Tag Archives: Long Island

The Leadership Role of Municipal Historians

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19120822As 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

New Exhibit: Long Island at Work and Play

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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

James Howard Kunstler On Rescuing the American Townscape

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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

Signage Plans Focus on Local Historians

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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 to Converge on Long Island

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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

SPLIA to Present 2012 Preservation Awards

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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.

Rabbit Goody: A Rare American Ingrain Carpet

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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.

Books: The Unkechaug of Eastern Long Island

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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.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Squandering the Opportunity of Crisis:
Long Island Sound History

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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

Jamesport State Park Draft Master Plan Released

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The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has completed a Draft Master Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Jamesport State Park in Suffolk County. A public hearing on the plan will be held Tuesday, May 18th at 6:30pm at the Naugles Barn located at the Hallockville Museum Farm, 6038 Sound Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901.

The master plan outlines OPRHP’s vision for potential capital improvements, operational enhancements and natural and cultural resource stewardship within Jamesport State Park for the next ten to fifteen years. Availability of funding, the need to invest in rehabilitation of existing park infrastructure, and other pressing needs in the entire state parks system will influence the timing and implementation of the improvements.

Copies of the Draft Plan/DEIS are available for review at the Wildwood State Park office, the offices of the agency contacts listed below and at the Riverhead Public Library, 330 Court Street, Riverhead, NY 11901. An online version is available at: http://www.nysparks.com/news/publicdocuments/.

People unable to attend the meeting may submit written comments by Friday, June 11 to one of the following:


Ronald Foley, Regional Director
NYS OPRHP Long Island Region Regional Headquarters
625 Belmont Ave
Babylon NY 11704

Thomas B. Lyons, Director
Resource Management
Empire State Plaza
Agency Building 1
Albany, NY 12238
(518) 474-0409

US Fish Commission Annual Reports Available Online

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has placed online the annual reports of the United States Fish Commission, also known as the United States Fish and Fisheries Commission, from 1871-1940 and 1947-1979 in PDF format. The Commission was also part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and these annual reports present comprehensive overview of the U.S. Fish Commission’s activities for each year. The reports are helpful for historians of commercial fishing areas in New York State including Long Island, the lower Hudson River, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Erie. The entire collection can be found here.

The U. S. Fish Commission was established in 1871. By 1881 the Commission was known as the U.S. Fish and Fisheries Commission. The Bureau of Biological Survey was established in 1885. In 1903 the name was changed to Bureau of Fisheries. The Bureau of Fisheries was transferred on July 1, 1939, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. In 1940 the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey were consolidated to form the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Beginning in July 1946, during the transition from war to peace, the Annual Report became a series of Quarterly Reports which presented a summary of bilogical investigations conducted by the Division of Fishery Biology and a general resume of progress of investigations during the entire year. 1957 was the last issue of Annaul Reports of the Fishery Biology, Department of Interior.

The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 created the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife within the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior. The Report of the Bureau of Commerical Fisheries for the Calendar Year 1958… (published in 1962) was the first report for calender year 1957 and reviewed, in detail, the organization of the Bureau, the history of fishery administration and the operation of the Bureau’s predecessor organizations, U.S. Fish Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.

The Report of the National Marine Fisheries Service for Calendar Year 1970-1971 covers the period of transition of the Federal fisheries agency from the Deparment of Interior to the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce.

Photo: A diagram of a gill net used for Salmon on the St. Lawrence River from the 1871 U. S. Fish Commission annual report.

OHEKA Castle Chronicled in New Book

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A new book chronicles the untold story of the largest restored home in America – OHEKA Castle. The 291-page work, entitled OHEKA CASTLE Monument to Survival, is the definitive behind-the-scenes look at the 20-year and $30 million dollar historic preservation of New York’s largest home and Long Island’s largest Gold Coast mansion which, at 115,000 square feet, is more than twice the size of the White House. OHEKA Castle, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, has previously been featured on Home and Garden Television Network’s (HGTV) Restore America as well as the final episode of the Arts & Entertainment Network’s (A&E) America’s Castles. The new book is the only work that reveals the mansion’s 90-year history, the extraordinary efforts to save it and the restoration itself depicted in over 250 black and white and full color photographs.

The book opens up with personal reflections about OHEKA by best-selling author and Long Islander, Nelson DeMille. DeMille’s introduction begins with the statement: “Ellen Schaffer and Joan Cergol have worked eight years to write this remarkable book about a remarkable house: OHEKA Castle.” In the book’s foreword, entitled “Why OHEKA matters,” the authors state: “In sharing OHEKA’s story, we also tell a tale of victory for all those who believe historic structures should and can be saved for future generations. By documenting this successful large-scale experience in historic preservation, we hope to educate and inspire others to attain their own hopes and dreams of saving that ‘big old house’ down the road.”

The new book is the product of an eight year collaboration between co-authors Ellen Schaffer and Joan Cergol, who were introduced in 1996 by OHEKA Castle owner Gary Melius. Schaffer, a civic leader and longtime resident of Cold Spring Hills, the community in which OHEKA is situated, and Cergol, a local public relations professional, worked side by side to create a not-for-profit organization known as “Friends of OHEKA” and develop an innovative zoning approach to preserve the structure and maintain its residential zoning. At that time, OHEKA’s future was at risk due to zoning issues threatening Melius’ ability to advance his restoration plan for a 127-room “single family home” on Long Island’s North Shore.

The story illustrates the importance of public-private partnerships for historic preservation in America, where government funding is almost non-existent. It also documents a successful “public awareness campaign” to garner the public support needed for government intervention. The story reveals how a dedicated and resourceful owner, a supportive community and an enlightened town came together to accomplish what seemed impossible – rescuing, restoring and ultimately succeeding in finding adaptive reuses for an otherwise obsolete Gold Coast mansion in the center of a residential community.

The book encourages owners of historic structures, local communities and governments across America to think “outside the box” of historic preservation. The story reveals how a preservation tool known as a “historic overlay district,” when combined with good old-fashioned American ingenuity, can turn a devastated Gold Coast ruins into a useful structure to serve our modern-day society. Now carefully captured and preserved by the co-authors, this “preservation success story” is itself preserved to serve a larger goal of encouraging ordinary citizens and local governments to save historic homes for future generations.