He’s making a list and checking it twice, but the Miller Place/Mount Sinai Historical Society is helping to make sure the big man in red is getting all the up-to-date information.
The society held its annual Mailman Mark event Dec. 6. Normally held over a longer period where they can receive close to 300 children, this year, because of the pandemic, time was limited and people were incentivized to come by appointment. No families were turned away, however.
The event is held outside the historic William Miller House in Miller Place, in a building that once operated as the hamlet’s original post office. The titular Mailman Mark, ever Santa’s helper, helped the children get their pre-written letter stamped and put inside his mailbag, always reminding them before it was in that all wishes were final.
Santa is expected to write each child back before Christmas time.
The historical society also had a vintage fire truck available for families to take pictures in front of, as well as the opportunity to meet a dalmatian mascot named Sparky.
All funds for the event went to the historical society to help continue their preservation efforts.
Fundraising continues with opportunities to purchase an historic brick on the house’s walkway, vintage duplicated postcards, note cards of historic homes in the district and a keepsake coloring book. One can also donate to the restoration of the circa 1810 Daniel Hawkins House to be used for multiple community events.
Photos clockwise from bottom left: Nolan Elder, Mackenzie Burgerand Connor Burger deliver their letters to Mailman Mark, soon to be sent right to the North Pole.
The near-300-year old William Miller House in Miller Place hummed with historical activity the weekend of Sept. 28. The Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society hosted its annual Country Fair, bringing reenactors, local history buffs and community together.
Participants experienced open-hearth cooking and pottery making, while more local historians shared information on Colonial and Victorian games and how wampum beads were made. The Revolutionary War reenactors, the 3rd NY Regiment, Long Island Cos., shot off muskets and shared in the collective history of Long Island’s Revolutionary past. Meanwhile, Harry Randall, the historical society’s barn curator, showed off his huge collection of farm implements and tools in the old barn to the rear of the William Miller House.
Fifteen years ago, Mount Sinai Girl Scout Troop 2750 created an herb garden at the landmark William Miller House, the home base of the Miller Place Mount Sinai Historical Society. For years, that garden remained unattended, and it was years later when new members of Troop 2750 came in to fix it up, continuing to maintain the small patch of basil, dill and lady’s mantle.
On Saturday, Aug. 24, modern troop members took their dedication one step further as they built a new bench by hand that will remain behind the historic house.
“The kids who are taking care of this now are the descendants of the original same troop,” said Antoinette Donato, the vice president of the historical society. “We say it was meant to be … the garden is historically appropriate and accurate.”
Troop members Julia Endelson, Kathryn Rooney, Alex Valentine, Mackenzie Navins, Emily Caputo, Kayla Knoetgen and Carina Muratore all aided in building the bench, sitting just over 3.5 feet off the ground. Both revitalizing the garden and the bench was part of the scouts silver awards.
Troop leader Jennifer Endelson said troop worked on the project throughout the month of July for two nights a week. Local resident Kevin Rooney was instrumental in designing and showing the Scouts what tools to use and how to build it. The young people in Troop 2750 enjoyed the project, though they were surprised about how much math was involved in creating its dimensions.
“Learning about the different kind of wood that was out there, going through the list of everything, purchasing the equipment and using tools they weren’t too familiar with,” Endelson said.
Troop members Rooney, Valentine, Endelson, Navins, Caputo, Knoetgen and fellow troop member Jordan Deblasio have been caring for the garden over the past several years. Donato said their service has been vital, adding she hopes they continue to aid the historical society.
“There is nothing more noble than volunteering your life,” she said.
Miller Place resident Margaret Doscher-Cibulka said she was a fellow former Girl Scout. When addressing the Scouts, she said the group can create lifelong companions.
“I want you to know my friends from Girl Scouts are still my friends,” she said. “I wish you all the best of luck.”
For those who live in or visit Miller Place, when driving through our elegant historic district, stop and take a look at the notable changes in our showcase home, the William Miller House located at 75 North Country Road in Miller Place.The façade of the 1920 flagship home shines with bright, newly painted restored windows.
On Dec. 5, Jeremiah McGiff of antique restorers Wild Boar Restoration, with the assistance of his cousin Mike McGiff, began this carefully rendered, crucial project. The sash was removed and taken back to the original wood.Thankfully, the windows were in relatively good condition and only needed minor repairs.Frames were also taken back to bare wood and repaired as needed (which again proved to be minimal). The sills sustained the most severe damage. As part of this contract the doors on the east end of the house and the first-floor window on the east side of the house were also restored.Old glass was used for the window panes except for one pane in the east room that was old and had some indecipherable writing on it. Copper was added above the windows and doors to prevent water from getting behind them. The window in the east door was left crooked as it had been found.
The William Miller House was first restored in the early 1980s shortly after the Miller Place Historical Society had purchased it. The windows were part of the restoration and at that time they needed few repairs, but time and the weather were not kind to the windows. The panes face the south, thereby receiving sunlight for much of any day of the year. Trees, which once occupied the front lawn and had protected the house, had all been removed due to disease by the late 1990s. Rain and snow continually contributed to the deterioration of the windows over time.
In 2020, the William Miller house will be 300 years old. The historical society has been working on repairs to ready the home for this momentous event. A new roof replaced the old one in early 2018. The windows had been chosen as the next major project to be tackled. Through the years the windows lost putty around the glass and panes would fall out and need to be replaced. None of the front windows could be opened because it was feared they would fall apart.
Fundraising commenced, including sending out information to the communities of Miller Place and Mount Sinai. The first job to tackle was the six main front windows. However, the cost for the restoration of these six was considerable at $16,800. It would be necessary to do two windows at a time. Then one day, current historical society Treasurer Gerard Mannarino received a phone call from a family in Miller Place who wished to donate the total cost of restoring the six front windows. The members of the board were stunned, ecstatic, and relieved.Work could now begin.
Additional funds from two donors, Jack Soldano, of Comics for a Cause fame, and fundraisers sponsored by the historical society were available to restore the remaining front windows, the east side window and the doors on the east end.
The change has been truly dramatic. All the windows but one date from the 1720s, 1730s or 1750s.
Thirteen windows remain to be restored, and fundraising is ongoing. We remain hopeful that these too will be brought to their original luster.
Meanwhile, we invite you to enjoy a freshened view of history. Come and see how a labor of love and generosity has placed a new lens and stunning façade on a shining landmark in our community.
Edna Giffen is a 12th-generation Mount Sinai resident. She is a local historian, archivist and current record keeper and recording secretary of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.
A Mount Sinai Boy Scout literally restored an entryway to local history to complete his Eagle Scout project.
The front door to the William Miller House on North Country Road, a centuries-old building that has long served as the headquarters for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society, was in a state of disrepair for longer than historian Edna Giffen could remember. Now, thanks to 17-year-old Scout Michael Muroff from Troop 1776, a brand new door constructed with a nod to history in mind hangs from the hinges, serving as a refurbished entry to local history.
Boy Scouts hoping to achieve Eagle status, the highest rank attainable by a male Scout, are tasked with completing a project that demonstrates leadership and benefits the community. Repairing the front door of the historical society met the criteria for Muroff, who said he and his family had been attending events — like the annual Country Fair that took place Sept. 29 during Muroff’s project unveiling — at the house since he was a kid.
“I’ve always had an interest in local history, and it was always a subject I excelled at in class, and I thought by doing this project it would be a good way of giving back to the community and something that I really enjoy,” he said.
The work started with four to five weekends dedicated to just stripping the old paint off of the door frame using a heat gun and metal stripper, according to the Scout. With help from a local woodworker and others, a new, yet true to the original batten door was constructed. Batten doors traditionally have between six and eight wooden planks bound together. Muroff’s door features seven planks and includes the door’s original hinges, restored and repainted as well as part of the project. He also found authentic galvanized nails to match the original and maintain the new door’s historic integrity. The door’s original handle was left as is though, according to Muroff.
“The old door was falling apart and dilapidated, so we had to just completely make a new one,” Muroff said.
Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the event and joked she had never seen the front door of the building hang so straight and close so tightly.
“We always like to take time out of our day to recognize and honor our Scouts,” she said. “So much attention is focused on the bad things our kids are doing and not on the good things they’re doing. It makes me feel good to know that we’re surrounded by some really great kids.”
In August, Muroff’s sister Rebecca completed her Gold Award project, the equivalent to the Eagle project but for Girl Scouts, which entailed cataloging the historical society’s vast collection of historic photos. The Scouts’ dad Greg Muroff served as Michael’s Scoutmaster throughout his time working through the program.
“It’s just wonderful that many years coming down to the Country Fair and to see Postman Pete, just to have my children Rebecca and Michael give back to the historical society and the community is just a wonderful thing,” he said. “Mike has a tremendous love of history and this was an ideal project for him.”
He said it will be special for both him and his son to drive past the house on North Country Road for years to come and see his hard work front and center.
“I have to say, as his dad and Scoutmaster I’m especially proud,” the Scoutmaster said. “The Eagle Scout award is more than just a project, it’s a culmination of their Boy Scout career. It means a lot of leadership, service to the community and self-discipline.”
A piece of history has been organized and preserved thanks to the hard work of a Mount Sinai teen.
Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project, and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community. Rebecca Muroff, a Mount Sinai High School student heading into her senior year, stood at the William Miller House, the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society on North Country Road in Miller Place, Aug. 11 and shared the byproduct of months of hard work as the culmination of her Gold Award project.
Muroff and her family have long enjoyed events held by the historical society, from the annual Country Fair to the local Christmas tradition of passing letters to Santa off to Postman Pete, so exploring a project to help an organization close to her heart was a no-brainer, she said. The Gold Award recipient, beginning in October 2017, sifted through the historical society’s vast collection of old photos amassed since its inception in 1974 to create a pictorial archive, labeling the photos with numbers and a corresponding destination in a spreadsheet, including categories like location, date, names of the people in the photo and any other pertinent comments. The result is a detailed catalog available to visitors who can now quickly and easily find photos of specific people or events dating back decades. Muroff said plans are even in the works to digitize the archive in some manner.
“It shows people as we matured over the years and there are a lot of people — members — that, because we were founded in ’74, have passed or moved away,” said Edna Giffen, the society’s recording secretary and archivist, who Muroff said played a crucial role in working on the project. “I realized there are people in the pictures that I don’t even know. Members will be glad to see this.”
Muroff said she always liked going to events at the society as a kid and reflected on the idea that she’d created something that will enrich visits by future generations.
“It’s just nice I think to have tangible memories of the historical society,” she said. “Now people can look through the pictures and people can see themselves or their family members. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’m preserving history so other people can enjoy it.”
Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch, Muroff’s leaders in Girl Scout Troop 1090, attended the Aug. 11 event set up to unveil the new photo archive.
“It’s really beautiful because we started with the whole troop when they were in second grade and now they’re seniors in high school,” Broome said.
Lynch added the troop had about 20 members when the girls were young, and Muroff was one of only five to earn the Gold Award.
“We’re almost like second mothers to them really,” she said. “They really persevered and did everything that was asked of them, and they’re like a family now.”
Muroff’s actual parents, Christine and Greg, also beamed with pride over their daughter’s accomplishment.
“It really hit me yesterday when we went to the Girl Scouts store to complete her sash,” her mom said. “I’m so happy she stuck with it.”
The walk, which will start at North Country Road Middle School, located at 191 North Country Road in Miller Place, will begin at 10 a.m. and move west along the Miller Place Historic District to Landing Road, around to Cordwood Landing Road and then back to the middle school. The route is 1 mile each way.
Rules to follow will be that all dogs must remain on a leash and under the supervision of the handler at all times and all handlers must be 12 or older. There will be biscuits for the dogs and treats for the handlers.
McNulty’s Ice Cream Parlor in Miller Place is creating special ice cream for the pooches.
The historical society asks all attendees arrive at the middle school at 9:45 a.m. Registration is $20 per pet. Forms can be found at www.mpmshistoricalsociety.org.
When it comes to saving the oldest existing house in Miller Place, the community has it covered.
In its 298th year, the William Miller House on North Country Road stands stronger than ever thanks to a brand new, $18,300 roof made possible by donations from residents, local businesses and community groups. The roof’s installation, by Patchogue-based Ultimate Exteriors, began Dec. 26, 2017, and was completed the following week.
Replacing the historic structure’s dilapidated roof has been a top priority for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society members since 2015, when a campaign was launched to complete all needed repairs in time for the house’s 300th anniversary in 2020.
“The roof was open partially — you could see the sky when you were in the attic,” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the historical society. “It’s so nice to know that the community supports us and understands the importance of this house, because it’s not just Mount Sinai and Miller Place history, it’s American history.”
Built in 1720, the house is the ancestral residence of the family the town was named after, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, significant for its lack of interior changes over the centuries.
Historical society members said they saw a spike in community donations in May 2017 after their goal was reported by local news outlets. On the day the story got out, a resident who wished to remain anonymous approached the society and promised to donate a dollar for every two dollars it raised. Local residents pitched in, as well as large contributors,including the Suffolk Federal Credit Union and PSEG Long Island.
“It’s so nice to know that the community supports us and understands the importance of this house, because it’s not just Mount Sinai and Miller Place history, it’s American history.”
According to members, the most memorable donor was 12-year-old Jack Soldano, who rushed to the society’s rescue by selling 1,000 comic books over the summer at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. In the end, he raised more than $1,220 for the project, which, at the time he presented the check, brought the repair fund to $7,500. He said he did so because of his strong connection to the town landmark, as he and his family were regulars at its annual Postman Pete and Spooky Lantern Tour events.
“I remember when I was younger and having so much fun” he said. “I want the younger kids to be able to experience that too.”
Gerard Mannarino, treasurer of the historical society, announced the historical society reached its $18,300 goal in December, and shingles were delivered right before Christmas.
Society board member Edna Davis Giffen said she couldn’t believe her eyes as construction crews began the repair.
“We’d been talking about this for years — wanting to get this roof done — and never had the money to do it,” Giffen said. “Now, all of a sudden, here it was. And now it’s all done. It’s just so wonderful.”
The historical society hopes to tackle its second priority, restoring the house’s 16 windows, as soon as possible.
Jack Soldano can’t fly or shoot webs out of his wrists. And despite his spot-on Batman impression, he doesn’t spend nights jumping off buildings fighting crime.
But this past summer, the 13-year-old North Country Road Middle School student was inspired by all the comic books he reads to do some saving of his own, and in the process, he earned the title of hero in his hometown of Miller Place.
Every week in July and August, Jack, who was 12 at the time, set up a table at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park and sold 1,000 of his own comic books, as well as pins, magnets and bottle openers he made out of the vibrant panels in extra issues he had. The booming business he dubbed Comics for a Cause — a magnet for Marvel and DC comics lovers of all ages from the area — collected a total $1,220, but Jack didn’t keep a cent.
Instead, he gave it all to the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society to help the nonprofit fund roof repairs on its main headquarters, the nearly 300-year-old William Miller House at 75 North Country Road. The night Jack presented the check to historical society members, he sold a few more comic books and contributed an additional $10.
“I was bitten by a radioactive altruistic person,” Jack quipped when asked what made him want to aid in the nonprofit’s effort.
In actuality, Jack, currently in eighth grade, said that he felt compelled to help when he saw in The Village Beacon Record in May that the historical society was in desperate need to renovate the collapsing roof on the structure, the oldest existing house in Miller Place, built circa 1720. While he didn’t know any members of the nonprofit personally, Jack said he had a strong connection to the town landmark, as he and his family were regulars at its annual Postman Pete and Spooky Lantern Tour events.
“I figured, I like helping people, I have these comics — way too many of these comics — and people need help,” said Jack, who inherited the large collection from his grandfather, the former owner of a hobby shop in Port Washington. “And also, smiles are contagious, so it makes me happy that I can make others happy.”
When they heard what the young entrepreneur planned to do for them, members of the historical society, who rely heavily on the generosity of others to function, were stunned. With an initial goal of $18,300 to fix the roof, Jack’s contribution had brought the repair fund to $7,500. As of Dec. 20, the nonprofit had reached its goal to be able to start the project.
A brick in his honor — reading “Jack Soldano Our Comic Book Hero 2017” — was recently installed on the walkway around the historic house. Jack was also named an honorary member.
“That boy is a diamond in the rough,” said Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Vice President Antoinette Donato. “We sometimes have to send out an appeal to the public when we need to raise money, but we certainly did not expect a 12-year-old boy to respond to us the way he did.”
Donato said Jack is not just a role model to other young people but to adults too.
“I think he motivates everyone to think about giving back to the community — giving to a good cause and caring about the world around us,” she said. “He’s truly an inspiration.”
The historical society’s president, Peter Mott, was equally impressed with Jack, who he referred to as a friend.
“This young man displayed an uncommon and incredible sense of responsibility and concern for his local community,” Mott said. “We seasoned adults were in awe of his energy and spirit. Jack is, and we predict will continue to be, an amazing person who will benefit his local and larger community for many years to come.”
But for those who know Jack best, this generosity wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
“He’s always doing stuff like this,” said his friend, Cory Gardner, 14, who helped out during the comic book sales. “The levels of things he did, and does, for the community blows my mind. If he’s not a hero, I don’t know who is.”
Cristin Mansfield, Jack’s mom, said her son often helps the elderly on their block by moving their newspaper from the edge of the driveway to where he or she can reach it, and shovels when it snows.
“Jack’s always been an enthusiastic helper, from a very early age,” Mansfield said. “I think he just really feels good helping people out and making them smile.”
A member of his school’s track and wrestling teams and National Junior Honor Society, Jack is a frequent volunteer at Parent-Teacher Association events, including a reading club where he once dressed as Cat in the Hat and read to kids.
“Whatever is put before him, he always jumps in with both feet and takes it to the next level,” said Matthew Clark, principal at North Country Road Middle School. “And the fruits of his labor have created a contagious environment here. He stands out in such a positive way.”
In the midst of the comic book project over the summer, Jack began volunteering at Great Strides Long Island’s Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island, helping developmentally disabled children ride horses and even set up his table at the organization’s annual Evening Under the Stars fundraiser. He made 25 customized magnets and bottle openers and raised $100 for the event that benefits community therapeutic riding and veterans programs.
Of his own accord, he also made special magnets for a “swab drive” Nov. 30 that sought to find a bone marrow donor for a Sound Beach resident diagnosed with AML leukemia, the father of one of his friends.
“Jack’s just one of those kids who’s always thinking of things like that to do for other people,” said Kim Daley, whose husband was the focus of that event and has known Jack since he was in preschool. “He’s always been the boy that goes out of his way to make sure no one sits alone at lunch, and confirms everyone gets a chance at an activity… He’s observant and sensitive to others. I could go on and on about Jack and what a big heart he has.”
Jack hopes he can inspire more people his age to get involved in any way they can.
“With a great ‘blank’ comes great responsibility,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from Spider-Man. “Go fill in the blank.”
More to come as next location is planned for Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson
Outside the oldest house in Miller Place sits the newest public library on the North Shore.
What might initially appear to be a newly installed, red-and-white mailbox in front of the William Miller House at 75 North Country Road is actually a Little Free Library, where residents of all ages are encouraged to pick up or drop off a book while on the go.
The mini library, which is shaped like a tiny schoolhouse and currently holds between 15 and 20 books ranging from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to “Goodnight Moon,” stands as the most recent free book exchange program to sprout up on Long Island, with others installed at West Meadow Beach and Heritage Park in Mount Sinai last year.
The idea for the book-sharing movement, which has spanned more than 70 countries around the world since the first little library was built by Todd Bol of Wisconsin in tribute to his mother in 2009, is that with a quick turn of a wooden latch, it can increase book access for readers of all ages and backgrounds and to inspire a love of reading and community connection.
Members of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society unveiled their new addition Aug. 9 to a large crowd of smiling faces, which included residents, elected officials and representatives from Port Jefferson Free Library and Comsewogue Public Library. The two libraries partnered with the historical society to buy and sponsor it.
“I woke up this morning and I had the Mister Roger’s song in my head, ‘Oh what a beautiful day in the neighborhood,’” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the historical society, during the ceremony. “This little library is symbolic of how our community comes together … and a community is strengthened when all the different organizations work well together. So when you reach into that box to put something in or take something out, please remember that you’re also reaching into your community. I hope it’s a very active library.”
Tom Donlon, director of Port Jefferson Free Library, said when he and Debbie Engelhardt, director of Comsewogue Public Library, decided to partner up to bring the program to the Miller Place community, they immediately knew the perfect place for it.
“Right away we thought of the historical society,” Donlon said. “The society really meshes with our libraries’ goals of education, entertainment, enlightenment and lifelong learning and investigation. We love that it’s here, it’s a great spot and I think it’s certainly going to serve the community very well.”
Engelhardt called little free libraries a beautiful concept.
“Anybody can use it as much as they want and it’s always a mystery when you open that box — you never know what you’ll find,” Engelhardt said. “There are no late fees, no guilt, no stress. If you want to keep a book, you can … we are pleased to partner with the historical society to bring this gem. The books inside will move you and teach you. We say that libraries change lives and, well, little free libraries can too.”
She added that these mini libraries have also proven to energize the spot they’re put in. For the historical society, whose William Miller House is nearly 300 years old and needs between $18,000 and $28,000 to renovate a collapsing roof and a total $100,000 for a full-house repair, any amount of attention to their cause is welcomed.
“What this does for us is it puts us in the limelight again, so that people are aware of us, they come and visit us and are sensitive to our needs,” Donato said.
Fittingly, although the box was stocked with books already donated by the libraries, the first batch of reading material from the public came from 12-year-old Jack Soldano, who spent the summer raising more than $1,000 for the historical society with his very own comic book stand.
Soldano contributed issues of Captain America, Star Wars and Power Rangers comics to join such titles as “Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, “The Stranger” by Harlan Coben and the Grimm fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Over at Heritage Park, next to the Shack concession stand by the playground, the red-painted little free library currently contains more youth-oriented reads. Several books within “The Babysitters Club” series and Walt Disney’s “Fun-To-Learn Library” collection, as well as “Sable” by Karen Hesse, are available for the taking.
Manorville resident Megan Murray, who was at the park with her young daughter, said she’s been a fan of the initiative since a few popped up in her area.
“The concept is great because it’s for everybody, rich or poor,” Murray said. “It’s really sad that so many kids don’t have access to books and I think it’s wonderful.”
Currently there are plans for a little free library to be installed at Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson next month.