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WMHO

Observing Dogwood Hollow documents at East Hampton Libarry, from left, Deborah Boudreau, WMHO Education Director; Mayra Scanlon, East Hampton Library Archivist Librarian; Andrea Meyer, East Hampton Library Archivist Librarian, Collection Chair; and Sean Brass, WMHO's Young Gardiner Scholar, funded by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. Photo from WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) has announced the digitization of over 500 records of Dogwood Hollow and the development of Stony Brook Village Center in conjunction with the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection. These records are available to the public free of charge on a “next generation” interactive platform. The archives can be found online on the East Hampton Library website, easthamptonlibrary.org.

In November of 2021, East Hampton Library announced a new virtual research platform for their Long Island Collection. The research platform was customized for the East Hampton Library, which is the first public library to use this next generation digital archives software, called TIND. 

Ward Melville at Stony Brook Village Center’s Harbor Crescent in the 1950s. Photo from WMHO

Unlike other archive platforms being used in New York State, this digital archive is entirely interactive—contributor accounts can be created, higher resolution images can be downloaded and links are embedded to enable viewers to comment and share archived items on social media platforms. To learn more about Digital Long Island, the East Hampton Library’s new digitization platform, visit their website at digitallongisland.org.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) was created in 1939 by businessman and philanthropist Ward Melville. Ward Melville was President of the Melville Corporation—the third largest retailer in the country at that time. WMHO owns and manages historic and environmental properties deeded to the organization by Ward Melville. These properties include Stony Brook Village Center, Thompson House (c. 1709), the Brewster House (c. 1665), the Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751), the Erwin Ernst Marine Conservation Center and the 88-acre wetlands preserve at West Meadow.

The WMHO archives on this platform include the creation of Stony Brook Village Center and Dogwood Hollow. Considered the first business community in the United States, Stony Brook Village Center was created in 1941 by Ward Melville. In addition, in honor of his mother, Jennie, who loved dogwood trees, Ward Melville created Dogwood Hollow, a 2,000 plus seat amphitheater in Stony Brook Village that hosted greats such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and over 100 other musicians. 

Other subjects that will be digitized are Mr. Melville’s history of bringing Stony Brook University to Stony Brook, the creation of the Long Island Museum campus, the restoration of historic properties, the housing developments built by Ward Melville, the creation of the West Meadow Preserve, and the creation of the Three Village School District and its buildings. To learn more about the WMHO, visit wmho.org.

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

For centuries, the Three Village area has been home to fearless and heroic women who were ahead of their time. During the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s  (WMHO) Women’s History Walking Tour: “Against the Grain”  on March 25, eager listeners heard tales of these courageous ladies, spanning from colonial times to the 20th century. 

When I arrived in Stony Brook Village for the 3:50 tour, blooming daffodils and crocuses were sprouting up across the town, celebrating the recent arrival of spring. Our group met at the historic Grist Mill, where I met the other participants and our guide, Kayla Cheshire. Kayla has worked as the WMHO’s education and outreach manager for about three years and is a passionate and knowledgeable history buff. 

The event attracted history enthusiasts from all over, however, many of the participants were locals. We were even fortunate to have descendants of a local historic figure, suffragette, conservationist, and town founder Jennie Melville among us.

We gathered around Kayla as she told us about the history of the area, including how it was home to conductors of the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. According to legend, conductors would use coded quilts to help enslaved people, who were escaping from the still-legal slave trade in the South, along their way to freedom. Details of the quilts, including morningstar and hourglass symbols would indicate the time and type of planned journeys to the next stations, bringing them one step closer to Canada. For instance, a squiggly emblem called the “Drunkard’s Path” implied the path they had to take was a difficult, zigzagged one, possibly through rough terrain and rivers, so they wouldn’t be tracked by bounty hunters.

The tour proceeded to All Souls Episcopal Church on Main Street, then to the Stony Brook Village Center, just in time to see the majestic eagle atop the Post Office flap its wings at 4 p.m. Here we learned of philanthropist and town matriarch Dorothy Melville, wife of Ward Melville, who was known as Stony Brook’s “fairy godmother.” She was a crucial contributor to the Stony Brook Community Fund and the Museums at Stony Brook and is credited with making the village handicap accessible.

Our next stop was The Jazz Loft. Its rich history included being utilized as a fire department in the early 1900s. In 1935, the building was transformed into a museum by the Melville family and prominent local Dr. Winifred Curtis, among others. Over time, the museum changed locations, and is now called the Long Island Museum on Route 25A.

The tour came to a close at the fascinatingly historic Three Village Inn. We learned about the inn’s former owners including Richard Hallock, Jonas Smith, and Jennie Melville, and its former uses as a private residence, tea room, and finally an inn. After the last story was told, Kayla offered us all free desserts with the purchase of an entrée at the Inn and told us about some of the upcoming happenings around town.

On Saturday, April 23rd, the entire village will honor spring with Spring Appreciation Day, which entails live music, a car show, a scavenger hunt, and a petting zoo. Admission is free and the events will take place between 1:30 and 3:30 PM. 

The Women’s History Walking Tour is now available by request for private groups. Additionally, the WMHO offers “Secrets of Stony Brook Village” to the public throughout the season, with completely unique and newly uncovered stories and legends about the town. The tours will be held on April 7 and 21, as well as on June 2 and 16. There are two sessions each on these days, one at 11:50 a.m. and another at 3:50 p.m.  The tours are $10 per person and the WMHO asks you to please call ahead to make a reservation at 631-751-2244.

Visitors can learn even more about the stories of Stony Brook by taking a tour of the 300-year-old Grist Mill. The historic, working mill will open again on April 16th, and Sunday tours will be available all season long, from April 24 through October.

The Ward Melville Historical Organization plays a crucial role in supporting local history. You, too, can do your part by supporting them. The WMHO suggests you can help by making general fund donations, purchasing a memorial plaque, or by sponsoring an event or historic property. The organization also has several volunteer opportunities. Please visit wmho.org/support-wmho/ for more information on how to get involved.

 

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO)’s Stony Brook Grist Mill, a nearly 300-year-old building, has undergone a series of procedures to stop water from entering its basement. Groundwater around the foundation of the building has been leaking through the walls due to the hydraulic pressure from upstream for years.

To halt any further damage and repair the structure, Excav Services Vice President Dylan Governale was retained. Excav Services has already begun their work waterproofing the wall below the footing with black mastic against the foundation along the fiberboards and then protection board and installing drainage at the bottom of the trough, as well as installing three inches of clay material and fabric and then backfilling it. 90% of the water has stopped leaking. To find the remaining 10%, the interior wall was pressure washed to see where the water was coming from and then they will inject those spots with a compound to fully stop leakage through the walls.

The Stony Brook Grist Mill (c. 1751) is Long Island’s most fully operational mill. A mill is a place that grinds grains such as wheat, barley, corn and oats. Grist Mill has played a role in the development of Stony Brook since its original construction in 1699. It was once even a health food store and grain was shipped to 46 states. 

New stories have been uncovered about the Stony Brook Grist Mill, including ones about its patriotic owners during the American Revolution, a scandalous will and its suffragette owner in the early 1900s who sought an experimental child birthing experience.

People of all ages are able to experience the history and inner mechanics of the mill in the WMHO’s Dusty Program.

The Stony Brook Grist Mill will be open for the 2022 season on Saturday, April 16 and will be open on weekends through October starting the weekend of April 23, from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for tours ($4 for adults, $2 for children), as well as its Country Store. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) presents a new seasonal walking tour titled “Winter Walks Through Time” that will feature stories passed down through the ages and new interpretations of Stony Brook Village from indigenous people to modern day marketing. 

Participants in the walking tour will enjoy new stories about Stony Brook Village and its former residents. This includes the history of winter whaling on Long Island, how Dorothy Melville saved Christmas, the design of Stony Brook Village by Ward Melville and Richard Haviland Smyth, and the history and magic of holiday window displays.

Tours will leave from the Stony Brook Post Office at 129 Main Street on Friday, Dec. 10 at 10:50 a.m. and 2:50 p.m. Tickets for this event are $15 per person, and includes hot chocolate from Stony Brook Chocolate. Reservations are required by calling the Ward Melville Heritage Organization at 631-751-2244.

By Heidi Sutton

Parking spaces were a hot commodity at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 31st annual Halloween Festival on Oct. 29. The spooktacular event, which took place at the picturesque Stony Brook Village Center, attracted hundreds of families who spent the afternoon trick-or-treating at the many shops and restaurants, playing games, and dancing to the Monster Mash, courtesy of WALK 97.5. 

One of the highlights of the festival was a Halloween parade throughout the center led by the 12-foot-tall Monster Merlin who took photos with visitors throughout the day. The winners of the annual Scarecrow Competition were also announced. (Visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com for winners)

“It’s so wonderful to see everybody together again,” said Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president.

The fun event was sponsored by Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy, the RJG Consulting Group, Dr. Robert Quilty and Gold Fish Swim School. 

Up next for the WMHO is its 42nd annual Holiday Festival on Dec. 5 and the annual Holiday Tree Competition from Dec. 5 to 20. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

'Oogie Boogie' scarecrow Photo from WMHO
‘The Groomery’ by The Groomery of Lake Grove. Photo from WMHO

Time to vote! 37 scarecrows of all shapes, sizes and characters have been erected throughout the Stony Brook Village Center for the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 31st Annual Scarecrow Competition. 

Winning scarecrows will win cash prizes based on the number of votes they receive from the public — voting is free and is now open! Ballots can be found in all the shops. Once completed, ballots should be returned to any shop to be counted in for voting. Voting is open until Monday, Oct. 25.

The winners of the Scarecrow Competition will be announced at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 31st Annual Halloween Festival on Oct. 29 at 3 p.m.

The sponsors of the 31st Annual Scarecrow Competition are as follows: Main Event Sponsor – the Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy, the Black Cauldron Sponsor – The RJG Consulting Group, the Ghosts & Goblins Sponsor – Dr. Robert Quilty and the Candy Corn Sponsor – Gold Fish Swim School.

To learn more about the Scarecrow Competition or the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244.

By Daniel Dunaief

Children may not be able to sit on Santa’s lap this holiday season, but they will have a chance to chat with him.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization has announced a Holiday Program for the Stony Brook Village Center to be held December 6, 2020. WMHO will be bringing Santa Claus direct from the North Pole live over Zoom. 45-minute free sessions will run at  2, 3 and 4 p.m.

Santa will speak to 100 children during each hour. Residents can sign up to share their holiday wish list through Eventbrite, which will have a description of how each session will run.

A special mailbox just for letters to Santa will be at the Stony Brook Post Office, 111 Main Street in Stony Brook starting on Dec. 6.

Parents and their children eager to connect with Santa can go to www.stonybrookvillage.com, which will have a link to the Eventbrite registration. Each child will have between one and two minutes with the bearded wonder.

“Our organization does distance learning for schools and we are excited to use our technology pieces to bring Santa Claus to the children,” said Gloria Rocchio, President of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization. “With this approach, we can make children happy and the families safe.”

Eventbrite is also providing a link for the public to make a suggested donation to the 25th annual Santa Fund, which provides people in need with clothing, food, essential items and gifts.

Guests can also place their holiday present requests with Santa in the Chat Box during their zoom session or mail it physically at the Santa Mail Box in front of the Stony Brook Post Office, which will also start receiving wish lists on Dec. 6.

After the Santa interactions on Zoom, residents can watch the Stony Brook Village Center Facebook Page which features a tree lighting on the Village Green at 5:30 pm.

To reserve a virtual spot to visit with Santa in the North Pole on Sunday, December 6th 2020 visit the WMHO’s Eventbrite page at http://wardmelvilleheritageorg.eventbrite.com

For further information, please call 631-751-2244.

Photos courtesy of WMHO

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Lance Gumbs. Photo courtesy of WMHO

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook continues its Master Class series with a presentation by Lance Gumbs titled “Shinnecock Nation: Past, Present and Future.” This free virtual experience will be offered via Zoom on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.

Vice President of the National Congress of American Indian and the Tribal Ambassador for the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Gumbs will take participants on a journey back to his ancestors, some 10,000 years ago, explaining how, through their creative ingenuity, the Shinnecocks survived centuries of change, and how they continue to keep their traditions alive.

Today, Gumbs is working not only on having his people survive, but to flourish — especially through capital investments, along with their commitment to land and tradition. Gain insight into Gumbs’ life and his role as a tribal member who seeks to use his skills in business to benefit his tribal nation – currently through a new enterprise: a 100,000 square feet medical marijuana dispensary and wellness lounge on the tribe’s 700-acre reservation.

To register for this virtual event, email [email protected] or call 631-751-2244.

Dr. Brooke Bateman Photo from WMHO

Senior scientist at the National Audubon Society, Dr. Brooke Bateman, will offer “Virtual Birding” on Wednesday, May 27 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. via Zoom as part of Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s (WMHO) Master Class Series.

Dr. Bateman’s first summer job as a teenager was aboard WMHO’s “Discovery” pontoon boat cruises where she would see snowy egrets, night herons and osprey along Stony Brook Harbor into West Meadow Creek. During this session she will explore spring migration of birds from the Arctic to Long Island, the beauty and science of many species of birds across the world, as well as her invention, “Climate Watch,” a tool to monitor and combat the effects of climate change on birds.

In her role at the Audubon Society she has led a team of scientists in developing the 2019 Birds and Climate Change Report. She is also the Director of Climate Watch, where she works with community volunteers to understand how climate change currently affects birds in North America. Her research focus is on spatial ecology and conservation, emphasizing the effect that extreme weather events and climate change have on biodiversity.

To register for this free event please email [email protected] or call 631-751-2244.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization welcomed the Just Sixties Band to its Summer Concerts on the Green series last Sunday night. Hundreds of music lovers came out to enjoy the evening, which kicked off with a rousing Woodstock tribute and concluded with songs from The Monkees, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Mamas & the Papas and more. Concertgoers danced, had a picnic dinner, enjoyed a glass of wine and were treated to a beautiful sunset. Even drummer Robert Gerver commented, “This is one of the most picturesque settings on Long Island.”

The free series continues with the NY Exceptions in concert (50s music) in front of the Stony Brook Post Office, 111 Main St., Stony Brook on Sunday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.