Three Village area becomes Culper country for the day

Three Village area becomes Culper country for the day

The Three Village area and downtown Port Jefferson were filled with local history buffs Saturday, Sept. 10.

Culper Spy Day, presented by the Three Village Historical Society and Tri-Spy Tours in collaboration with more than 30 local historical and cultural organizations, returned in full force for its eighth annual event. Due to COVID-19, organizers hosted a downsized version last year and a virtual presentation in 2020.

The spy day celebrates Gen. George Washington’s spies who operated in Three Village and the surrounding area during the Revolutionary War.

The majority of activities, such as reenactments, readings, docent- and self-guided tours and more, took place on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society headquarters. Other sites included Setauket Neighborhood House, Patriots Rock, Caroline Church and cemetery, Setauket Presbyterian Church and cemetery, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Setauket Elementary School auditorium, Sherwood-Jayne House, The Long Island Museum and Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum in Port Jefferson.

Mari Irizarry, TVHS director, said she estimated around 1,300 people visited the historical society grounds on Sept. 10.

Margo Arceri, of Tri-Spy Tours, said Irizarry was a huge help spearheading the planning of many of the activities. Arceri said she was grateful for all the volunteers, sponsor Heritage Spy Ring Golf Club and participating organizations, who were not just locally based but from all over Long Island, who made it a success. 

“We’re all telling our part of the Revolutionary story,” she said.

Arceri added she was impressed by the people from all different age groups she met at the event and showed interest in the Culper spies.

“This is not just one age group that enjoys and is attracted to this story,” she said. “It’s really for all ages.”

TVHS historian Beverly Tyler said he also noticed the age range of attendees.

“They were absorbing everything, asking questions and even proudly telling us their connections with ancestors in the Revolutionary War or things they have from the colonial period,” he said.

Tyler said he also saw children fascinated by demonstrations that included writing and mailing a letter in colonial times and hearing stories about youngsters during the era as well as recent local history.

In Port Jeff village, local historians greeted visitors with a tour of the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, a structure that dates back to the 18th century. 

The museum has been relocated twice before finding its way to its current resting place at the intersection of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue. During the Revolution, it was the former home of Phillips Roe, a known member in the Culper Spy Ring.

Mark Sternberg, the spy ring historian at Drowned Meadow Cottage, said he was elated by the day’s success and the public’s degree of interest.

“It has been awesome to have so much new information to share with people, specifically about [Phillips, Nathaniel and John] Roe and their involvement in the Culper Spy Ring,” he said. “A lot of Port Jeff residents don’t know that Drowned Meadow had such an important role during the Revolution, so the response has been great — and we have had so many people.”

Irizarry said she enjoyed all the organizations taking part in the day to tell their Revolutionary War stories. She added organizations such as Four Harbors Audubon Society discussed making ink from natural products, and Sweetbriar Nature Center representatives talked about birds of prey that existed during the 18th century.

“It wasn’t just talking about the spies and the war, but it was really just talking about life during the 18th century, which is the bigger picture also, which was nice to see,” Irizarry said.

Additional reporting by Raymond Janis.