On Saturday August 16 and September 13, Long Island Traditions will sponsor its annual bay house tours in Freeport, NY. The tour will include conversations with local bay house owners and will be hosted by folklorist Nancy Solomon, director of LI Traditions. The trip will visit area bay houses on the 1½ hour tour on a traditional flat bottom boat.
The bay houses have a long history, dating from the mid-19th century when baymen harvested salt hay for the farmers during the winter. The bay houses provided shelter, along with storage for fishermen’s traps and duck decoys. The bay houses were originally built by fishermen and baymen and have been passed down from generation to generation within many families. In the Town of Hempstead two of the approximately 20 bay houses that either survived Superstorm Sandy or have been rebuilt during 2013-14 will be featured on this year’s annual tour. Continue reading
Brian Kilmeade has done historians on Long Island a great favor. With his latest book, George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution (Sentinel, 2013), co-authored by Don Yaeger and currently one of the top-selling non-fiction books in the country, he has focused national attention on the role played by the Culper Spy Ring that operated between New York City and Setauket, bringing information about British plans and troop movements across Long Island Sound to Connecticut and on to General Washington.
Using his bully pulpits on Fox & Friends, carried on Fox News Channel daily from 6 AM to 9 AM, and his nationally syndicated radio program, Kilmeade & Friends, from 9 AM to noon, he has elevated the nation’s awareness of the significance of Long Island to the outcome of the American Revolution.
Their story unfolds seamlessly, with well-written descriptions of General Washington’s loss of New York after the Battle of Long Island that set the stage for Washington’s desperate need for information, and ending with Morton Pennypacker’s handwriting analysis that identified Robert Townsend as the key information gatherer. But there’s the rub: Kilmeade and Yaeger have spun more than one story here. This non-fiction book hovers dangerously close to the side of fiction. Continue reading
Oh, dear. What a disappointment. Many who were thrilled by the news that the AMC Channel was creating “Turn”, a television series to tell the true story of George Washington’s Long Island spy ring were startled to see glaring inaccuracies depicted, from the opening scene on April 6th.
Had the writers not pinned the names of historic figures onto their characters, and instead developed a script of pure fiction about spying, adultery, gratuitous violence and traitorous generals during the American Revolution, one could sit back with feet up and relax with escapist fantasy. No problem. But – when a producer and a network advertise a program as “a true story,” and then proceed not only to bend the truth but, on occasion, to break it across their knees, and when “real” characters bear no resemblance to their flesh and blood namesakes, it is time to protest. Continue reading
The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) will recognize one project and two organizations for preservation excellence on Long Island.
SPLIA will also present the Howard C. Sherwood Award for exceptional achievement in Historic Preservation and the Huyler C. Held Award for Publication Excellence at a ceremony to be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, 2014 hosted by Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, NY.
Receiving awards will be: Continue reading
New York State offers a special window into African American history and American culture. It was a center for 19th century anti-slavery organizations, and home to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and many other Abolitionist and Underground Railroad leaders.
Nevertheless, anti-black discrimination remained an issue well into the 20th century, and the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) actually has its roots in the Niagara Movement, whose first meeting in 1905 took place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls because members were turned away from hotels on the U.S. side. Continue reading
Using previously unstudied Coast Guard records from 1920 to 1933 for New York City and environs, Ellen NicKenzie Lawson’s Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City (SUNY Press, 2013) examines the development of Rum Row and smuggling via the coasts of Long Island, the Long Island Sound, the Jersey shore, and along the Hudson and East Rivers.
With the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, “drying up” New York City promised to be the greatest triumph of the proponents of Prohibition. Instead, the city remained the nation’s greatest liquor market. Continue reading
Women have been part of Long Island’s past for thousands of years but are nearly invisible in the records and history books. From pioneering doctors to dazzling aviatrixes, author Natalie A. Naylor brings these larger-than-life but little-known heroines out of the lost pages of island history in Women in Long Island’s Past: A History of Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives (History Press, 2012).
Anna Symmes Harrison, Julia Gardiner Tyler, Edith Kermit Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt all served as first lady of the United States, and all had Long Island roots. Beloved children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote The Secret Garden here, and hundreds of local suffragists fought for their right to vote in the early twentieth century. Continue reading
Robert Sayre, a retired English professor at the University of Iowa, has spent nearly every summer on Fire Island since 1934. Drawing on his deep interest in Fire Island environmental history Sayre has written Fire Island, Past, Present, and Future: The Environmental History of a Barrier Beach (Oystercatcher Books, 2013).
Syre’s book, which began as an exhibit at the Point O’ Woods Historical Society in 2007 is a concise and readable environmental history of Fire Island from its post-glacial origins to its human uses and its prospects in the age of global warming. Continue reading
Southampton College, the easternmost campus of Long Island University, opened with great promise in 1963 and closed in 2005 amidst great acrimony. Located in an idyllic environmental setting on the Atlantic shore of Long Island, it had a nationally recognized marine science program that produced an unprecedented number of Fulbright awards and an impressive number of alumni who went on to careers in prestigious universities and research centers.
David Steinberg, the president of Long Island University since 1985, referred to Southampton as “the jewel in the university crown.” However, an accumulating yearly deficit led Steinberg and the Long Island Board of Trustees to view the campus as an “albatross around the university neck.” Continue reading
Now that I have become more aware of the Regional Economic Development Councils, I decided to review the ten regions in that program and see if there was any connection with the Path though History. As it turns out, two Path regions have submitted proposals to the Regional Economic Development Councils: Long Island and Western New York. In this post, I would like to focus on what Long Island has achieved as an example for the other 8 regions. Continue reading
The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) has issued its Endangered Historic Places List for 2013. The list includes six endangered properties that exemplify the vast diversity and character of Long Island’s historic resources. Continue reading
As the new year gets underway, it is appropriate to pause and reflect on open issues from years gone by. I am referring now to the role in 2013 of the county historian as a custodian for New York State history as we forge ahead with our Path through History Project.
The starting point for this investigation is an article which appeared on September 12, 2012 just after the summer launch in August entitled “New York State’s Curious, Century-Old Law Requiring Every City and Town to Have a Historian” by Amanda Erickson in The Atlantic Cities. Continue reading
Long Island’s story of work and play comes to life when a farmer, dust flying, rushes to market, a boy swings a baseball bat, a peddler sells fish door to door and a family, wearing their Sunday best, poses for a portrait in their new car.
The remarkable images, many of which have never been exhibited, are just some of the gems in the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) collections and feature the work of such turn of the 20th century photographers as Clarence A. Purchase, Arthur S. Greene and Harry R. Gelwicks. Continue reading
The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) will present a lecture “Rescuing the American Townscape from its Own Recent History” by author James Howard Kunstler.
James Howard Kunstler is a vocal critic of American architecture and urban planning which he describes as a tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities and ravaged countryside. For two decades, Kunstler has examined the growth of urban and suburban America. Continue reading
Is resurgence in the interest in history a sign of the time? It seems so as two initiatives to promote the importance of history and heritage of New York both use signs as a means to the end.
At the 2012 conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State on Long Island, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation used that opportunity to announce that their organization was taking their interest in historical markers statewide. Continue reading
Public historians from across New York State will join forces for three days – from April 23-25, 2012 as the Association of Public Historians of New York State hold their annual conference at the Hyatt Regency Long Island in Hauppauge. The association is expecting its largest conference to date as over two hundred local government historians meet to enjoy the camaraderie and networking opportunities. Continue reading
As an advocate, the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) works to promote the appreciation and protection of regional cultural heritage. To encourage standards of excellence and raise public awareness, their 2012 Preservation Awards recognize individuals, organizations and projects that demonstrate extraordinary achievement in the field of historic preservation on Long Island.
This year’s honorees include Robert A. M. Stern Architects, Seatuck Environmental Association, the Town of Southampton, and the Aquinas Honor Society of the Immaculate Conception School.
The 2012 SPLIA Preservation Awards will be held on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm at SPLIA Headquarters (161 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724). The event is free, but registration is required by calling SPLIA at 631-692-4664, Monday – Friday.
Ingrain or Scotch carpeting was a main stay of early 19th century carpeting for households both common and wealthy. Woven as a two layer double cloth with geometric or curvilinear designs, ingrain carpeting became popular through the last half of the 18th century and blossomed in the 19th century.
One of only four known American produced ingrain carpets is in the collection of The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA). It also has the most supporting information about its manufacture at Jones Mill, located in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Advertisements from Jones Mill appear in the newspapers during the 1830′s and document the production of figured ingrain carpeting among other fabrics.
Ingrain carpeting woven by American fancy weavers in the first half of the 19th century is distinct from the imported Scotch and Kidderminster carpets. The American versions use locally produced softer grades of wool and have a slightly different structure, more akin to the structure of woven coverlets of the same period.
It has been extremely difficult to document the American carpets because with the use of soft wools, the carpets were less durable and ended up being worn out, cut up and used for smaller rugs, and simply disappeared.
We’ve been working at Thistle Hill Weavers to reproduce the Jones Mill example both in its original color, and in a blue and white version which will be installed in SPLIA’s restored Sherwood Jayne House.
Master Weaver Rabbit Goody write about historic textiles. Her weaving studio, Thistle Hill Weavers, in Cherry Valley, NY, is a small mill modeled after the trade shops of the 19th century.
Few people may realize that Long Island is still home to American Indians, the region’s original inhabitants. One of the oldest reservations in the United States—the Poospatuck Reservation—is located in Suffolk County, the densely populated eastern extreme of the greater New York area. The Unkechaug Indians, known also by the name of their reservation, are recognized by the State of New York but not by the federal government. A new narrative account by John A. Strong, a noted authority on the Algonquin peoples of Long Island, has been published as The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island: A History (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2011). The book is the first comprehensive history of the Unkechaug Indians.
Drawing on archaeological and documentary sources, Strong traces the story of the Unkechaugs from their ancestral past, predating the arrival of Europeans, to the present day.
Although granted a large reservation in perpetuity, the Unkechaugs were, like many Indian tribes, the victims of broken promises, and their landholdings diminished from several thousand acres to fifty-five. Despite their losses, the Unkechaugs have persisted in maintaining their cultural traditions and autonomy by taking measures to boost their economy, preserve their language, strengthen their communal bonds, and defend themselves against legal challenges.
In early histories of Long Island, the Unkechaugs figured only as a colorful backdrop to celebratory stories of British settlement. Strong’s account, which includes extensive testimony from tribal members themselves, brings the Unkechaugs out of the shadows of history and establishes a permanent record of their struggle to survive as a distinct community.
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When I was growing up in New Rochelle, more years ago than I care to remember, one required trip in the new suburban world which was being created was to Rye Playland. It was a standard family and summer camp trip from a more innocent time. I wasn’t even able to enjoy all the rides since I wasn’t tall enough to reach the red line that marked the difference between childhood and adulthood. Of course, soon after crossing that threshold, the summer camp trip ended and there were other places to go. Continue reading