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Three Village Community Trust

Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Held with the support of the Three Village School District, the Three Village Community Trust’s first annual Winter Coat Drive is now underway through Dec. 16. This is a wonderful opportunity for residents to help those in need by dropping off a winter coat at the Trust’s headquarters at the Bruce House, 148 Main Street, Setauket. The Trust encourages community members to simply place their donation of clean winter coats on the front porch. Coats will then be delivered to local families. For more information, call  631-428-6851.

Maria Hoffman will be the honoree at this year's gala. Photo from TVCT

The Three Village Community Trust will hold its annual Fall Fundraising Gala on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Old Field Club. This event supports the Trust’s year-round programs and projects. 

Currently, the Trust is conducting major restoration work at the Hawkins Homestead, the Smith/deZafra House, and the three Factory Worker Houses. The Trust is also working to enhance both Patriots Rock Park and the Greenway Trail. With so many undertakings, this year’s Gala will be more an important than ever to keep the Trust moving forward to “Protect the Places We Love.”

The special guest and honoree at this year’s gathering is Maria Hoffman.  An artist, photographer and naturalist, Maria is one of the most beloved and respected figures in our community and is widely known as “Everybody’s Best Friend.”  Now, after three decades of community service as Chief of Staff to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Hoffman has retired and, at the Gala, will reflect on her life and career in the Three Villages. 

Live music by the renowned Carl Safina and the Natural Causes will fill the party air with magical jazz, and there will be chances to win some fun-filled raffle baskets. The big art raffle prize this year is an oil painting by the well-known artist Nancy Bueti-Randall, titled “Late Day at the Beach.”  

Tickets to the event can be purchased on the Trust’s website, www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org. For more information, call 631-689-0225 or visit [email protected]

Meet Big Bill Tory at the Sherwood Jayne House during Culper Spy Day. Photo from Preservation Long Island

UPDATED! This article was updated on 9/17/21 to reflect a change to the schedule of events (in bold).

By Heidi Sutton

On Saturday, Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Three Village Historical Society, Tri-Spy Tours and the Long Island Museum will host a day of spy-related tours and activities for the 7th annual Culper Spy Day, named for the Culper Spy Ring founded by Benjamin Tallmadge, George Washington’s chief intelligence officer during the Revolutionary War.

The annual event is the brainchild of Margo Arceri, who first heard about George Washington’s Setauket spies (including her favorite spy Anna Smith Strong) from her Strong’s Neck neighbor and local historian, Kate W. Strong, in the early 1970s.

Diane Schwindt of Stirring Up History, pictured with Margo Arceri, will offer colonial cooking demonstrations during Culper Spy Day. Photo from Mari Irizarry

“Kate W. Strong, Anna Smith Strong’s great-great-granddaughter, originally told me about the Culper Spy Ring when I used to visit her with my neighbor and Strong descendant Raymond Brewster Strong III. One of her stories was about Nancy (Anna Smith Strong’s nickname) and her magic clothesline. My love of history grew from there,” she said in an interview in 2015.

Seven years ago Arceri approached the Three Village Historical Society’s President Steve Hintze and the board about conducting walking, biking and kayaking tours while sharing her knowledge of George Washington’s Long Island intelligence during the American Revolution.

Today, Arceri runs the popular Tri-Spy Tours in the Three Village area, which follows in the actual footsteps of the Culper Spy Ring. “I have to thank AMC’s miniseries Turn because 80 percent of the people who sign up for the tour do so because of that show. And now that Turn has come to Netflix it has taken this community to an entirely other level,” she said. 

It was during one of those tours that Arceri came up with the idea of having a Culper Spy Day, a day to honor the members of Long Island’s brave Patriot spy ring who helped change the course of history and helped Washington win the Revolutionary War. After a successful five-year run, last year’s event was sideswiped by COVID-19 and was presented virtually on Facebook Live. 

Meet costumed docents from Oyster Bay’s Raynham Hall on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society. Photo by TVHS

This year the family-friendly event returns but on a smaller, more intimate scale as participants will have the opportunity to visit eight locations in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson to learn about the patriots who risked their lives through tours, spy stories, colonial cooking demonstrations, historic letters, musical performances, and many children activities. 

Escorted by Arceri, Mrs. Q of Karen Q. Patriot Tours of NYC will be on location live on social media and in costume visiting many of the locations. With the exception of the Sherwood Jayne House, all events are free.

While the Three Village Historical Society has remained closed since last January, it will reopen for the one-day event. Mari Irizarry, Outreach and Communications Manager at the Society, is ready to welcome visitors. “We miss our community. There is so much rich history, heritage and culture that is part of the Three Villages and beyond and we are excited to share it on Culper Spy Day,” she said.

Arceri’s favorite part of the day is “seeing all these organizations coming together as a whole. It really is our Revolutionary story,” she said. “Everywhere you turn in the Three Villages you are looking at an artifact, and as the historical society believes, the community is our museum and I would really love to put that on the forefront of people’s minds.”

Schedule of Events:
View Revolutionary War artifacts from the collection of Art Billadello at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library on Culper Spy Day.

1. THREE VILLAGE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. Located in the circa 1800 Bayles-Swezey House. Here you can take part in oudoor events including an invisible ink demonstration; Spy Stories on the TVHS Porch from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.; view a patriotic quilt display and demonstration and take part in colonial crafts with the Daughters of the American Revolution Anna Smith Strong Chapter; Author’s Row: come meet authors Beverly C. Tyler, Selene Castrovilla and, Claire Bellerjeau, available for book signings; view Revolutionary War letters from Stony Brook University’s Special Collections; take part in spy games and meet costumed docents who will talk about Raynham Hall, Culper Jr. and their Culper Spy connections; and enjoy a live colonial cooking demonstration and samples with Diane Schwindt of Stirring Up History. 631-751-3730.

2. THE STUDIO AT GALLERY NORTH, 84 North Country Road, Setauket. Visit The Studio to enjoy free Revolutionary War era arts and crafts for children throughout the day. Guests will have an opportunity to create a Tin Punch ornament or a chance to create a decoder & color a quilt square. Activities will occur on the patio, just outside the Studio. 631-751-2676. 

3. EMMA S. CLARK MEMORIAL LIBRARY, 120 Main St., Setauket. The library (circa 1892) will present a concert featuring 18th century songs the trio Rose Tree from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the Library lawn. View Revolutionary military paraphernalia from the collection of Art Billadello in the Library’s lobby. Kids can enjoy a craft from noon to 3 p.m. 631-941-4080. Please note the previously scheduled bubble and comedy show on the lawn from 11 a.m. to noon has been canceled.

4. CAROLINE CHURCH AND CEMETERY, 1 Dyke Road, Setauket. Built in 1729, this timber frame building has maintained its Colonial appearance. Now an Episcopal church, during the Revolutionary War the Caroline Church was Anglican and a Colonial extension of the Church of England. The graveyard contains the remains of six Patriot soldiers as well as soldiers from World War I and II. View the inside of the church from the vestibule and tour the cemetery with docents from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Just added! Setauket Presbyterian church next door will be offering tours of their cemetery from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. 631-941-4245.   

5. PATRIOTS ROCK HISTORIC SITE, Main Street, Setauket (across from the Setauket Post Office). This glacial erratic boulder is said to be the location of the Battle of Setauket on Aug. 22, 1777. Stop here between 10 a.m. and noon to meet representatives from the Three Village Community Trust who will discuss the importance of Patriots Rock and its local and environmental history. 631-689-0225.

6. THE LONG ISLAND MUSEUM, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. The museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate with permanent and changing exhibitions on American history and art, along with the finest collection of horse-drawn carriages in the country, some of which belonged to Revolutionary War heroes. Visit the History Museum between noon and 5 p.m. to view the newly uncovered Culper Spy Ring letter and see LIMarts Collaborative Art Group doing a plein air painting / sketching on the grounds that day. 631-751-0066.

7. SHERWOOD-JAYNE HOUSE, 55 Old Post Road, East Setauket. Originally built around 1730 as a lean-to saltbox dwelling, the house and farm were maintained as an operational farmstead for over 150 years by members of the Jayne family. Visit with Big Bill the Tory aka William Jayne III, who will explain the noble intentions and virtuosities of King George III and tells you the TRUTH about Washington’s pesky band of renegade spies! Program runs continuously from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Masks must be worn inside. $5 per person, children under 5 free. Pre-registration is recommended at www.preservationlongisland.org.

8. DROWNED MEADOW COTTAGE MUSEUM, corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, Port Jefferson. The Revolutionary War-era Roe House was originally constructed circa 1755 and Phillips Roe, a member of the Culper Spy Ring along with his brother Nathaniel and cousin Austin, was known to have lived there. Visit the cottage between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and attend an unveiling with Mayor Margot Garant at 11 a.m.

————————–

Participating organizations for the 7th annual Culper Spy Day include Tri-Spy Tours, Three Village Historical Society, Stony Brook University Special Collections, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, The Long Island Museum, Raynham Hall, Drowned Meadow Cottage, Preservation Long Island, Gallery North, Karen Q’s Patriot Tours NYC, Anna Smith Strong Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Stirring Up History, Three Village Community Trust, and Caroline Church of Brookhaven

For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org

 

Three Village Community Trust members had a successful turnout for their 7th annual Chicken Hill Country Picnic & Auction Saturday, Aug. 7, with more than 120 community members attending the event.

With beautiful weather, the bluegrass sounds of Buddy Merriam & Back Roads, tasty chicken dogs from Bagel Express and a generous community, the country picnic was able to raise approximately $3,000 in donations.

“In these COVID times, it is hard to strike the right blend of community engagement, family fun and safety, but I think we did a great job,” said Herb Mones, TVCT president.

The funding raised will go toward preserving and restoring the group of factory houses in the group’s care. The houses remain in the area known as Chicken Hill as an important testimonial of Three Village’s history while in the factory age, where hundreds of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia resided while working at the Setauket Rubber Factory in the 19th century.

“This event educated attendees about the important history of the factory age right here in the Three Villages, along with the deep roots to our diverse immigrant experience,” Mones said.

During the event, visitors were allowed to take a look into the past and explore inside the factory houses, which were decorated with vintage furniture and novelty items, transporting the viewers back in time.

“It was great to meet again with our friends on the grounds of the factory houses to share the history and enjoy an authentic community event,” said Robert Reuter, TVCT trustee. “The houses and grounds are a wonderland.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) announced that he had obtained a matching grant of $50,000 for the trustees to protect the important historic properties in its care.

The goal is that the board can replicate the grant through fundraising and donations outreach.

“Each [property] tells a unique part of the American experience,” Mones said. “The assemblyman is challenging us to rally the community to match these funds — so we encourage people to visit our website now and donate.”

David Prestia, third from right, at the 2019 Three Village Community Trust annual gala. Photo from David Prestia

By Leah Chiappino

For David Prestia, the owner of Bagel Express in Setauket, being part of the Three Village area is more than being a business owner, he also gets involved in the community.

He consistently takes time out of his schedule to give back to the area in the form of donations, volunteerism and community engagement. He’s the machine behind the hot chocolate at the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade and the cook at the annual Three Village Chamber of Commerce Barbecue at West Meadow Beach.

Having grown up with a family who owned an Italian deli, Prestia says he was the only one of four brothers who didn’t work in the deli when he was growing up. However, after receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. John’s University in Queens, he began working with his father and fell in love with the food business. He then opened Fratelli’s Market Place in Astoria, Queens, and expanded it to locations in Roslyn, Forest Hills, Manhattan and Stony Brook village.

“David brings a businessperson’s perspective to trust operations along with his good humor and enthusiasm for our preservation mission.”

– Robert Reuter

When he first moved to Setauket 30 years ago, he jumped on the opportunity to open a bagel store. He has owned Bagel Express in Setauket, along with his partner Eric Keller and brother Michael Prestia, ever since. Having sold Fratelli’s Market Place, his focus is running the Setauket location, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and supplying Bagel Express in Smithtown and Sayville.

While running his business, he manages to contribute to the community and is on the board of the Three Village Community Trust, a not-for-profit land trust. Vice President Robert Reuter said Prestia has been instrumental in the business aspect of the organization.

“David brings a businessperson’s perspective to trust operations along with his good humor and enthusiasm for our preservation mission,” he said. “He shares that interest with his considerable network of friends and associates who know his dedication to our community and the result has been many new supporters.”

Having been a history major in college, Prestia said the rich history is one of his favorite things about the Three Village area, which inspired him to get involved in the Three Village Historical Society. He has donated food for the annual Candlelight House Tour for the past several years.

“Usually, if you ask, [Prestia] will donate, ” said Steve Healy, the president of the historical society. “People like Dave are not just in the community; they are the community. He is always willing to roll up his sleeves and help out.”

Prestia is also on the board of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and involved with Seawolves United at Stony Brook University. He has sponsored Staller Center for the Arts receptions and the food concession at university basketball games. For the local business owner, getting involved was simply not a question.

“I’m very lucky,” Prestia said. “We’ve been successful with the business. It’s so important to give back to the community. There are so many things going on all the time. It’s a great place to raise a family, and the schools are wonderful. We’re so lucky to live here.”

 

The Old Field Club, 86 West Meadow Road, E. Setauket will host the Three Village Community Trust’s 15th annual celebration, An Evening with Alan Inkles, on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. The trust’s annual gala is a celebration of the trust’s achievements over the past years, recent acquisitions and continuing restoration projects as well as its major fundraiser of the year.

Alan Inkles

Inkles, the director of Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, will present an engaging talk on the “Survival of the Arts,” sharing stories from his more than three decades of experience at the inner workings of an arts center, the constant development in efforts to engage audiences for the cultural arts and how the Staller Center manages to grow its success.

A highlight of the evening will be the drawing for a pair of tickets to “Hamilton.” The winner can select day and time (with two or three alternative dates), and the prize includes free door-to-door limo service. Tickets are $100 each, and only 100 tickets will be sold.  To purchase a chance on this drawing, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org/hamilton.

The festive evening will also feature a raffle for works by local artists in addition to featured artist Eleanor Meier’s watercolor, Homage to Tillie. Raffle tickets are $25 each and only 200 will be sold. 

Admission to the gala is $60 per person and includes wine, a sumptuous buffet provided by the Old Field Club, desserts, prizes and live music by Carl Safina and the Three Village Vanguard Trio.  

To RSVP, please call 631-689-0225 or email [email protected]

A male box turtle, above, approximately 30 years old, was discovered in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Scientists have discovered natural wonders in a Setauket forest.

Researcher Luke Gervase stands between a couple of the large trees found in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Researchers from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry took to the 43-acre woods of Patriots Hollow State Forest, along Route 25A, across from Stop & Shop, to collect information on the forest composition and structure Aug. 8 and 9. The researchers hoped to develop management recommendations that would enhance the forest for biodiversity conservation and environmental education. The survey was funded by a grant from Avalon Park & Preserve, according to a press release from Three Village Community Trust.

In 2018, the community trust set up a steering committee led by Setauket resident and former teacher Leonard Carolan to clean up the woods and add a trail for people to walk through the forest, something which is currently difficult with downed trees and invasive plants, including Norway maple, Japanese aralia, Oriental bittersweet, black locust and Japanese stiltgrass.

After Carolan approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to seek help in cleaning up the forest, the community trust signed a stewardship agreement with the DEC. Carolan said the initial reports are encouraging.

“It looks like we’ll be able to restore it to an original native forest,” Carolan said.

He added that, in the future, there would be a loop trail near Route 25A and another one near the Main Street section, but before they are created some cleanup needs to be done and funds raised, which could take years.

Don Leopold, distinguished teaching professor from SUNY-ESF’s Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, along with research assistant Samuel Quinn, was among the researchers.

Leopold said it was his first visit to the forest, and he was impressed with the findings. Despite invasive plants and past agriculture that didn’t leave many remnant trees, he said they discovered many beautiful oak and hickory trees, adding that he had seen black oak and sassafras all over the Eastern United States, and amongst the largest he has seen were in Patriots Hollow.

“We went by some really great trees,” he said. “Ideally the trails will swing by those. They can’t miss these. There are really impressive specimens of some black oaks and some hickories, and we really enjoyed seeing them.”

Researcher Luke Gervase stands by a sassafras tree found in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

The researcher said they also found spicebush in the forest.

“Spicebush is one of our most important native shrubs,” Leopold said. “It’s so important for wildlife coming for food. It’s a source of food for the spicebush swallowtail [butterfly].”

Leopold and Quinn discussed management of invasive plants in the forest with Bill Jacobs, Luke Gervase and Caroline Schnabl of Long Island Invasive Species Management Area who joined in the survey. Leopold said that they are optimistic that the invasives could be eliminated, which is vital for the growth of new trees.

Leopold added that a male box turtle, approximately 30 years old, was found in the wooded area. He said the species can live to be more than 100 years old, and the one they saw in Patriots Hollow reminded him a pumpkin with legs, as it was especially big and colorful.

The researcher said they encountered tick bombs while in the forest, with 100 to 200 small tick larvae starting to disperse at one time. He said when the lone star ticks are older their bites can cause problems as they can carry a disease that makes a person allergic to red meat.

“Until there are trails, and until some of these issues are addressed, it would be good to not have a bunch of folks running through here because the tick infestation can be a public health hazard,” he said.

Brian Leydet of SUNY-ESF will analyze ticks collected during the survey so recommendations can be made to the community trust and DEC about ways to reduce human-to-tick contact.

The 3VCT’s steering committee will look to include the community in the planning process and will work with the trust itself to seek grants and contributions. The initial implementation of the restoration and management plan will be funded by a grant of $500,000 secured by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2018, according to a press release from the trust.

Members of Three Village Community Trust and residents enjoyed the 6th annual Chicken Hill Barbecue July 27.

Approximately 80 attendees gathered near the Setauket Rubber Factory Houses, once part of the Chicken Hill community, now being preserved on the property of TVCT’s Bruce House headquarters. Historian Frank Turano gave an entertaining and informative talk on the history of Chicken Hill, and everyone enjoyed chicken, ribs, and all the fixings provided by Bagel Express. Participants also had the opportunity to visit two of the Rubber Factory Houses.

The TVCT’s next event, its 15th Annual Celebration, will be held Nov. 13 at the Old Field Club. For more information, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.

Residents, legislators and members of the Friends of the Greenway and the Three Village Community Trust, above, celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Photo by David Luces

Countless runners, bikers and families enjoy the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail every day, many unknowing to the fact that the 3.5-mile trail at one point was destined to be a highway.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Three Village Community Trust members Herb Mones and Cynthia Barnes, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Charlie McAteer, chair of the Friends of the Greenway. Photo by David Luces

On June 8, residents, members of the Friends of the Greenway and the Three Village Community Trust as well as public officials gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the greenway trail opening at the midpoint of the trail — Lynx and Bobcat lanes.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that the trail is so actively used by so many different groups of people,” said Herb Mones, TVCT trustee.

Mones said like any project it took a tremendous amount of planning and execution.

The process began in 1999, when residents began discussing what to do with the land acquired in the 1960s by the New York State Department of Transportation that ran from parts of East Setauket to Port Jefferson Station. Initially the state wanted to create a bypass to Route 25A.

“At first, many people didn’t understand how a pathway would work, because there was no example of it in the community,” Mones said. “People scratched their heads and said I don’t want that.”

It took 10 years to figure out how the trail would look and feel. Along the way, residents began to recognize the benefits of a greenway/bike trail.

The TVCT also had help from public officials.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was one of the first to see the potential of a greenway trail in the area and was able to secure more than $2 million in funds for the initial build-out of the trail. On the federal level, former Congressman Tim Bishop (D) was able to obtain $5 million for the remaining sections of the trail.

Residents enjoy the 10th anniversary celebration. Photo by Herb Mones

“It is really a testament to the community, volunteers and public officials to see this through,” Mones said. “Now this greenway is being used as a model for other trails being built in the county.”

George Hoffman, co-chair of the Three Village Civic Association, remembers initially people were upset with the idea of a trail but now residents advertise their homes being on the greenway as a selling point.

“This a great community resource,” he said. “Still some people don’t know this is here.”

Charlie McAteer, chair of the Friends of the Greenway, said he was glad for the turnout.

“Ten years ago we were at this spot, we had the support of the community, now you see what it had brought out, a three-mile trail that we all enjoy,” he said. “You see how many people use this trail. That’s what we intended.”

The success of the greenway trail has inspired the future county project Rails to Trails, a 10-mile path that will run from Mount Sinai to Wading River.

McAteer said he and the Friends of the Greenway are looking forward to helping with the project. Officials said they hope to break ground on the new trail sometime in fall 2019.

Photo from Cynthia Barnes

Starting in mid-April, archaeologists with the Lamar Institute began a month-long search at three significant American Revolutionary War battlefields on Long Island. These included Fort Slongo in Fort Salonga, the fort and headquarters known as Fort Franklin on Lloyd’s Neck, and the two churches on the Setauket Village Green and Patriots Rock in Setauket. 

Participants in the survey include Daniel Elliott, president of the Lamar Institute and his wife, Rita; local historian David M. Griffin, author of “Lost British Forts of Long Island”; and Sheldon Skaggs, assistant professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Bronx and his students.

In conjunction with the recent archaeological surveys, the Three Village Community Trust will host a special Join the Conversation event at the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket on Wednesday, May 8 at 8 p.m. 

Elliott and his team will share their field methodology and discuss their very preliminary findings. This is archeology close at hand. Learn about how the team uses ground-penetrating radar (GPR), systematic and controlled metal detection, to locate and excavate key targets, and plot where each are found using total station laser transit mapping technology for later analysis. 

The project will continue with laboratory analysis and research to enable the identification of the battlefields across the modern landscape while providing data regarding military strategies. Resulting interpretation will be documented in a report available to the public on the Lamar Institute’s website (www.thelamarinstitute.org) by September 2020.

All are welcome to attend this free event. Refreshments will be served and there will be time for Q&A. For more information, please call 631-689-0225.