival. 

One tree will be selected by votes from the public between Dec. 4 and Dec. 2t to win a $150 gift certificate to Stony Brook Village and its establishments. Registration for this event is required as there are only 45 trees available.

Registration forms may be picked up at any of the shops in Stony Brook Village, or you can download it digitally from the events section of the Stony Brook Village Center website. To enter this competition, please return the completed registration form, with entry fee to the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, P.O. Box 572, Stony Brook, NY 11790. The registration form along with an entry fee of $47 is due by Nov. 23. 

The decorated trees will remain in the village for viewing until Jan. 3. Questions? Call 631-751-2244.

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Elected officials, Ward Melville Heritage Organization board members and philanthropists Harlan and Olivia Fischer announced the restoration of Stony Brook’s Hercules. Photo from WMHO;

A Long Island landmark is looking more vibrant.

The Hercules figurehead near Stony Brook Harbor. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization debuted the restored Hercules figurehead at a press conference on Oct. 14. Recently, philanthropists Harlan and Olivia Fischer, of Head of the Harbor, noticed the figurehead needed restoration and decided to sponsor its renovation. 

WMHO board members thanked the Fischers and the work crew from ART of NYC & Long Island who restored the piece located in the Hercules Pavilion overlooking Stony Brook Harbor, across from the Village Center. The Holbrook-based company was retained for the restoration, which included cleaning, sanding and replastering before repairing, painting and varnishing the landmark.

Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman, said, “It’s a work in progress, but [the Fischers] are actually going to take care of the rest of the pavilion as well.”

Additional work will be done on the weather-beaten pavilion in the near future, including roof work and painting.

Harlan Fischer, president of Branch Financial Services, moved his offices from Smithtown to Setauket in 2020. Every day he passes through the village on his way to work and back, he said, and appreciates how lovely Stony Brook village is. He asked WMHO president Gloria Rocchio if she thought the renovation would be a worthwhile project, and she agreed.

“When we make contributions to places, we like to see the results of it,” he said. The Fischers are also donors to The Jazz Loft and sponsor a monthly concert series at the music venue and museum.

The full-color Hercules carving, located in Stony Brook since 1951, features the head and shoulders of the Greek demigod — known for his exceptional strength — draped in a lion’s skin. The bust was once the USS Ohio’s figurehead. The ship was the first to be launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1820.

Rugen said the figurehead was saved when the ship was decommissioned, destroyed and sunk in Greenport Harbor in 1884. It was bought by the Aldrich family of Aquebogue for $10 at the time, and from the late 1800s until the early 1950s it sat at the Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays after the owner, Miles Carpenter, purchased it for $15. Ward Melville bought it from the inn to be placed in Stony Brook.

Brenda Sinclair Berntson, president of Hampton Bays Historical Society, said when Hercules was located at the inn, it was popular for young women to kiss his forehead, believing that the person would be married within the year.

She said the figurehead wasn’t in the best condition, rotting and termite-ridden when it was brought to Stony Brook.

“We’re very glad that Ward Melville had the foresight and saved it,” she said.

Danielle Parisi, business development manager of ART of NYC & Long Island, said as someone who grew up and still lives in Stony Brook, it was an honor to work on the project. Parisi’s co-worker, art restorer Jessie Kefalas, said in walking by the figurehead in the past it was obvious something needed to be done. There was significant damage including the rotting of the chest of Hercules, which is constructed of plaster and wood.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) was also in attendance and commented on the efforts.

“We’ve seen projects like this before, and so often it’s because of the community spirit of  ordinary residents who love where they live or business people who reinvest in their community,” he said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) called WMHO “one of the custodians of our heritage.”

He added that places such as the pavilion are in danger due to rising sea levels brought on by climate change, and the spot around the structure has experienced flooding after significant rain events. In the future, he said, the Hercules Pavilion could possibly be raised to protect it further, and when such a plan comes to fruition he pledged a $125,000 matching state grant to help with the costs.

Unveiling of the Jennie Melville garden. Photo from WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) has announced that the garden on the Jennie Melville Village Green in Stony Brook Village has been unveiled, thanks to PSEG Long Island and the Three Village Chamber of Commerce. The garden was originally planted in honor of Jennie Melville in 1948 by the Three Village Garden Club, which she founded. The Three Village Chamber of Commerce was the recipient of a $2,300 Beautification Grant funded by PSEG Long Island. The Chamber selected the Jennie Melville Village Green garden to receive a restoration including various plants, shrubs and flowers.

“PSEG Long Island is pleased to support the efforts of Three Village Chamber of Commerce to create this lovely garden in its shopping district,” said John Keating, manager of Economic and Community Development at PSEG Long Island. “The PSEG Long Island Beautification grant was crafted to help local businesses in downtowns and shopping areas that struggled through the pandemic. We are proud to fund this project that will help increase foot traffic to the area and enhance the shopping experience for everyone who visits.”

Pictured from left,  Jonathan Kornreich, Town of Brookhaven Councilmemeber; Mary Van Tuyl, Trustee, WMHO; Michael Ardolino, Board Member, Three Village Chamber of Commerce; Jane Taylor, Executive Director, Three Village Chamber of Commerce; Bill Faulk, Regional Public Affairs Manager, PSEG Long Island; John Keating, Manager of Economic and Community Development, PSEG Long Island; Dr. Richard Rugen, Chairman, WMHO; Charles Lefkowitz, President, Three Village Chamber of Commerce; Gloria Rocchio, President, WMHO; Carmine Inserra, Board Member, Three Village Chamber of Commerce; Nicole Sarno, Board Member, Three Village Chamber of Commerce; Kathleen Mich, WMHO Trustee; and Charles Napoli, Trustee, WMHO.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation founded in 1939 by businessman and philanthropist Ward Melville. Inspired by his legacy to preserve historic and environmentally sensitive properties, the WMHO continues to protect and interpret these Long Island treasures. The organization creates interdisciplinary educational and cultural experiences that integrate history, art, theater, music, science, and technology for all ages. The organization owns and manages properties deeded to it by Ward Melville, including the Brewster House (c. 1665), the Thompson House (c. 1709), the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c.1751), which are listed on the state and national register for historic places, the Dr. Erwin Ernst Marine Conservation Center, the pristine 88-acre wetlands preserve at West Meadow, the 11-acre T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond and adjacent park, two-acre Upper Pond, and the two-acre Jennie Melville Village Green. To learn more about the WMHO, visit www.wmho.org or call (631) 751-2244

The Groomery won first place in the professional category in last year's scarecrow competition. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Photo from WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is currently accepting submissions for its annual Scarecrow Competition. This will be the 32nd year the spooky and silly six-foot creations will adorn the pathways of picturesque Stony Brook Village Center for visitors to enjoy and vote for their favorite.

You can pick up a registration form at any of the shops in Stony Brook Village, or you can download it digitally from the events section of the Stony Brook Village Center website. To enter this competition, please return the completed registration form to The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, P.O. Box 572, Stony Brook, NY 11790, with the entry fee of $30 by Sept. 23.

Vote for your favorite scarecrows by picking up a ballot at any of the shops and restaurants at the Stony Brook Village Center from Oct. 1 and 26. Deadline for voting is Oct. 26. Winners will be notified on Oct. 28 by 5 p.m. and will be announced during the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Halloween Festival on Oct. 31.

For more information on the Scarecrow Competition, please call the WMHO at 631-751-2244.


By Serena Carpino

During the summer, Stony Brook Village Center is often bustling with friends grabbing iced coffee from Crazy Beans and families enjoying Sweet Mama’s ice cream after a long hike at Avalon Nature Preserve. Last Saturday, they were greeted by a friendly quartet of critters during one of Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Pop-Up Saturday events. 

The animals were visiting from the rehabilitation program run by Sweetbriar Nature Center. Sweetbriar is a non-profit organization that provides shelter for injured animals and educates the public about the environment.

At the event, families met four different animals: Stitch the red-tailed hawk, Oreo the hedgehog, Holly the box turtle, and Turnip the eastern screen owl. They were able to pet Oreo and Holly as Christionna Carini, a Sweetbriar employee, told their stories. Oreo’s previous owner gave her up after learning that hedgehogs are nocturnal. Holly is one of many box turtles at the center.

“We have a lot of box turtles because they are at risk for habitat loss or injuries,” Carini said, “We also have box turtles that are perfectly healthy but since we don’t know where they came from we can’t release them.”

Though the families were not allowed to pet Stitch and Turnip, Carini shared their stories as well. Stitch was injured by a truck and suffered multiple injuries.

“Oftentimes what happens is people might throw an apple core out the window, a squirrel might run across the road for it and then the hawk goes for the squirrel,” Carini said.

Though Stitch lost an eye and part of her wing after the accident, she was fortunate that her bone breakage was not severe. Turnip has bad vision, which currently prevents him from surviving in the wild. 

During the afternoon, about 60 people attended the Pop-Up event. This is not the first time Sweetbriar employees have brought animals to community events. Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said, “Over the years we’ve had them come to different events either in our cultural center or on the property. They are a very good nature preserve and rehabilitation facility.”

According to Rocchio, the Pop-Ups have been a popular source of entertainment for families throughout the summer.

“With the success that we’re receiving from the general public … we will definitely be doing more of them next year,” she said.

Pop-Up Saturdays, which are sponsored by Edward Jones of Stony Brook, will continue at the Stony Brook Village Center until Aug. 27. Rain dates are the following Sunday.

Aug. 13 features storytelling and sing-alongs for kids with Johnny Cuomo from 2 to 3 p.m. at the inner court and Burke & Brenda from 2 to 4 p.m. in front of the post office. Aug. 20 there will be adoptable dogs from 2 to 4 p.m. and a free martial arts class from 2 to 3 p.m. Marty Macaluso will be on hand Aug. 27 for caricatures.

It was something to crow about! On July 1, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) announced the completion of the rooster weathervane atop the flagpole on the Stony Brook Village Green by Budco Enterprises Inc. and Olivia and Harlan Fischer.

During a storm in June 2021, the rooster on the weathervane fell to the ground and shattered. The rooster is an original piece of Stony Brook Village’s rehabilitation by Ward Melville in 1941. 

Buddy Simmons, President of Budco Enterprises Inc., restored the weathervane and personally attempted to reconstruct the original rooster, but was not able to because too many pieces were missing. He then donated a replica of the rooster.  

Alex Simmons, Vice President, Budco Enterprises Inc. detached the directional arrows, ground them down and painted them, as well as enhanced the rooster by painting it with true colors. Olivia and Harlan Fischer sponsored  the removal and reinstallation of the new rooster, completed by Poletec, which was no easy feat. 

The original weathervane was custom built by Ward Melville and was there for 81 years. Hopefully this one will be perched for at least another 81 years. 

To learn more about the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244.

Photo from WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted its second Long Island Sound Connections Summit in the first week of June. This virtual, hands-on collaborative learning program connects students across Long Island Sound and allows them to conduct their own experiments to better understand the water systems in their environment.

Long Island Sound Connections is the first program to connect both shores with students from New York and Connecticut – With virtual class check-ins, “summits” where students present their findings, and an ongoing collection of data and that information’s analysis. The Long Island Sound Connections program was designed to help students learn about the Long Island Sound and to inspire them to protect their environment. The program is offered via distance learning from the WMHO’s Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center (EMCC), students have front row seats to one of the most pristine natural resources in the Northern Hemisphere.

WMHO collaborated with University of Stony Brook Professor Jeffrey Levinton of the Ecology and Evolution Department to develop a system of data collection parameters for monitoring West Meadow Creek’s water quality and species counts. Professor Levinton will continue to support WMHO in developing this multipronged project that seeks to educate the public while providing data representing the creek’s health over time to the public and researchers.

Students performed their own experiments and led their own research on the topics of water salinization, acidity and quality, and human impact on the environment. Students also compared and contrasted their two environments (suburban and urban), and presented it to their partner class. The research collected from both sides of the Long Island Sound has been entered in WHMO’s software. Each season additional data will be added to it to create a map to assist researchers of all ages to understand the similarities and differences and track changes over time.

The second “Summit” of classes in this program was between Michelle Millers’ 6th Grade Science Class from Middle Country School District in Selden, New York, and Victoria Soltis and Angelica Lawrence’s 6th Grade Science from Edison Elementary School in Bridgeport, who worked in collaboration with Mill River Wetland Committee. With grants provided by the Fullwood Foundation, the Frey Family Foundation and Webster Bank, this program was offered to participating classes free of charge. All costs associated with the program were sponsored by these organizations.

Pictured from left are Megan Frey, Frey Family Foundation; Max Frey; Deborah Boudreau, Education Director, WMHO; Gloria Rocchio, President, WMHO; New York State Senator Mario R. Mattera, 2nd Senate District; Dr. Richard Rugen, Chairman, WMHO; Kathleen Mich, Trustee, WMHO. Not shown, Nicole Sarno, Business Manager, Webster Bank and Dr. Robert Parker, The Fullwood Foundation.

For more information about the WMHO, on the Long Island Sound Connection program, other historic, environmental and scientific programs that the WMHO offers, please call 631-751-2244 or visit wmho.org.


By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Excitement abounds in Stony Brook Village!

On June 21, the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) held a press conference in which they announced that they are joining forces by signing a long-term lease to house the LIMEHOF’s first physical facility at the WMHO’s Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village Center.

This perfect melding brings together two organizations built on highlighting cultural as well as educational elements. The WMHO is rooted in the contributions of Ward Melville to the educational landscape of the Three Village Area. Its Educational and Cultural Center, an impressive white colonial-style building, opened its doors in 2002, offering interactive programs and events, exhibits, and theatrical productions.

The Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization founded in 2004, recognizes, honors and preserves Long Island’s musical heritage. The organization’s educational initiatives include annual scholarships, a concert series, speaker series, and its Hall of Fame with such inductees as Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Eddie Money, Connie Stevens, Clive Davis and Neil Sedaka. The organization recently expanded its mission to recognize all forms of the arts including, but not limited to, comedy, film, television and theater. 

Now that LIMEHOF has joined forces with WMHO, their ambitious collaboration intends to create a physical facility in the Educational and Cultural Center space that will showcase Long Island’s rich and diverse musical and entertainment history. Plans are for exhibits, a permanent “Hall of Fame,” a library, classrooms for educational programs and master classes, and a theater.

Dr. Richard Rugen, chair of board to WMHO said, “We are looking forward to a long partnership with LIMEHOF. Our trustees feel this is a perfect fit with the other not-for-profits located in Stony Brook Village, namely, The Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and The Reboli Center.”

“With all the other attributes in Stony Brook Village, such as restaurants, shops, parks, Discovery Boat, kayaks, historic buildings and hotel, this is a perfect addition. The multi-purpose building was constructed to hold exhibits, performances, classes and is wired for distance learning. When I heard that LIMEHOF was looking for a permanent home, I called Ernie Canadeo and the rest is history.” said Gloria D. Rocchio, President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

The festivities were kicked off by the LIHOF 2022 inductees, the band Barnaby Bye, featuring the Alessi brothers, Billy and Bobby, and Mike Ricciardella, treating the audience to a rendition of their song Sea Birds.

Hosting duties went to the LIMEHOF Chairman, Ernie Canadeo, who proudly stated, “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there is no place in the country and even in the world that has produced as many extraordinary musical composers or entertainers than Long Island. We have inducted over 100 from every musical genre. Today we are thrilled to announce that we have expanded our mission and our name to include major figures in comedy, film, television and the arts in addition to music. This beautiful building will become the home to honor, respect and preserve LI’s diverse musical and entertainment history and its future.” 

He continued, “In addition to a permanent Hall of Fame that will honor all our inductees, we will have 2 changing exhibitions a year. The first will be called LI’s Legendary Club Scene 1960s, 70s and 80s. It will be a tribute to clubs and bands who played on Long Island and created the unbelievable club scene that no one who lives here will ever forget. We expect to draw people from all over with nostalgia for those wonderful days. We are planning a grand opening in November 2022.”

Canadeo then introduced the world-renowned visual designer, Kevin O’Callaghan, who will oversee all things creative.

“I love this community. I am thankful for this opportunity; it is really amazing,” said O’Callaghan. “For this first exhibition, we want to focus on the people, because the people of Long Island are what made so much of this happen. The club scene, the music scene — it all started here. We want to get the stories, the stories behind the musicians and the shows and what people saw and experienced and what it felt like to be in Speaks and what it felt like to be in Hammerheads and what it felt like to see Twisted Sister. It’s amazing; Billy Joel, in his early days, just playing a piano, no band behind him. We want to hear those stories, so we’re reaching out to the public looking for stories, memorabilia. I don’t think there is anything too small that wouldn’t be important in here. We’re going to have a theater upstairs; we’re going to have a library upstairs. It’s going to be educational. I just can’t wait. I’m unbelievably excited!”

It is of special interest to note that the space where the Educational and Cultural Center is located was once the site of the famed Dogwood Hollow built by businessman and philanthropist Ward Melville. It was a 2,000+ seat outdoor amphitheater that hosted greats such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Liberace and more between 1955 and 1970. 

In deference to this space, Canadeo said, “It was one of the most significant theatres on Long Island and it was right here where this building was built. So, you talk about karma and us being meant to be here; it’s really unbelievable. And if you look at the history, it was one of the first places that had no regard for racial issues. You look back and a lot of the artists here spanned everyone and it’s really a significant space. We are proud that our building is in this space.”

The crowd was treated to a tour of the upstairs space that will house the Hall of Fame, exhibits and a small theater. The official ribbon-cutting and public opening of the completed space is scheduled to take place this coming November. For more information and to see artist renderings of the exhibits, visit www.limehof.org.