Margo Arceri first heard about George Washington’s Setauket spies from her Strong’s Neck neighbor and local historian, Kate W. Strong, in the early 1970s. Arceri lights up when talking about her favorite spy, Anna Smith Strong.
“Kate W. Strong, Anna Smith Strong’s great-great-granddaughter, originally told me about the Culper Spy Ring when I used to visit her with my neighbor and Strong descendant Raymond Brewster Strong III. One of her stories was about Nancy (Anna Smith Strong’s nickname) and her magic clothesline. My love of history grew from there,” she said.
Seven years ago Arceri approached the Three Village Historical Society’s President Steve Hintze and the board about conducting walking, biking and kayaking tours while sharing her knowledge of George Washington’s Long Island intelligence during the American Revolution.
Today, Arceri runs Tri-Spy Tours in the Three Village area, which follows in the actual footsteps of the Culper Spy Ring. “I wanted to target that 20- to 60-year-old active person,” she said. “I have to thank AMC’s miniseries ‘Turn’ because 80 percent of the people who sign up for the tour do so because of that show,” she laughs.
It was during one of those tours that Arceri came up with the idea of having a Culper Spy Day, a day to honor the members of Long Island’s brave Patriot spy ring who helped change the course of history and helped Washington win the Revolutionary War.
“Visiting places like the Brewster House, which is owned by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the grave site of genre artist William Sidney Mount at the Setauket Presbyterian Church cemetery (whose paintings are at The Long Island Museum) and the Country House, which was built in the 1700s,” Arceri thought “there has to be a day designated to celebrating all these organizations in the Three Villages and surrounding areas; where each of us can give our little piece of the story and that’s how Culper Spy Day developed.”
After a successful five-year run, plans were underway for the sixth annual Culper Spy Day when the pandemic hit. At first the event was canceled out an abundance of caution but now has been reinvented and will be presented virtually on Facebook Live on Sept. 12 and 13 to be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.
The Three Village area is full of hidden intrigue and stories of how America’s first spy ring came together secretly to provide General George Washington the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution.
Over the course of the weekend, you will have the chance to visit many of the cultural organizations from years past who will share their story, including the Three Village Historical Society, Tri-Spy Tours, Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University, Preservation Long Island, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Drowned Meadow Cottage, Caroline Church of Brookhaven, Ketcham Inn Foundation and more in a virtual format.
■ Join Margo Arceri from Tri-Spy Tours live from the Village Green on Saturday at 9 a.m.
■ Meet Big Bill the Tory live at the Sherwood-Jayne House.
■ Take a Virtual Spies! exhibit tour with TVHS historian Bev Tyler.
■ Visit the famous Brewster House with Ward Melville Heritage Organization Education Director Deborah Boudreau.
■ View a resource guide to everything Culper Spy Day courtesy of Emma Clark Library.
■ Watch a short film on Long Island’s South Shore from the Ketcham Inn Foundation.
■ Make your very own periscope with Gallery North.
■ Read up on the Revolutionary War History from the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.
■ Look back at the festivities from 2016 Culper Spy Day.
■ Don’t miss the five part virtual spy tour series with historian Bev Tyler.
■ Listen to the lecture “Spies in the Archive: A history of two George Washington Culper Spy Ring letters presented by Kristen Nyitray Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries.
■ Learn about SBU’s two Culper Spy Ring letters and access images and transcripts Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries
■ Dive into George Washington & the Culper Spy Ring A comprehensive research and study guide Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries
■ Find out who Agent 355 was from historian Bev Tyler.
■ Listen to the story of Nancy’s Magic Clothesline, written by Kate Wheeler Strong, and told by Margo Arceri.
No registration is necessary. For more information, visit www.tvhs.org/virtualculperday.