02/17/14 9:55am
02/17/2014 9:55 AM
The Suffolk County Historical Society. (File photo by News-Review)

The Suffolk County Historical Society. (File photo by News-Review)

“History Alive” grants of up to $500 to help underwrite the cost of new exhibitions, publications and special projects are now available to local nonprofit history organizations through the Suffolk County Historical Society.


11/22/13 5:01am
11/22/2013 5:01 AM
The front page of the Nov.r 29, 1963 edition of The Suffolk Times.

The front page of the Nov.r 29, 1963 edition of The Suffolk Times.

The following resolution was approved at the Nov. 26, 1963 Southold Town Board meeting. It was published on the cover of that week’s issue of The Suffolk Times:



WHEREAS, the United States of America and the world at large has suffered a tragic loss with the death of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, who was struck down by an assassin’s bullet on November 22, 1963, and

WHEREAS, the burden of great sorrow falls with particular weight upon his wife, his children and his family; and

WHEREAS, the members of the Town Board of the Town of Southold wish to record their conviction that a free society is worth whatever peril it may bring and their determination to use this freedom for the greatest good that God shall enable the to do; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting and proper that this Board of the Town of Southold join in paying tribute to the memory of the late President, John F. Kennedy; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the members of the Town Board ask God’s continued blessings and guidance upon the government of this land and upon President Lyndon Johnson; and be it further

RESOLVED, that when the meeting of the Town Board stands adjourned, it be in respectful memory of the late John F. Kennedy, President of the United States; and be it further

RESOLVED,t hat this resolution be spread upon the minutes of this Town Board.


11/22/13 5:00am

John F Kennedy Abraham Lincoln

The following editorial was first published in the April 30, 1865 issue of The Suffolk Times following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It was republished following the death of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago today. “Today we are repeating the editorial in keeping with the cowardly assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” we wrote:


Abraham Lincoln is dead! The fatal bullet of a fiendish assassin has done its dreadful work, and millions of sorrowed hearts are bowed down in the deepest agony. The nation whose hopes were bright and jubilant over the recent glorious victories, which were the acknowledged harbingers of a speedy Peace, in one brief moment, is plunged into the most heartfelt gloom and sadness. The time of universal rejoicing brings with it the Hour of intense agony.

Abraham Lincoln, the father of our country, the Nation’s Deliverer, is no more.

But yesterday he was the chief magistrate of the Republic, and the people delighted to know him. He was hopeful and patient in the hour of peril, and the people trusted him.  He was firm in his convictions that our country would outride the fearful tempest of treason, and the people gave implicit faith to all his utterances. He was kind and tender hearted and the people loved him. He had no enemies but the foes to our country and they murdered him. He was ambitious only to restore the country to peace and unity and his ambition and labor were crowned with complete success.

Mr. Lincoln was a patriot of the noblest type. Every official act was performed in obedience to the dictates of that pure devotion to country which discards all selfish interests and looks only to the welfare of humanity. He knew that he had a responsible work to do and, forgetting personal ambition and the peculiar tenets of his own political party, he applied himself honestly and faithfully to the great purpose in view.

President Lincoln was a pure patriot, a sagacious statesman, a devoted servant of the people, a logical debater, a Christian gentleman, and an Honest man.

How the people loved him can only be foreshadowed in the countless manifestations of affection that show themselves at every loyal fireside in the land! there are sad homes all over the land, weeping for some dear one who has fallen in this country’s defense; but today the great heart of the people is shedding sad tears over the grave of Father Abraham. Like affectionate children they weep bitter tears of bereavement.

But the work he had to do is done — and well done. The rebellion is crushed and slavery no longer exists. The nation is not only saved, but purified as by fire. In the hands of Providence, President Lincoln was the agent to accomplish these two results, the grandest the world ever saw.

In sorrow and faith do we say: in God is our trust. We must bow submissively to the decrees of our Heavenly Father. His hand has thus far guided us — and will He forsake us? Not if we prove ourselves worthy of the great trust committed to our charge — the maintenance of true Republican Institutions.

Let us all work faithfully, each in his own right sphere and all will be well. Let us emulate the acts of the spirit of him who has so suddenly fallen. Let us heed the immortal words, to which he gave utterance in his last inaugural address, “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds. To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans, to do all that may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

09/05/12 1:00pm
09/05/2012 1:00 PM
Downtown, National Register, Historic District

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Arlene Dorozka’s home and rose garden on East Main Street, next to the 1833-built Riverhead United Methodist Church. There are 46 buildings in the historic district that now qualify for rehabilitation tax credits, meaning they’re 50 years old or older.

Back in March, a section of downtown Riverhead was approved for New York State’s Register of Historic Places.

Now, that same area has been approved for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, opening the door for huge tax benefits for those looking to renovate and improve old buildings.

The inclusion actually became official, quietly, on Aug. 14, according to Edson Beall, a historian with the National Parks Service, which administers the National Register.

The boundaries of the district run along Main Street, from Griffing Avenue in the west to Maple Avenue in the east, and include parts of Peconic, Roanoke, East and Maple avenues in between.

“We’re very pleased,” said Richard Wines, chairman of the town’s Historic Landmarks Commission. “We’ve been working on this for close to three years.”

Commission members plan to post signs soon alerting people of the designation, Mr. Wines said. The first one will probably be placed in front of the Methodist Church, which dates back to 1860.

Town officials also plan a press conference to announce the designation, officials said.

The oldest buildings downtown are on the grounds of East End Arts and date back to 1840, Mr. Wines said.

“It’s a pretty big district,” Mr. Beall said. “There are 46 contributing buildings that have integrity from the historic period” — meaning they’re 50 years old or older.

Mr. Beall said the area is considered significant for its commerce and architecture.

“It’s a concentration of buildings that represent Riverhead’s importance as a center of business, culture, entertainment and government on the East End of Long Island,” he said. “There’s also a large spectrum of designs, as far as architecture goes.”

The area also includes Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which is already on the national register.

All properties considered for inclusion on the national register must first be nominated by their state, which in downtown Riverhead’s case, happened earlier this year.

In addition to the honor of the designation itself, income-producing properties on the national register also qualify for federal tax credits for rehabilitation work that meets the certifications of the register, Mr. Beall said.

The designation also offers protection from federally funded projects, he said.

“For instance, if a highway were to come through, they’d have to take the designation into account,” Mr. Beall said.

On the flip side, owners of buildings in the national register “are free to do as they please,” Mr. Beall said. “That includes tearing down the building, so long as it’s not receiving federal funding.”

The tax credits include both state and federal tax credits and can amount to up to 40 percent of the value of exterior improvements, Mr. Wines said.

“We’ve been pushing this because we think it fits right in with the Town Board’s efforts to revitalize downtown, and we think it will be nothing but a benefit,” Mr. Wines said.

The Historic Landmarks Commission is also working on a plan to get properties along Second Street — which runs parallel to Main Street — and its intersecting streets on the National Register as well, Mr. Wines said.

That area is mostly residential but includes law offices and non-residential buildings such as the former Second Street firehouse and post office, which is already on the national register individually, Mr. Wines said.

There are six individual buildings in Riverhead Town on the register. This section of downtown is Riverhead’s first national historic district, he said.

[email protected]

02/26/12 12:00pm
02/26/2012 12:00 PM

SUFFOLK TIMES PHOTO | The historic Beckwith-Hartranft-Gillispie building on Route 25 in the center of Southold

The Southold Historical Society recently purchased the historic Beckwith-Hartranft-Gillispie building on Route 25 in the center of Southold, and is now raising funds to restore the space and use it to exhibit historical society’s acquisitions.

The building, which most recently served as a real estate office, dates back to the mid-1800s, al though the exact construction date is not known, according to the historical society. There is also a large 19th century barn at the rear of the property.

Captain Sherburne A. Beckwith operated his ship supply business out of the building during the American Civil War and built his home next door.

In the early 20th century, the building was Frank T. Wells’ general store and later painter Joseph Beckwith Hartranft’s studio and store. For the last 20 years, it served as the headquarters of Robert Gillispie III’s North Fork Agency.

For more information, go to www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org or call 765-5500.

[email protected]

01/26/12 9:00am
01/26/2012 9:00 AM

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Historian Gail Horton stands on an old stepping stone near the corner of Main and North streets in Greenport. Passengers from the horse and buggy days would step from a carriage onto the stone to avoid getting clothing and shoes soiled by the mud streets.

Most North Forkers know all about the area’s colonial past and many are only too happy to share that knowledge. And in a few months, a few local historians will get to brag about the region’s rich past with a national historical group.

The North Fork has been selected as the destination for a June tour sponsored by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The trust has offered study tours to its more than 200,000 members since 1970, but never before to the North Fork, which the organization’s brochure calls “Long Island’s best kept secret.” The tour will be a follow-up to several trips to the South Fork.

Richard Wines, chair of the Riverhead Town Landmarks Preservation Commission, said the “best kept secret” title is certainly appropriate for an area that’s “the least best known of Long Island.”

But there’s a downside to being “discovered,” he added. “I think there’s a part of us that would prefer the secret kept,” he said.

Gail Horton, a Greenport historian and longtime resident, bemoans those who visit the village but fail to realize “the richness and activity of this place and its history.” She echoed Mr,. Wines’ sentiment, saying she’d just as soon see the North Fork maintain its secret status.

Both Mr. Wines and Ms. Horton will serve as guides during the five-night excursion, which is limited to 25 people. Ms. Horton will lead the group on a walking tour of Greenport.

The visitors will stay at the Harborfront Inn on Front Street. Price for double occupancy is $2,875 per person, which doesn’t include airfare. Single occupants pay an additional $650.

“If you walk around Greenport, the story of the village is told and that’s how I intend to present it,” Ms. Horton said. The tour will include a lesson on Greenport’s maritime history, including its ports and the sailor’s life. They’ll discover how Sterling Harbor was known as Winter Harbor in the mid to late 1700s. “Our first port,” she said.

The group will also stop at Greenport Baptist Church, where they’ll be able to admire four Tiffany stained glass windows.

“I don’t know if any other church has that many of them,” Ms. Horton said.

Mr. Wines will show visitors around Hallockville Museum Farm and his own historic Jamesport property, which has been in his family for 350 years. The property includes a host of period buildings that he and his wife, Nancy Gilbert, a Peconic Land Trust board member, salvaged from the surrounding area and moved to their land.

“The house we’ll be showing was the house of a whaling captain whose ship made Jamesport its home port,” Mr. Wines said.
For anyone paying attention, North Fork history is hard to overlook. Southold, which included all of Riverhead prior to 1792, claims the title of the oldest English-speaking settlement in New York State. Cutchogue’s Old House, circa 1649, is the state’s oldest English-style structure.

But Mr. Wines argues that age isn’t what gives the area is special quality.

“My family has deep roots here going back to the founding of Southold in 1640, but I think the real attraction of the North Fork is more of what it is,” he said. “It’s the farming, the sea, the special quality of the air. You can always identify an Impressionist painting done out here because the light is a little different.”

The woman responsible for the tour, Protravel International’s managing director Susan Gullia, said she grew up coming out to Aquebogue, Shelter Island and Amagansett.

“Everyone knows about the Hamptons, but not an awful lot of people are familiar with the North Fork,” she said. “It hasn’t had the publicity and the jazz.”

Meg Annacone-Poretz, associate director of National Trust Tours, said the North Fork is an “off the radar” destination and an area “very much worthy of having a light shined on it.”

The June tour is being marketed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“We’re hoping people in the tri-state area who have never been to the area will come and experience it for themselves,” she said.

[email protected]

01/11/12 12:00pm
01/11/2012 12:00 PM

Mattituck-Laurel Historical Society is looking to fill its director position, and for the first time it will be a paid job.

The board of directors decided last month to add a $100 per week salary for a part-time employee to work about five hours a week, helping the organization boost membership and get in touch with the community, using social media.

“We’re looking for a self-starter, but someone who would recognize it’s not a traditional employment situation,” said board president Nicholas Planamento.

Mr. Planamento said he wants all applicants to have three ideas for how they would help the organization with such items as holding a membership drive, writing grants or suggesting how they could incorporate an event with Love Lane for Valentine’s Day.

“The candidate will ideally be from our community or a family who has been here for a long time,” he said. “They must certainly have an interest in local history, our community and volunteerism or nonprofits.”

The organization has already received inquiries from “two super people with a strong track record with working for nonprofit organizations,” Mr. Planamento said.

Call (631) 948-0143 if you’re interested in the position or send your thoughts or résumé to [email protected].

[email protected]

12/19/11 4:38pm
12/19/2011 4:38 PM

SOUTHOLD HISTORICAL SOCIETY COURTESY PHOTO | Society Office Manager Deanna Witte-Walker and Society volunteer Mabel Alexander pose with the Stephenson portrait shortly before it was hung in the Society’s office in Southold.

A giant double portrait of two of the earliest summer residents of Orient is now hanging in the Southold Historical Society office in the historic Prince Building, according to a press release from the society.

The 1841 portrait of William Wilson Stephenson and Marcus Pendleton Stephenson, sons of prominent New York City eye surgeon Mark Stephenson, is one of the largest of its kind.

“The monumental size of the painting — which measures about 4.5 by 5.5 feet — makes it one of the largest children’s portraits related to eastern Long Island ever discovered,” said Geoffrey Fleming, director of the society. “It is a very important work and we are delighted to have received it.”

Society officials say the Stephenson brothers, who lived in Brooklyn, likely lodged at Orient Point Inn, which once sat near what is now the ferry terminal.

In the portrait, Marcus, the younger brother, is seated and holding a hammer used to break open oysters. Society officials say Marcus attended Columbia University and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pa. and became an eye surgeon. He died on Oct. 28, 1885.

William went to New York University and studied law at Union University. He served in Company F of the 7th Regiment during the Civil War and helped recruit childhood friends who lived in Brooklyn and Orient. He became a New York State assemblyman in the late 1870s and went on to build a large summer house in Orient called “The Cedars,” which still stands today. He died on March 4, 1889.

The Southold Historical Society sent the massive portrait, which it received in poor condition, to painting conservator Jonathan Sherman, who ridded the work of grime and soot and restored its original colors.

Society officials say the portrait was painted by Samuel Lovett Waldo and William Jewett, who were both popular portrait artists in New York City during the 1830s and 1840s.

The portrait is open to the public for viewing.

[email protected]

11/19/11 12:37pm
11/19/2011 12:37 PM
Aquebogue, Riverhead Town, farms, local history

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Eric Wells, 21, (left) farms with his father Todd on the Wells farm on Sound Avenue in Aquebogue. Their land is part of the original parcel that was farmed 350 years ago.

On Nov. 20, 1661, William Wells was allotted three pieces of property for his family to farm near Phillips Lane on Sound Avenue in Aquebogue.

Eleven generations later, the Wells family is still at it.

This Sunday, the Wells’ will celebrate 350 years of farming the same land, and if a 1937 article in the old County Review newspaper is correct, no other Riverhead family has owned a piece of property longer.

Lynn Wells has always known she comes from one of Riverhead Town’s founding families, but she only recently discovered the 1937 story declaring them the town’s longest tenured property owners.

The County Review piece recounts the Nov. 20, 1661 Southold Town Board meeting to establish Aquebogue with 40 lots, of which three were allotted to Mr. Wells. While many other families continued to farm the same piece of land in 1937, none had kept their property under the same name.

“In practically every case the line had been broken by inheritance through the female side and a change of name by marriage,” the article states.

William Wells left his property to his wife to give to his sons, and around 1725 his grandson Daniel built a home on the west side of Phillips Lane on the property currently owned by Lynn and her siblings.

To the west of Lynn is a farm owned by Todd Wells, one of three Wells families which still owns property on 325 acres passed down from William Wells.

“It’s something to be proud of,” Lynn said. “I have a big family and I’m not sure everyone is aware of it, but I hope they all feel proud, too.”

Todd Wells, who grows potatoes and cabbage on his farm, said he’s excited about his family reaching this milestone, but isn’t planning a big celebration this weekend.

“We’re just going to have a barbecue for the staff,” said Todd, who learned about farming from his father, Vernon, who is now retired.

Todd’s 21-year-old son, Eric, said he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become the 12th generation to farm the land.

“I love farming,” he said. “You get to be your own boss and work outdoors.”

The third Wells parcel, Wells Homestead Acres, is located just west of Todd ‘s property and it is currently owned by Lynn’s cousin, Lyle Wells, who grows asparagus and squash there and also operates the farm owned by Lynn.

Last Christmas, Lyle, the son of former Riverhead Town Historian Justine Wells, had 60 L.L. Bean jackets made displaying the words “Wells Homestead Acres 350 Years.” He said he hopes the land continues to get passed down for generations.

But even he won’t be planning a big celebration this weekend. Instead he’ll be doing what Wells’ have always done on their land in Aquebogue.

“Work as usual,” he said.

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11/14/11 8:05am
11/14/2011 8:05 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | A piece of a salt glazed stoneware dating back to the 1890s, center, a spoon and a pair of horseshoes were discovered earlier this year at the Village Green in Cutchogue.

A piece of a salt glazed stoneware dating back to the 1890s was featured on Sunday afternoon along with other archaeological artifacts found during an excavation done earlier this year at the Village Green in Cutchogue.

Jo-Ann McLean, a registered archaeologist from Flanders who was hired to monitor the excavation when the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council started construction of a two-car garage on the Village Green, said the broken crock was the oldest artifact found.

“That’s as old as we got,” Ms. McLean said to a group of 30 people at the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library. “We only went 36 inches deep, because that’s how deep you needed to go to build the garage’s foundation.”

The council brought in Ms. McLean in March to sift through the soil when it started construction at the site to house a 1926 Model A truck donated by Parker Wickham of Mattituck.

Ms. McLean said while the land is an archaeological site that could have artifacts dating to prehistoric times, she believes the property should be left undisturbed.

“Unless you’re planning more construction, or if you have a lot of money, it’s best to leave the site alone,” Ms. McLean said, explaining that future technologies could possibly examine the site more thoroughly.

Ms. McLean said studying the property was difficult because she had been told a stream that used to flow on the property had been filled in. But when she came across clam and scallop shells, she believed she found where the stream used to be.

“It looks like someone had a picnic and dumped their garbage into the stream,” she said.

In addition to the crock, many items from the early 20th century were found, including horseshoes, car parts, nails, handmade bricks, spoons and jars for olives, pickles and cold cream.

As the discussion wrapped up, a Cutchogue man who declined to give his name whipped out a large, stone-fired jug.

“I found this in my backyard,” he said, pulling several small glass bottles out of his jacket that he said he found on his property.

“We didn’t find anything that beautiful,” Ms. McLean said.

As the crowd turned their attention to the man’s artifacts he said he found in the ground at his home on Skunk Lane, Ms. McLean stressed that he take careful records and document the locations of where he has been digging.

Zach Studenroth, director of the council, said while he hasn’t come across many people digging in their backyards in search of artifacts, he agreed keeping accurate records of the process is crucial.

“If there’s no record, then there’s no historical meaning,” he said.

Within the next year, the council aims to create an exhibit in the newly constructed garage showcasing the artifacts, as well as another exhibit featuring information about early farming trucks.

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