Photo book details history of Mattituck & Laurel

PETER KREN COURTESY PHOTO | The Mattituck Yacht Club Regatta was a popular annual event in Southold Town, with most of the stores closing as they would for a major holiday.

The popular “Images of America” book series has captured the history of small towns across the nation, telling each one’s story using black-and-white photographs.

Three local history curators have teamed up, tracking down over 230 images, to create the publication’s newest edition, “Mattituck and Laurel.”

The new 128-page paperback from Arcadia Publishing will hit store shelves next Monday.

It provides information dating back to the mid-1600s, documenting the community’s growth, which flourished thanks to the introduction of the railroad in 1844, connecting the hometown farming community to New York City distributors.

Mattituck-Laurel Historical Society president Norman Wamback, 77, of Mattituck began working on the publication in 2011, but had trouble gathering enough photographs.

Mr. Wamback then teamed up with Jeffrey Walden, 46, assistant director of Mattituck-Laurel Library and Gerard Matovcik, 65, the library’s reference librarian, and each curator brought personal strengths to bring the publication together.

Mr. Walden focused on tracking down photographs from heirs of early settlers.

“They require original photographs. So trying to track down originals was a challenge,” he said. “There were a good number of people that contributed from all over the country.”

Mr. Wamback authenticated the historical significance of each photo, contributing information to the captions — which Mr. Matovcik fashioned for each and every photo.

Each caption introduces a new story, bringing life and character to the corresponding photo printed above it.

“We like the idea of using the photographs because they bring the town to life,” Mr. Matovcik said. “We found we can enjoy what the townspeople did 100 years ago, whether it was clamming in Mattituck Creek or putting together a theater production at Mattituck Theater.”

MATTITUCK-LAUREL LIBRARY COURTESY PHOTO | Library Hall and the train depot, on the corner of Westphalia Avenue and Pike Street, as they stood in 1905. Library Hall later burned down.

“There are pictures in here we guarantee no one has ever seen before,” Mr. Walden said. “We hadn’t.”

A major theme of the book’s eight chapters is life on the water.

Highlighting that theme, the authors chose a 1910 photograph of people enjoying a day on Mattituck Creek as the book’s cover.

“People who live in Mattituck today still enjoy the Sound, they enjoy the bay, the lakes, so we really wanted to focus on that,” Mr. Wamback said.

A photograph dated 1916 shows Mattituck Oyster Company driver Henry Delaney transporting barrels of Mattituck Creek oysters by horseback through the snow on sleds. The barrels were brought to the railroad for delivery to restaurants and hotels in the city.

“People probably didn’t realize Mattituck Creek had oysters and that they were sought after in their day,” Mr. Matovcik said. “The creek was able to provide.”

One of his favorite photos shows contestants and spectators at the 1914 Mattituck Yacht Club Regatta, a popular community event that took place on the creek. It was considered a holiday in its time, and many of the stores in town closed down for the event.

A photo of the regatta years later in 1921 shows hundreds of people lining the waterfront to get a view of boats passing by.

What is known today as Love Lane was called Railroad Avenue in 1910, and it was the business district of the town.

“The railroad was able to bring the factories to the farmer,” Mr. Matovcik said.

The Hudson Canning Factory set up shop right next to the railroad. In 1910 workers canned asparagus, tomatoes and cauliflower, among other things.

“We had some photos of them packing railroad car after railroad car of cauliflower that was shipped all over the U.S.,” Mr. Matovcik said.

Photos of early community life feature the Mattituck Baseball Club in 1900 and the 1908 Mattituck Fire Department volunteers. A 1909 photo shows a “hairpin turn” in Mattituck that drivers in the Long Island Stock Car Derby had to maneuver their early-model cars around.

The book also features prominent families from Mattituck, including photos of the Tuthill clan, whose farm dates back before 1890.

Interesting facts, including where one might find a drink during the days of Prohibition, or where city visitors came to stay back in the 1900s, add to the many things one can learn after picking up the book.

Mr. Walden said the book is a great introduction to the town’s history.

“[Proceeds from the book] will be poured right back into the local history collection, giving us the chance to support more of the local history,” Mr. Walden said.

“Were hoping the people who live here, or even out of state, if they have a connection to Mattituck, they will be able to read up on it,” Mr. Matovcik said. “They can see what it was like out here.”

[email protected]