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Three Village Inn

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) has revealed that the documentary Driving the Green Book, which features the historic Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, has won ‘Best Documentary’ at The People’s Film Festival in Harlem. The announcement was made in a press release on June 11.

On February 18, 2022, WMHO had the distinct pleasure of hosting filmmakers Saro Varjabedian, Mike De Caro, and Alvin Hall at the Three Village Inn. They discussed the Inn’s mention in the Green Book, an annual guidebook for African American travelers during segregation, highlighting safe and welcoming establishments across the nation.

In Driving the Green Book, WMHO President Gloria Rocchio explores the connection between the Green Book and the Three Village Inn, which was owned by philanthropist and businessman Ward Melville. She also delves into the history of the Dogwood Hollow Music Festivals in Stony Brook, which featured legendary African-American performers such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie from 1955 to 1970.

“WMHO is honored to have contributed to a project that sheds light on an important part of American history,” read the release.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) has announced the Summer Soirée fundraising gala will return with a cocktail hour, dinner and silent and live auction at 6 p.m. on June 27 at the historic Three Village Inn in Stony Brook. The primary purpose of the fundraising is to support the ongoing restoration of the beloved Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751). Any additional funds raised will support WMHO education programs and invasive species projects sponsored by WMHO. 

This year’s event will be honoring three exceptional individuals who are WMHO supporters and community leaders: Charlie Lefkowitz, Barbara Damianos and the Damianos Family, and Michele Miller.

Charlie Lefkowitz is Chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, President of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and President of CALCO Development and Louis Lefkowitz Realty Inc. Despite this hectic work life, he remains very involved in community endeavors. He resides in Setauket with his family.

Barbara Damianos raised her five children in Head of the Harbor and now resides in Port Jefferson. She is known for her international charity work that has taken her to countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Ukraine, Peru, and Russia. The highlight of Barbara Damianos’s professional life was the establishment of her family’s wineries. The Damianos Family collectively runs three vineyards: Pindar Vineyards, Duck Walk Vineyards, and Jason’s Vineyard.

Michele Miller is an Educator at Selden Middle School. She has been integral to the success of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s (WMHO) Youth Corps. Her daughter Leslie, an attorney who worked for the Bloomberg Administration and now works for a non-profit, was one of its first members. The Youth Corps is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Michele resides in Setauket.

“These honorees were selected because of their good works in the Long Island community and beyond”, said Dr. Richard Rugen, Chairman of WMHO.

For tickets and sponsorship information for the Summer Soirée, visit www.wmho.org or call 631-751-2244. 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) kicked off the season with their annual Summer Soirée fundraiser at the Three Village Inn on June 22. The event honored outstanding members of the community including Olivia and Harlan Fischer, Katharine Griffiths, Sally Lynch, Nicole Sarno, and awarded posthumously, philanthropist Judi Betts and featured a live auction.

The primary purpose of the fundraising efforts was to support the restoration of the 20’ wooden eagle that is affixed to the pediment above the Stony Brook Post Office. This beloved local and national treasure has flapped its wings every hour on the hour for over 80 years. 

All photos courtesy of the WMHO

Aubrey Johnson will be at the Jazz Loft on March 25.

Jazz music will once again fill the air as the Swing Into Spring Festival returns to the North Shore from March 21 to 25, bringing with it an assortment of opportunities to hear live Jazz music. The five-day musical event will culminate in concert performances by the Aubrey Johnson Quartet and Carlos Jimenez Mambo Dulcet, and a Collegiate Big Band Brawl, Community Jazz Night and Jam Session Techniques Workshop.

The Swing into Spring Festival is the creation of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn in partnership with Thomas Manuel, President and Founder of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook and will be held at The Jazz Loft and in local shops and restaurants, including Sweet Mama’s, Stony Brook Chocolate, The Country House, Madiran Wine Bar, Bliss and The Three Village Inn.

“I think it is wonderful that [the Three Village area] will be alive with the sounds of Jazz for a week,” said Manuel. “The Swing Into Spring Festival has grown year after year into this wonderful mini-festival that truly brings the town to life and attracts folks from all over Long Island. We’re honored to be presenting such a diverse and unique blend of artists this year and also to be extending the invitation to young and upcoming artists.”

“Just as hearing that first songbird of the year warms spirits that have been chilled by the winter cold, so too does that first note of ‘Swing into Spring’ within this vibrant community eager to welcome locals, tourists, and music lovers back,” said Leg. Hahn.

Schedule of events

Tuesday, March 21

Collegiate Big Band Brawl                                                     

The Swing Into Spring Festival will kick off with a Collegiate Big Band Brawl where Long Island’s collegiate Jazz Ensembles face off in a battle royale! Stony Brook University’s Blowage Big Band will be performing against ensemble groups from Hofstra and Long Island University (Post) at the Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

An evening of jazz from 6 to 8 p.m.

— Bliss Restaurant, 766 Route 25A, East Setauket welcomes Steve Salerno on guitar and Tom Manuel on cornet.

Sweet Mama’s Restaurant, 121 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes Frank Hansen on bass and Chris Donohue on tenor sax.

— Madiran Wine Bar, 209 Route 25A, East Setauket welcomes Dean Johnson on bass and Kevin Clark on guitar.

Wednesday, March 22 

Improvisation & Jam Session Techniques Workshop        

On the second day of the Swing Into Spring Festival, The Jazz Loft will host a workshop focused on improvisation followed by a jam session where Jazz musicians can collaborate on stage from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Featuring Dean Johnson on bass, Rich Iacona on piano, Tom Manuel on cornet and Ellis Holmes on drums Tickets are $10. Visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Jam Session at the Jazz Loft

The Jazz Loft  hosts a Jam Session featuring The Jazz Loft Trio led by Keenan Zachfrom 7 to 9:30 p.m.  Tickets are $10, $5 after 8 p.m.

An evening of jazz from 6 to 8 p.m. 

— Madiran Wine Bar, 209 Route 25A, East Setauket welcomes Steve Salerno on guitar, and Tom Manuel on cornet.

— Sweet Mama’s Restaurant, 121 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes Kevin Clark on guitar and Frank Hansen on bass.

— Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes the The Jazz Loft Trio (Dean Johnson on bass, Rich Iacona on piano and Ellis Holmes on drums).

— Country House Restaurant, 1175 North Country Road, Stony Brook presents Lee Tamboulian on piano.

Thursday, March 23 

Jimenez Mambo Dulcet in concert                                           

Carlos Jimenez Mambo Dulcet is a NYC based salsa band and will be performing at The Jazz Loft at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

An evening of jazz from 6 to 8 p.m. 

— Country House Restaurant, 1175 North Country Road, Stony Brook welcomes Rich Iacona on piano and Tom Manuel on cornet.

Friday, March 24 

Community Jazz Night                                                                

The Jazz Loft hosts a Community Jazz Night at 7 p.m. with multiple local jazz acts performing including The Bay Big Band, Moment’s Notice, and the Keenan Zach Trio. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

Saturday, March 25 

Aubrey Johnson Quartet in concert                                                        

For the final day of the Swing Into Spring Festival, the Jazz Loft will present New York based vocalist, composer, and educator Aubrey Johnson in concert at 7 p.m. with Tomoko Omura on violin, Chris McCarthy on piano, and Matt Aronoff on bass. Tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors, $20 students, $15 children at www.thejazzloft.org.

An afternoon of jazz

Stony Brook Chocolate, 143 Main St., Stony Brook welcomes Mike Hall on bass and Steve Salerno on guitar from 4 to 6 p.m. *Featuring $5 hot chocolate you can make with a chocolate instrument for sale.

Funding for the Festival comes in part from the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and the Al Greiman Cabaret Series.

The 2019 People of the Year event at the Three Village Inn. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Thanksgiving is almost here, and many of us are bustling about, packing for a distant visit with loved ones or making sure the house is in good shape to receive those traveling to us. For most Americans, it is our favorite holiday, defined by turkey and the trimmings. What could be bad about an eating holiday? The only skunk at the party is abandoned overeating, and most of us, wise from unfortunate past experience, try to avoid that.

The other thing that makes Thanksgiving special is the conscious awareness, again by most of us, of how much we have to be grateful for, including the community in which we live. It takes exceptional people to make a strong community, some of them leaders of organizations, others simply caring neighbors who go out of their way to help when help is needed.

In recognition of the many who enhance the quality of our lives, we publish a Thank You edition of the newspaper and website on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s. We call that issue, “People of the Year,” and we solicit suggestions for profiles from our staff, community leaders and especially from readers. 

We have been doing this for 47 years, since we started publishing, and we still haven’t run out of winners. In fact, the more we meet, the larger the circle grows. [Confession in the spirit of full disclosure: I used to worry that we would indeed run out of nominees.] Sometimes we get lots of suggestions for the same person. We’ve even had readers bring in petitions with many signatures to help us choose whom to profile.

Ultimately the TBR Editorial Board makes the final decisions, so if you disagree with any of the choices, blame us.

When we published only one newspaper, selection was fairly easy. As our editions grew, we produced a different slate for each. Recently, however, we have realized that what happens in Stony Brook can also affect Northport and vice versa, so we now publish a master list of sorts honoring those who have gone the extra mile on behalf of our communities. And by so doing, we have eased the strain on our COVID-reduced staff.

The purpose of the profiles, in addition to offering these terrific people our thanks, is also to give them a spotlight to help them with their work, which is usually ongoing. With that goal in mind, we refrain from writing in this issue about those who have retired or are deceased. However, those stories, along with many we couldn’t fit in, may become features in future additions.

We have tried, each year, to keep their selection a secret from the winners. They seem to enjoy opening the paper in print or on the web and finding themselves and their efforts acknowledged. Of course, it’s fun to be appreciated, then with the additional kick of it being a surprise. 

Until the year 2020, we invited the People of the Year to supper at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook, generally on a late Sunday afternoon in March. At that venue, we gave each recipient a framed certificate, spoke for a minute about why they were selected, then gave them the mic to elaborate on their work.

Many of the past awardees also attended each year. Based on how long the residents lingered over dessert after the last certificate was announced, we concluded that there was a lot of cross pollination among them, further strengthening our communities and their interactions. 

We stopped those suppers with the advent of the coronavirus, fearing the possibility of a super spreader event. With each passing year, we hope to restore that tradition. It was delightful for us and, we believe, helpful for the community.

So we will wait to see what happens in 2023 and if we can resume partying. We all hope for the start of an After Times.

Look Book Luncheons

Foodies and shopaholics unite for a three-part series of luncheon fashion shows in Stony Brook Village. Each part of the series will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at a different restaurant and each will feature different fall styles from Mint, Chico’s, Loft and Madison’s Niche.

As guests enjoy their lunch, models will stroll through the restaurants, sharing information about the fall fashion they are wearing. The three-part series will take place on Nov. 3 at the Country House Restaurant; on Nov. 10 at Luca Modern Italian Restaurant; and Nov. 17 at Mirabelle Restaurant and Tavern at the Three Village Inn. Tickets are $35 per person at each restaurant for a prix fix lunch. 

To make your reservation, contact the restaurant directly. The Country House Restaurant’s phone number is 631-751-3332 and is located at 1175 North Country Road in Stony Brook. Luca Modern Italian Restaurant’s phone number is 631-675-0435 and is located at 93 Main Street in Stony Brook Village. Mirabelle Restaurant can be contacted at 631-751-0555 and is located in the historic Three Village Inn, at 150 Main Street in Stony Brook Village. 

Mint Clothing

Grab your fanciest hat and get off to the races!

Stony Brook Village Center is proud to announce Mint Clothing Boutique will be celebrating the release of their first private line of designs at a Belmont Stakes themed Look Book Luncheon. The luncheon will take place at the Three Village Inn on Thursday June 9 at noon until 3 p.m. (rain date: Friday, June 10, same time).

As guests enjoy their al fresco lunch, models will stroll through the gardens wearing the private line’s breathable, sustainable and easy-to-wear styles. Tickets for this event are $35 per person and include a three-course prix fix lunch. To reserve your seat, call the Three Village Inn at 631-751-0555.

Mint Clothing Boutique was created in 2004 by Joanna Mazzella, inspired by the beauty and lifestyle of the North Fork and the Hamptons. The boutique offers a unique collection of beautiful pieces from luxury clothing brands, tailored to create a refreshing shopping experience that highlights the modern woman’s lifestyle. Mint Clothing Boutique is located at 119 Main Street in Stony Brook Village and is open daily 10am to 6pm.

The Stony Brook Post Office is one of the stops on the Stony Brook Village Audio Experience. Photo courtesy of Sean Mills

Stony Brook Village has announced that the Stony Brook Village Audio Experience is now available and can be enjoyed on your own time and at your own pace! The experience is free to the public and will allow all visitors of Stony Brook Village to immerse themselves in the quirky history and stories of the lifestyle center and some of its surrounding properties. The audio experience is obtained by scanning QR codes throughout the village and is also available at audio.stonybrookvillage.com.

Currently, the experience has ten stops, and covers the history and the stories from the Three Village Inn’s original residents to the entire development of Stony Brook Village Center. It is recommended that participants of the experience begin at the Three Village Inn. Additional stories about the Country House (c.1710), the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c.1751) — including the first vineyard on Long Island, and T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park will be added soon.

To learn more about events and activities in Stony Brook Village Center, visit stonybrookvillage.com.

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A production crew, above, was at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook Feb. 18 filming for a documentary about the Green Brook. Photo from Ward Melville Heritage Organization

For several decades in the 20th century, many who were Black would refer to “The Negro Motorist Green-Book” to find hotels, restaurants and more that would be accommodating when they traveled in a segregated United States.

Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, Rae Marie Renna, Three Village Inn general manager, Ja-Ron Young, documentary creator Alvin Hall and Chrissy Robinson. Photo from Ward Melville Heritage Organization

Recently, Alvin Hall, who has hosted the “Driving the Green Book” podcast about various locations across the U.S., decided to find out if any of the sites on Long Island existed. During his research, he discovered that the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook was featured in the travel guide a couple of times, and he was pleasantly surprised that the hotel was still standing.

Last Friday, Hall and his documentary crew visited the Three Village Inn to film parts of a new documentary series and sat with The Ward Melville Heritage Organization president, Gloria Rocchio, and the inn’s general manager Rae Marie Renna.

The group talked about the travel guide released annually from 1936 to 1966 and published by African-American mailman Victor Hugo Green from Harlem, New York City. The guidebook was the subject of the 2018 movie “Green Book,” winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, starring Mahershala Ali as classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as his driver during one of the pianist’s Southern tours.

The guidebook was published in the spring before people tended to go on vacation during the warmer months, Hall said. It was small enough to fit into an old-fashioned glove compartment, and businesses were able to write in to request to be in it.

Hall said the production team found the Three Village Inn listed in the guide when they were looking at those issued around 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act was passed. The inn was in the 1963 and 1967 editions, according to WMHO. Places such as The Garden City Hotel, Sky Motel in Lindenhurst and Meadowbrook Motor Lodge in Jericho, which were also listed and are still open, will be part of the series, too.

Hall said it’s impressive that places such as Three Village Inn and the other Long Island sites are still standing decades later as many places across the country listed in the Green Book no longer exist.

Hall’s “Driving the Green Book” podcast featured him traveling from Detroit to New Orleans to search for places listed in the travel guide.

“You discover in town after town that often the routing of the interstate highway system was critical to killing off a lot of these places,” he said. “It wasn’t just that the business went down. A lot of it was just that the city decided to build the interstate highway system or major roadway right through that part of town and a lot of it was to kill off the Black business areas.”

When he worked on his podcast, he was on the road for 12 days in 2021 and conducted 40 interviews. It took about a year to edit all the material for the podcast series. With the television documentary, the hope is that it can be completed in a few months.

The producer said the series looks to see what changed in the North after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, what stayed the same, and how the North and South differed. 

A photos of attendees at a music festival at Dogwood Hollow Amphitheater. Photo from Ward Melville Heritage Organization

“It just made sense when you heard some of the stories about Long Island during the time of segregation and Jim Crow in the U.S., and the redlining that banks did out there,” Hall said. “So, it became just an interesting place to explore as sort of emblematic of the larger America.”

Hall said while many thought the North was different from the South, “in reality, a lot of the communities were quite segregated.”

“When Black people came up from the South, they were often put in specific neighborhoods, and a narrative was created around their behavior, their attitudes and everything, and used to exclude them. And, Long Island was no different from the rest of America in that way. I think a lot of people came up from the South thinking it was going to be the land of milk and honey, and it turned out just to be another variation on the South.”

During the visit to the Three Village Inn, Hall along with comedian Ja-Ron Young and college student Chrissy Robinson, who also appear in the documentary, learned about Dogwood Hollow Amphitheater where a festival, featuring various artists organized by Ward Melville, was held. This 2,300 seat amphitheater existed, near where the Stony Brook Village Center’s Educational & Cultural Center is now located, from 1955 to 1970. Rocchio said at first it opened with 500 seats but on the first night 500 more people had to be turned away. Within a year, the occupancy increased. The venue offered shows with jazz performers such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. Entertainers, including Liberace and Tony Bennett, also graced the stage.

“We found the contracts in the safe,” Rocchio said. “We could never do what [Melville] did. It was hundreds of thousands of dollars each season, having people like Liberace, the King Sisters.”

It’s believed that the Three Village Inn was included in the book because the entertainers stayed there after shows, something that wasn’t the case in many parts of the country as many Black artists would perform in a venue, but then not be able to lodge or eat there.

Hall said it was a progressive move during the era to have a show such as the music festival in Stony Brook where white and Black people performed together and sat unsegregated in the audience.

“I think that by creating the Dogwood festival at the theater, having jazz and having the same people stay there, that was very unusual,” Hall said, adding the movie “Green Book” showed how Shirley’s driver had to use the book to find places for them to stay.

Hall said Young was surprised when he saw one of the photos from the festival where there weren’t segregated sections, something that was uncommon in the 1960s and earlier.

“He said he was amazed at how integrated the audiences were in the photographs,” Hall said. “He says when he plays clubs it’s either generally a white audience with a few Black people, or a Black audience with a few white people. He noted that back then, at that festival near the inn, that it was more integrated than he sees today. You could tell he was quite amazed by that.”

Hall said he included Young and Robinson to show them the journey many took in the 20th century.

“They not only hear the stories, but it’s very important that they hear how the people coped with it, but also how the people did not get trapped in bitterness about the situation,” Hall said. “And they emerged from the opposite side of this with grace, and they acknowledged what happened, and they clearly see it, but they did not get trapped in bitterness.”

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Photo from The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

The Grinch decided to make an early stop in Stony Brook village this year: Cracking the water main and flooding the basement of the Three Village Inn and Mirabelle Restaurant and Tavern, causing Santa’s Brunch to be canceled.

Despite the damage done, the Three Village Inn’s employees and contractors are performing a herculean effort, working around the clock to have the inn and restaurant back up and running for dinner on Thursday, Dec. 23.

The Three Village Inn and Mirabelle Restaurant and Tavern is located at 150 Main Street in Stony Brook village. Reservations can be made by calling 631-751-0555.