Wood plank from 1933 is ‘true piece of local history’

02/08/2014 8:00 AM |

Barbaraellen Koch photo | David Corwin holds a plank taken from the ceiling in the Greenport High School cafeteria that his father, Barton B. Corwin, signed when the building was under construction in 1933. Building and grounds superintendent Marcus DaSilva (right) retrieved it for him during a recent construction project.

When Greenport School District’s director of operations, Marcus DaSilva, and his crews began tearing down the ceiling in the building’s cafeteria over Christmas break, they were expecting to find the same old building materials they’ve come across during other projects over the years.

Instead, they found a “true piece of Greenport’s history.”

Underneath the decades-old paneling rested a 1-by-6-foot piece of wood bearing the signature of Barton B. Corwin — one of the original contractors who built the school in 1933. “It was an incredible find,” Mr. DaSilva said.

Superintendent Michael Comanda thought someone else might think so, too.

Knowing that Barton Corwin’s son, David Corwin, still lived in the area, Mr. Comanda brought the plank over to Mr. Corwin’s Main Street home.

“I handed it to him and he just kind of stared at it and his eyes glassed up a little bit,” Mr. Comanda said. “It is a true piece of Greenport’s history.”

The Corwin family line stretches back to Greenport’s beginnings. In addition to constructing several homes and iconic buildings in the village — including the former First Presbyterian Church — the Corwins have long been a fixture in the community’s school system and government.

David Corwin himself is a member of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and recently co-wrote a book with local historian Gail Horton chronicling Greenport’s history through postcards.

When the school was constructed in the 1930s, Mr. Corwin’s grandfather, Barton Corwin’s father, Stanley Corwin, was president of the Greenport school board. Both Stanley and Barton were contractors by trade, and Barton Corwin left evidence of that throughout the school, David Corwin said.

“My father, Barton, told me years ago when I was a boy that he wrote his name on one of the beams in the auditorium,”

M r. Corwin said. “So his name is there, too.”

Last year, the district completed several capital improvement projects at the school, including a new roof, windows and boilers. The auditorium was also renovated and brought back to its original luster. Then the district moved on to cafeteria renovations, which led to the discovery.

Those renovations are expected to wrap up during the summer break, after which the plank will be put on display in the cafeteria, Mr. DaSilva said.

“I’d love seeing it up in the cafeteria,” Mr. Corwin said.

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