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Ward Melville Heritage Organization

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host the 5th annual Holistic Nutrition Seminar at its Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Author, biochemist and certified nutritionist Yu-Shiaw Chen will speak about the Recipe for a Healthier You. $45 per person at the door includes a healthy lunch and testimonial sharing. Advance registration is required at www.linutrition.com. For more information, please call 631-751-4267 or 631-697-5572.

See flyer for more information.

5th-Annual-Holistic-Nutrition-Seminar-Sept-28-2019-flyer-1-1

Image courtesy of the WMHO

By Melissa Arnold

Picture this: It’s August of 1776, the air is thick with humidity, and the road we now call Route 25A is made of dirt, not asphalt. Americans secretly loyal to the Patriot cause are traveling on horseback from Setauket to New York City, where Gen. George Washington is stationed. These brave men are on a mission to deliver critical information to help win the Revolutionary War, some of it written in invisible ink.

Image courtesy of the WMHO

We know these stories and many like them from historical literature, but can you recall many stories about the brave women who supported the war effort? On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization invites the community to take a trip back in time to see what it was like to live on Long Island during that time period and explore local treasures with a unique living history event titled Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War.

In the summer of 1776, the British forces were able to take control of the area, radically affecting the lives of local families, especially those Patriots who supported American independence. Many husbands and young men were arrested and enslaved on prison boats in New York Harbor, and boys were forced into service for the British Army. Meanwhile, wives, mothers and daughters were left to protect their children and property alone.

In the Three Villages, four historic properties purchased and lovingly restored by philanthropist Ward Melville will become the center of the action for the Courageous Women living history performances. Guests will travel to each site by trolley and hear stories of struggle, hope and patriotism directly from the women who lived at that time.

The event is the first of its kind in our area and is a labor of love for the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

“This was a group effort that started at a staff meeting more than a year ago,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO. “We felt that women weren’t really focused on in explanations of the Revolutionary War, and since next year is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, we felt it was time to bring [the female perspective] out of the shadows.”

The tour’s mission, made possible by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, is to inspire and educate the public about the contributions of these valiant women while fostering an appreciation of the Three Village region and its cultural heritage.

Using historical literature and oral histories from the Three Village area as a guide, the WMHO has worked to create realistic stories of four women who lived during the war. The organization also relied on the expertise of the Anna Smith Strong Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a lineage-based service organization for women whose ancestors lived during that era.

Tour guests will be greeted by an actor in period dress at each of the historic properties, which are listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. At the Thompson House (circa 1709) in Setauket, visitors will meet Phoebe Thompson, a chronically ill woman and wife of 18th-century physician Dr. Samuel Thompson.

The tour will also feature the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven, the Brewster House (circa 1665), also in Setauket, which operated as a tavern and general store during the war. Rebecca Brewster, wife of Joseph Brewster whose cousin Caleb Brewster was a member of the Culper Spy Ring, will greet visitors. Rebecca helped to run the tavern, which was frequented by British soldiers.

In Stony Brook, the Hawkins Mount House (circa 1725) will host Ruth Mills, wife of Culper spy Jonas Hawkins. Ruth witnessed firsthand the stresses and danger of opposing the British. At the Stony Brook Grist Mill (circa 1751), participants will meet Katie, an indentured servant from Ireland who is working to pay off a debt her family owed to the British government as a Grist Mill “Dusty.”

“We wanted to create an event that was more than just fun and entertaining,” said Gabrielle Lindau, director of development at the WMHO. “How many people realize that the Culper Spy Ring was right in their backyard? It was easy to go back into the historical records and learn a bit more about these women.”

To ensure historical accuracy and high-quality talent, the WMHO hired professional actresses from St. George Living History Productions, a Medford-based living history troupe.

WMHO education director Deborah Boudreau said that the organization believes this event captures the spirit of Ward Melville’s dream to help the community engage with local history in a personal way.

“Ward Melville spoke of history as something that you live with and lives with you,” Boudreau explained. “Visually, the properties bring you back to the 18th century. They give you a sense of what Long Island would have looked like at that time. I’m excited for people to learn about these stories, and for the opportunity we’ve had to imagine what such a defining moment in our country would have meant through the eyes of women. The Revolutionary War planted a seed for the Women’s Rights Movement. It brought visibility to what women are capable of.”

Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War will be held on Sept. 28 (rain date Sept. 29) with trolley tours departing from the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $40 per person and reservations are required. For further information, please call 631-751-2244.

Meet historical figures including Anna Smith Strong, left, and Benjamin Tallmadge at Culper Spy Day
Meet Big Bill the Tory during Culper Spy Day

On Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, the Long Island Museum and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will present a day of spy-related tours and activities for the 5th annual Culper Spy Day.

The event is named for the Culper Spy Ring founded by Benjamin Tallmadge of Setauket, which provided Gen. George Washington with the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution.

A collaboration of more than 40 historical and cultural organizations, from Montauk to Manhattan, will gather in the Three Village area for a day of community events. Participants will have the opportunity to build their own Revolutionary War story and to visit the places where history was made during this self-guided tour. Activities throughout the community will include tours, a Revolutionary War encampment, Colonial cooking demonstrations, musical performances, crafts and more.

Featured events

The Three Village Historical Society will host Anna Smith Strong and her famous clothesline, invisible ink demonstrations, a Spies! exhibit, children’s book signing, Colonial music by the Three Village Chamber Players from noon to 4 p.m., an outdoor gift shop and Tavern on the Field featuring food trucks Eat Me, Drink Me, Fat Boys BBQ Bus and Food Nation Generation.

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook will hold blacksmithing demonstrations in the Samuel West Blacksmith Shop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. LIMarts artists Joseph Rotella and Lori Scarlatos will paint plein air in the carriage shed at the Caroline Church in Setauket from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Meet historical figure Robert Townsend, center, during the event

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will have costumed docents guide visitors through their c. 1709 Thompson House and their c. 1665 Joseph Brewster House. Living historian Diane Schwindt of Stirring Up History will be serving up some tasty and authentic 18th-century treats from America’s past on the front lawn of the Brewster House. A miller will be on hand to demonstrate the workings of the c. 1751 Stony Brook Grist Mill throughout the day.

George Washington’s original letters to members of his spy ring will be on display at the Stony Brook University Library’s Dept. of Special Collections between 10 a.m. and noon.

The Three Village Inn and the Country House Restaurant in Stony Brook will feature a spy lunch for an additional fee. Reservations are required (not included in Spy Day ticket price).

Other Culper Spy Day sites and activities include historical cemetery tours, tea with Big Bill the Tory, viewing of the Vance Locke murals at the Setauket Elementary School and new this year, the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot encampment with musket firing and battle drills on the Village Green for the ultimate Culper Spy Day experience. Build your own Revolutionary War story and see history come to life at this fun-filled event.

If you go:

Tickets, which are $25 adults, $5 children ages 6 to 12, children under the age of 6 and veterans are free, may be purchased online at www.tvhs.org or in person at the Three Village Historical Society at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. Participants will receive a bracelet and a copy of the Culper Spy Day map with all event listings. Tickets are good for admission to participating organizations on Sept. 14. Some organizations include additional dates. 

For more information, please visit www.culperspyday.com.

All photos by Anthony White

Elected officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials have made it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a county property in East Setauket.

At a press conference Aug. 12, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), employees from the county’s parks department and residents were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old  Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking.

Bellone credited Hahn’s persistence for making the trail happen. The legislator secured $100,000 from the county’s 2018 Capital Budget and Program to fund the path. The trail starts at a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, runs around the perimeter of the farm and ends on Trustees Road right before visitors enter the Town of Brookhaven’s West Meadow Beach pathway.

“What a wonderful gem this park is for our community and for the county, and what an incredible addition this is for people,” Bellone said. “You think, well is a path that significant, and the answer is yes. It literally changes the whole environment for people.”

Hahn said she knows that trails such as the Old Field Farm are important to the community, because it allows people to be physically active, while enjoying the outdoors without sharing the road with vehicles. 

The nearly half-mile trail can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“I’m a runner, and I run often on West Meadow Road here,” she said. “There are some blind curves. And, this will also function to get people — walkers, runners, bikers — off the dangerous road and on to our public space. Having people have access to these public places is so important for us as elected officials to make sure that these spaces that we invest in — that we spend money to maintain — that people use them and appreciate them, and this is a way that many more people can take advantage.”

Hahn thanked community leaders for their support, including county parks department employees, Herb Mones of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, Larry Swanson from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Englebright, who secured the land for Suffolk in 1985 when he was a county legislator. She also thanked Sally Lynch, president of Old Field Farm, Ltd., who she called an advocate and steward of the property. Hahn said the nonprofit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years. The funds, in conjunction with county grants, have helped to restore and maintain the historic structures on the property. The farm is also home to horse shows, and the trail will be closed during those shows to avoid spooking the horses.

Old Field Farm consists of 13 acres that adjoin the 88 acres of protected wetlands and overlooks the Long Island Sound and West Meadow Creek. Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville built Old Field Farm in 1931, and it was initially called North Shore Horse Show Grounds. Melville commissioned architect Richard Haviland Smythe to create the equestrian facility, which includes a main barn and courtyard, freestanding stables and a wooden grandstand.

“This property is exquisite, spectacular as you can see,” Hahn said.

Englebright said the property could have been sold to a developer to build a waterfront housing development in 1985. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, who owned it at the time, decided to sell it to the county. The land acquisition was an important one, he said, because it is located right next to West Meadow Beach. The assemblyman described the area as a mosaic of public lands forming a protective encirclement around West Meadow Creek. He called the addition of the trail extraordinary.

“With the access now of this trail, when you add this trail to Trustees Road, you have more than a mile of waterfront-exclusive, non-motorized access,” he said.

In the past, Hahn has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

 

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Volunteers remove a telephone pole from Stony Brook Creek. Photo by Thomas Crawford

Residents and legislators gathering in front of the Hercules Pavilion across from Stony Brook Village Center had more on their minds than shopping the morning of Aug. 6.

Workers cut away at the phragmites along Stony Brook Creek. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, announced at a press conference that Suffolk County awarded the organization a $10,750 grant. The funds will be used for a pilot program to remove 12,000 square feet of phragmites from the shoreline of Stony Brook Creek.

Phragmites, an invasive species plant, has been known to choke many waterways on Long Island. In Stony Brook Creek, the debris caused by the phragmites has created silt buildup, which in turn has caused flooding along the creek.

According to Rocchio, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) secured the grant, and WMHO and Avalon Park & Preserve matched it. The total cost of the project is $21,500.

Rocchio said the problems caused by the phragmites have been going on for years. The town line between Smithtown and Brookhaven goes straight down the creek, and the estuary is owned partially by the two towns, Suffolk County, private residents and not-for-profits, all of which made it challenging to determine who was responsible for it in the past.

WMHO’s president said water goes into and out of the creek twice a day

“There are over 300 acres of land that have runoff on it that empty into this 5-acre creek,” she said.

When the banks of the creek overflow, she said, the water goes into the Stony Brook Grist Mill, which was built in 1751 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Rocchio said the water that continually flows through the mill every day has destroyed lower parts of the structure as well as its mechanisms.

“We can’t lose this beautiful heritage we have here,” Rocchio said.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, center, is given a demonstration of phragmites removal before the Aug. 6 press conference. Photo from Ward Melville Heritage Organization

She added that residents’ yards have also been flooded and one homeowner had to pull up the level of her bulkhead because the water comes in regularly.

The day before the press conference, workers from North Shore Tree & Landscaping and Usher Plant Care began eliminating the phragmites using a hand cutting process, which involves no chemicals or mechanical equipment. Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman, explained the procedure.

“The process includes hand cutting of the stalk in a certain way and coming back in two weeks to do a second cutting,” he said. “It’s usually completed within 21 days, weather permitting.”

In addition to the legislators and residents on hand at the press conference, owners and employees of local businesses including Lessing’s Hospitality Group, People’s United Bank, Stony Brook Marine Services, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals and Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn were in attendance to help remove pilings that floated into the creek and logs from fallen trees to stop further silt buildup.

Michael Lessing, president and chief operating officer of Lessing’s, which owns Stony Brook’s Three Village Inn, said the company’s employees are part of a program called Do Good and have participated in fall beach cleanups at Gilgo Beach, along with other areas on the South Shore. He said when Rocchio heard of their program, she asked for their help to clean up the creek.

“Dan Laffitte and his crew from the Three Village Inn is really what brings us together today,” he said.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) also spoke at the press conference and said the two-part cleanup project was just the beginning.

The Stony Brook Creek Stormwater Mitigation Project, she said, is set to be voted on by the Suffolk County Legislature this month, adding the county’s Water Quality and Land Stewardship Initiative Committee had recommended the project. Suffolk will contribute $251,526 in funding, while the Town of Brookhaven will match the other $251,526.

Cartright said the project would involve four discharge pipes that carry stormwater from the Stony Brook community directly to the creek, which will be disconnected. A new drainage structure will be installed where pipes will lead to bioretention and water quality units. The goal is to minimize the direct discharge of pollutant-laden stormwater in the creek, she said.

“We have taken a number of steps collectively to make sure we save our Stony Brook Creek and our Stony Brook Harbor,” Cartright said. “As we know they are very special and important to our community.”

Honorees Katharine Griffiths, Andy Polan, Leah Dunaief, Anna Kerekes

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosted its annual Jewels & Jeans Gala at Flowerfield in St. James on June 19. This year’s event honored Katharine Griffiths, Executive Director, Avalon Park & Preserve; Leah Dunaief, Editor and Publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media; Anna Kerekes, WMHO Trustee; and Andy Polan, President, Three Village Chamber of Commerce “for their outstanding achievements to the community.” The evening featured music by Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft All Stars, cocktails, dinner and a live and silent auction. 

Photos by Ron Smith, Clix|couture

Photo by Richard Rocchio

Learn the importance and fragility of a wetlands ecosystem, enjoy the beauty of a salt marsh moraine and be amazed at the untouched beauty of Long Island’s North Shore this summer aboard the Discovery Wetlands Cruises beginning May 16.

 The Ward Melville Heritage Organization has been offering wetlands cruises since 1995 aboard its 27-passenger pontoon boat, carrying guests from the calm waters of Stony Brook Harbor into the wetlands at West Meadow Creek.

 A naturalist is on board to guide passengers through this exceptional experience embracing ecology, geology and history, including information on how Native Americans first settled in the area. Adventurers and sightseers are encouraged to bring their binoculars for a close-up view of plant and animal life and their cameras to preserve cruise memories. Special Photography Cruises are also offered on board with an expert from Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions discussing techniques to capture the best landscape and wildlife images on the water.

Cruises leave from Stony Brook Marine Services parking lot at 51 Shore Road in Stony Brook, across from The Three Village Inn, and run through Oct. 31. Individual rates are $28 for adults, $25 for students and seniors and $18 for children under 6. Photography cruises are $50 per person. Reservations are suggested to secure your spot but walk-ons are accepted, with cash payment at the boat, when space is available. For additional information or to make a reservation, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

Stony Brook Grist Mill

The Stony Brook Grist Mill, circa 1751, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook opens for the season on Saturday, April 13 and will be open weekends from noon to 4:30 p.m. through Oct. 31.

Long Island’s most completely equipped working mill, it is listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. Visit the Country Store and watch the only female miller in the U.S. grind grain into flour just as it was done during the Revolutionary War.

Admission is $2 adults, $1 children 12 and under. For additional info, call 631-751-2244.

Photo from WMHO

BEST BAKER IN THE LAND

Congratulations to Priscilla Kirch of Hauppauge, the winner of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s first Irish Soda Bread competition. Held during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook on March 3, the contest drew eight delicious entries. Above right, Kirch receives her prize, a $150 gift certificate to the shops and restaurants at the Stony Brook Village Center from Kristin Shea, the director of the Educational & Cultural Center.  

By Rita J. Egan

When the weather outside is chilly, a night out on the town is better when it’s celebrated inside. With this in mind, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will hold A “Taste” of Stony Brook Village … Ladies Night In on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center.

The event, which will benefit breast cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine, will feature a fashion show celebrating Chico’s 25th anniversary in Stony Brook Village Center, according to Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO. The clothing chain’s Stony Brook location was the first Chico’s to open in New York.

Shelagh Stoneham, senior vice president of Chico’s marketing, said in an email that boutique associates, store managers and the district sales manager would be in attendance Feb. 26.

Roberta Fabiano

“Chico’s is thrilled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Stony Brook location at the upcoming A ‘Taste’ of Stony Brook Village event,” Stoneham said. “The support for Chico’s in local communities like Stony Brook is both remarkable and critical to the longevity of our brand. We look forward to celebrating with all of the friends we’ve made over the last 25 years.”

Helene Obey, Chico’s multi-unit general store manager, who leads the Stony Brook and Southampton stores, said she’s been working at the village location for more than a year. Obey said she loves hearing about the location’s history from former Stony Brook employee Jennifer Vasta, who is now a general store manager in Merrick, including how the staff opened the boutique 25 years ago during a blizzard.

She said the idea of holding a fashion show with vintage and new clothing came up during a casual chat with Rocchio and her husband, Richard. “It ended up being very organic, and then all of a sudden turned out to be this really large event which we’re so excited about,” Obey said.

She said finding past outfits was easy as many longtime employees have held on to special pieces, and Chico’s Stony Brook team and former employees will participate in the fashion show. The day of the event, the store will offer refreshments, free gifts, raffles and will have a wheel that will be spun every half hour where winners will receive gift certificates from community businesses.

Rocchio, who will be wearing a vintage outfit, said the event is all about being interactive and the goal is to raise $5,000 for breast cancer research. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy food samples, demonstrations, raffles, giveaways and raffle baskets. There will be ’90-themed music; Roberta Fabiano, who has performed worldwide, will sing; and dancers from Roseland School of Dance will teach attendees how to dance the macarena. Virtual reality equipment will also be available.

The Three Village Inn, Sweet Mama’s, the Country House, Pentimento’s, Fratelli’s Italian Eatery, Robinson’s Tea Room, Crazy Beans, Brew Cheese and The Crushed Olive will have representatives on hand with food samplings including mac and cheese, hors d’oeuvres, scones, veggie wraps and more. Chocolate Works will present a seven-tiered display of chocolate samples, and Blue Salon & Spa will have a minispa, minimakeup demos and a raffle for a free cut and blowout.

Admission for the Feb. 26 event is $35 per person. The WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center is located at 97P Main St. in the rear of the Stony Brook Village Center. Reservations are required and can be made via PayPal at www.stonybrookvillage.com/tsbv/ or by calling 631-689-5888.