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William Miller House

Jack Soldano wanted to help the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society repair the roof of the William Miller House, so he’s selling some of his collection of comic books at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park yard sale this month and next. Photo by Kevin Redding

With a little help from some super friends, a local boy wonder is on a mission to save the oldest standing house in Miller Place.

For most 12-year-olds, summer vacation means sleeping in, goofing off and avoiding responsibility at all costs.

Some of Jack Soldano’s collection of comic books. Photo by Kevin Redding

But for Jack Soldano, a North Country Road Middle School student and self-professed “lover of geeky things,” it’s been spent organizing and pricing hundreds upon hundreds of old comic books and making pins, magnets and bottle openers out of the collection’s vibrant panels, sometimes from 8 in the morning until 11 p.m.

Although Jack has a passion for the medium — he dresses up every year as his favorite superheroes at New York Comic Con and even wrote a letter to Marvel Comics when he was 6 years old detailing why the company should hire him — he isn’t doing this for himself.

“With a great supply of comic books comes great
responsibility,” Jack said, laughing.

He will be selling up to 1,000 comic books — Marvel, DC and everything in between — and homemade superhero accessories throughout July and August at Heritage Park’s community yard sale in Mount Sinai to help the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society repair the roof on its main headquarters.

The nearly 300-year-old William Miller House at 75 North Country Road, built in 1720, is the ancestral residence of the family after which Miller Place was named. The oldest existing house in the town, which is open to public tours and serves as the meeting place for the nonprofit organization, needs between $18,000 and $28,000 to renovate its collapsing roof and a total $100,000 for a full-house repair, including window replacements.

Jack Soldano is selling some of his comic books for a cause at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park yard sale this month and next. Photo by Kevin Redding

The society has offered family-friendly programs for years at the Miller House, like Postman Pete, where kids eat cookies and mail out letters to Santa, and the Spooky Lantern Tour of the historic Miller Place district in the fall.

So when Jack, whose family has been involved in the programs since he was very young, saw on the news more than a month ago that members of the historical society were pleading for public donations, he got an idea.

He went to his grandfather, who has an expansive library of comic books that includes everything from “Batman” to “Superman” to “Dr. Strange” as the former owner of a Port Washington hobby shop in the early 1990s, and told him he wanted to sell the collection to raise as much money as possible for the restoration project.

His grandfather simply said, “Okay,” and started donating bins of issues.

“I remember when I was younger in Miller Place, going to the Spooky Lantern Tour and Postman Pete, and having much fun, and I want the younger kids to be able to experience that too,” Jack said, adding with a smile that he won’t be giving away every comic. “I’ve kept some comics for myself, of course, because why not, but I wanted to sell the leftovers to a worthy cause and what’s more worthy than one in your own backyard?”

Jack Soldano is also handmade pins to help restore the William Miller House. Photo by Kevin Redding

Jack’s mother, Cristin Mansfield, said she and her husband are proud of their son for coming up with the idea himself.

“He’s not using the proceeds for himself,” Mansfield said. “He’s sitting there and immersing himself in this thing that he loves, reading the comics, finding funny speech bubbles. We’re super proud.”

Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Vice President Antoinette Donato said the society is extremely grateful.

“We are so inspired that someone so young has such an interest, and that nobody planted the seed — it all came from him,” Donato said. “I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to keep history alive, so when somebody like Jack comes along who obviously has an interest and is genuine, it’s very reassuring for us and gives us hope.”

Residents can buy comic books every Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m., through Aug. 24, at the Mount Sinai Heritage Park. Visit https://www.facebook.com/comics4acause/ and https://www.etsy.com/shop/ComicsForACause for more information.

On Dec. 4, the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society’s Postman Pete collected letters from local children to give to Santa.

Children of all ages were welcomed to visit the historic William Miller House for cookies, refreshments and caroling led by local high school students, while mailing that all important letter to the North Pole. Postman Pete was on hand to stamp the letter and personally see that the letters get to Santa. Children will also receive a letter back from Santa.

Raffles and other proceeds from the event will benefit restoration of the 1720 home.

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Historical society launches campaign to restore home by its 300th anniversary in 2020

The William Miller House turned 295 years old over the weekend. The birthday celebration also kicked off the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society’s five-year fundraising initiative to restore the oldest home in Miller Place by its 300th birthday. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

The William Miller House celebrated its 295th birthday on Sunday, complete with balloons, music and even a replica cake of the house. But in spite of the festivities, old age is catching up to the oldest house in Miller Place, which is in need of a long list of repairs and updates.

The house, located on North Country Road in the historic district of Miller Place, is the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society. Built in 1720, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places and is significant for the very few changes that have been made to the home’s interior and look over the centuries. The house showcases artifacts ranging from doctor’s equipment and farm tools to children’s toys and furniture from the 1800s.

“It’s a living museum,” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the society.

Donato said the birthday party was the kickoff to a five-year campaign, which seeks community assistance in order to get the repairs completed in time for the house’s 300th anniversary in 2020.

The society acquired the home in 1979 from the estate of Harry Millard, the last descendant of William Miller, and restored it in the early 1980s.

“We’re working very diligently to get the house up to snuff,” Donato said, noting the house is in desperate need of a new roof as well as repairs to sixteen windows, paint, and doors that need adjusting so that they can open and close properly.

“We need it to be authentically restored,” Donato continued. “It can only be done by skilled craftsmen that have the expertise of historical restoration.”

Society President Gerard Mannarino blows out the birthday cake candles. Photo by Erin Dueñas
Society President Gerard Mannarino blows out the birthday cake candles. Photo by Erin Dueñas

According to society President Gerard Mannarino, who was presented with a proclamation from Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) at the party, estimates for the roof came in close to $20,000, with the least expensive at $18,000. He said that without help from the community, there is a slim chance the society will be able to foot the bill.

“We need people to join the society; it helps us,” Mannarino said. “We are hoping the party will get us exposure to get people interested in us.”

The society is currently constructing a brick pathway, which extends from the street up to the post office on the grounds of the house. Bricks can be purchased for $100 and personalized, and all proceeds benefit the Society.

“My big push is to get 200 families from Miller Place to purchase one of these bricks,” Mannarino said. “That’s the money to fix the roof.”

Mannarino said Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) has been a huge help to the society’s efforts over the years, securing grants that allowed them to continue offering programs to the community.

“She’s our biggest fan,” Mannarino said.

Anker said people need to be motivated to help the society, echoing Mannarino’s goal of getting support from local families.

“We need to prioritize getting these renovations done,” she said.

Donato stressed it is the efforts of the society’s volunteers who deserve credit for getting so much accomplished at the house so far.

“I call them the silent vigilantes — they see that things need to be done and they just do it,” she said. “They understand the importance of the history here.”

One of those volunteers is Miller Place’s Doug Flynn, who saw a loose and splintered board on the porch of the post office and quietly repaired the board and gave the whole porch a fresh coat of paint.

“I enjoy fixing things,” Flynn said. “There is so much to be done here, whatever I can do, I do it.”

Society trustee Margaret Dosher Cibulka chaired the birthday party committee. She said she was pleased with the way the party turned out and noted its importance to the community’s history.

“It was wonderful in all respects,” she said. “The purpose was to acquaint the community with the value of the house.”

“It’s the beginning of Miller Place,” she said. “We need to preserve it so the children realize what a jewel they have in their own community.”

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Inspired by Setauket’s Anna Smith Strong, clothes hanging at the William Miller house act as clues for the community. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

As the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society gears up for another season of events showcasing what life was like hundreds of years ago, beginning this Saturday at its headquarters in the historic William Miller house, visitors will now have the chance to learn some Revolutionary War history just by checking out what is hanging from the clothesline on the grounds of the home.

According to Ann Donato, vice president of the society, different items will be hung from the clothesline to serve as clues the community can decipher. The idea stems from the Revolutionary War-era activities of Setauket’s Anna Smith Strong, who hung clothes on a clothesline to send messages about the activities of the British, which then made their way to George Washington — then a general — as part of the famed Culper Spy Ring.

“Our clothesline is a copycat to what Anna did on Long Island,” Donato said. “We want to use the laundry to convey contemporary messages to the community.”

So far the society has hung plastic bags on the line as a message to stop littering and overalls hung upside down to indicate that the house is closed.

“It’s drumming up curiosity about the house,” Donato said.

The William Miller house now serves as the historical society’s headquarters. Photo by Erin Dueñas
The William Miller house now serves as the historical society’s headquarters. Photo by Erin Dueñas

The society will also host a birthday party on July 12 in preparation for the Miller home’s 300th anniversary, which will be in 2020. Originally built in 1720, the house had sections added on in 1750 and again in 1816. It underwent renovations after being acquired by the society in 1979, but much of the interior has been left unchanged and the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home is once again in need of updates, including a new roof, windows, plasterwork and painting — all of which needs to be done by experts in historic homes, according to Donato.

“We need to respect the fabric of the house; we can’t just go to Home Depot for supplies,” Donato said. “We can’t call in a regular carpenter ­— we need people well versed in historic homes.”

Repairs done to the house are costly for the society, which is a nonprofit run completely by volunteers. To help raise funds, a car show fundraiser by the Long Island Street Rod Association is planned for June 28.

LISRA member Dennis Manfredo, of Miller Place, said the group brings as many cars of all different makes and models onto the grounds of the Miller house. He called the event a “very learned day for the community.”

“It’s a marriage between historians and hot-rodders,” Manfredo said. “We hope to bring people looking at hot rods to appreciate history and to show those that are only interested in history what we do to cars.”

“When you see the house being restored and then cars that have been restored, it’s a different realm but a really nice connection.”

Miller Place resident Erin McCarthy said she has visited the William Miller house numerous times, and she looks forward to another season. She said she learned about antique medical and farm equipment and how candles used to be made during visits to the house.

“They offer coloring books for the kids, with the history of Miller Place woven in,” she said. “It’s such a gem for our community.”

Donato said the society is open to the public and is always looking for help and input. She added that, as a new season opens, she wants people to realize what the Miller house offers to the community.

“There is so much to learn and appreciate at the house,” Donato said. “We have to take care of what we have or it will be lost and it can’t be replicated. We have a treasure here in Miller Place.”

The William Miller house, located at 75 North Country Road, is open for tours on Saturdays, from noon-2 p.m., or by appointment for groups. For more information, call 631-476-5742.