Interviews

The Colored Girl from Long Island

Today we talk with Sandi Brewster-walker about her life and her family’s history. Not only do the Brewsters have deep ties to North Amityville and the Native American community on Long Island but their story is intertwined with American history on multiple levels. Continue reading “The Colored Girl from Long Island”

Sayville’s Gilded Age Boss Architect

Isaac H. Green, Jr. was the man to call if you needed a house built around the turn of the last century on the South Shore of Long Island. As witness, just observe how many of his buildings still stand on Main Street and Brook Street in Sayville., along Middle Road, down into Oakdale and beyond. He designed churches and carriage houses as well as summer estates and farm buildings. His client list included the Vanderbilts, the Bournes, and the Cuttings. His biggest fan, however, is Connie Currie. Continue reading “Sayville’s Gilded Age Boss Architect”

Floyds Like Us

If you were to name the most famous Floyd on Long Island before the outbreak of the Revolution, chances are it would not have been William Floyd. His cousin, Richard Floyd IV, cut a more striking figure: generous, hospitable, refined – with a thriving Mastic estate and powerful connections. Yet today, William has a parkway named after him and his home is part of the National Park system while Richard is erased from history. Wonder why? Continue reading “Floyds Like Us”

If Seeds Could Talk

Long Island was once known as “The Garden of the States.” Farms and nurseries and orchards filled the landscape from Queens to Quogue and everywhere in between. Many interesting questions surround this vanished world of agricultural history. How do you preserve the history of seeds? Can vegetables go extinct? ? And what does pumpkin beer taste like, anyway? All of this and more in our interview with the Long Island Regional Seed Consortium (LIRSC).  Continue reading “If Seeds Could Talk”

Morton Pennypacker: Long Island Spy Hunter

Frank Knox Morton Pennypacker was many things: author, printer, collector, antiquarian, and…godfather of AMC’s hit Long Island historical drama Turn? It was, after all, Pennypacker’s diligent research into (and just as diligent promotion of) the Culper Spy Ring in the 1930s that led to a resurgence and new understanding of George Washington’s spy ring on Long Island and in New York City. To learn the true depth of the story, however, we need to visit the East Hampton Free Library. Continue reading “Morton Pennypacker: Long Island Spy Hunter”

Jack Ellsworth, Long Island’s Big Band Man

Jack Ellsworth, born Ellsworth Shiebler, won acclaim and a loyal following over a 60-plus year career in broadcasting on stations from WHIM to WALK and WLIM. Just as importantly, he won the respect and support of some of the biggest names of the Big Band era. Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby (to name a few) toasted Jack’s efforts to keep the music and style of the 1930s and 40s alive. Continue reading “Jack Ellsworth, Long Island’s Big Band Man”

Rocky Point, Einstein and Me

What’s a summer bungalow without a machine shop, a kiln and a working loom in the living room? Add in piles of beach stones waiting to be sculpted, framed pictures of Albert Einstein on the walls and various collections of insects and you’re starting to get an idea of life at Zvi and Temima Gezari’s home in Rocky Point.
Continue reading “Rocky Point, Einstein and Me”

La Salle Military Academy

Things were changing on the south shore of Long Island in the 1920s. In the area of Oakdale, a prototypical Gold Coast, the great mansions of the last century were struggling to find a new purpose after their original owners passed on. For Frederick Bourne’s Indian Neck Hall, the future arrived from Clason Point in the Bronx and its name was the La Salle Military Academy.
Continue reading “La Salle Military Academy”

Patchogue: Queen City of the South Shore

If you wanted something back in 19th-Century Long Island, chances are they made it in Patchogue: lace, twine, lumber, crinoline, wrapping paper, blankets, award-winning yachts. A sprawling arrangement of brick factories ran night and day, the mills kept turning by an abundance of rivers and streams. It was the hardest working village on Long Island.
Continue reading “Patchogue: Queen City of the South Shore”

The Coolest Field Trip You’ll Ever Take

When an athletic, thrill-seeking millionaire builds a mansion hideaway on the outskirts of the city, stocking it with a technologically advanced fleet of cars, boats and airplanes along with trophies of his exploits, there’s a good chance he’s either Batman or a Vanderbilt. Meet William K. Vanderbilt II circa 1910.
Continue reading “The Coolest Field Trip You’ll Ever Take”

Making Puppets Come Alive

If the Muppets are all you know of puppetry then this episode will be an eye opener. Beyond the antics of Kermit the Frog and earlier popular acts such as Kukla, Fran and Ollie lies a history of dedicated professionals intent on developing a distinct theater of puppetry. They have their own traditions and icons and yes, their own Stanislavski.
Continue reading “Making Puppets Come Alive”

Bill and Pat Colson: The Art of Living

Bill Colson was a stand-out basketball player from Sayville High School (’47). In the Korean War he served as an Air Force cryptographer until, stricken by polio, he returned to the States paralyzed from the waist down. That’s where his story begins.

1947 Sayville Basketball Team
Suffolk County News, March 7, 1947

Continue reading “Bill and Pat Colson: The Art of Living”

The Long Island Suffrage Playbook

Women in most states could still not vote at the turn of the last century. The suffrage movement was stalled and icons such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were dead. So what turned things around? How did the movement revitalize itself to the point that, by 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed and women’s suffrage was the law of the land? Part of the answer lies with two women from Long Island.

Continue reading “The Long Island Suffrage Playbook”

The Jewish Community on Long Island

Genealogist Rhoda Miller and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island recently published Jewish Community of Long Island from Arcadia Press.  The book tracks the development of Jewish communities across Long Island from the late 19th century through the 1970s. Continue reading “The Jewish Community on Long Island”

Old Mansions Never Die

George Davies’ younger days would be the envy of any boy. During the Great Depression in Oakdale, he and his brothers had the run of Pepperidge Hall, a giant 19th-century mansion in walking distance of a swimming hole and the Great South Bay. Plus they had a pet duck. Continue reading “Old Mansions Never Die”

5 Surprising Ways Historic Preservation Can Save Long Island

What better way to celebrate National Preservation Month than by interviewing Jason Crowley, Preservation Director of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquties (SPLIA)? Continue reading “5 Surprising Ways Historic Preservation Can Save Long Island”

Treading Clams

National Poetry Month is almost over but we have time for one more power ballad. This time, we’re looking over the body of work of Paul Bailey. Bailey was a newspaperman from Amityville (founder of the Amityville Sun) as well as the publisher of the Long Island Forum. His dedication to Long Island history ran deep as he was also president of the Suffolk County Historical Society and Suffolk County Historian. He wrote a syndicated column on Long Island History and was a sought-after public speaker on the topic. Continue reading “Treading Clams”

“The Land of Rum and Romance”

We continue our celebration of National Poetry Month with our second Long Island power ballad from the past. This time out we are looking at “A Babylonish Ditty” by Frederick Swartwout Cozzens (writing as Richard Haywarde).

Frederick Swarthout Cozzzens. From The Knickerbocker Gallery, 1855.
Frederick Swartwout Cozzzens. From The Knickerbocker Gallery, 1855.

Few will remember New York wine merchant-turned poet Cozzens and his heyday as a humor writer in the mid 1800s (although you should try his Sparrowgrass Papers, something of a 19th-century prototype for the sticom Green Acres.) Fewer still will remember the Knickerbocker, the magazine where he cut his teeth. But that’s where, in 1850, he first published “A Babylonish Ditty,” a quick-trotting ode to a long gone summer romance.

Why Babylon? Well, the south shore of Long Island (“the merry old south side”) had a reputation that drew men out from New York City. Mostly they were merchants and lawyers, amateur sportsmen drawn to the abundant fish and game along the Great South Bay. They came by rail and stage coach and after a long day traipsing through the great outdoors, they retired to one of the many inns and taverns strung along the South Country Road (today’s Montauk Highway).

knick

Listen to Cozzens relive those hazy summer days and wonder to yourself how the “fickle” object of his affection viewed the whole affair. Many thanks to our guest reader, Steve Birkeland.

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Long Island Power Ballads

Monument
Monument to Woodhull in Cypress Hills (proposed but never built). From Marsh, L.R. (1848). General Woodhull and His Monument. New York: Leavit, Trow.

It’s National Poetry Month and we’re celebrating with a series of poetry/history mashups that we like to call Long Island Power Ballads. We’re dusting off some deserving yet obscure poems (and poets) dealing with Long Island history and giving them another look. Over the next few weeks you’ll hear stories of broken hearts, tragic deaths, and the indomitable human spirit. But when we say obscure, we mean obscure. If you’re looking for Walt Whitman, seek ye elsewhere.

Today’s episode deals with “The Death of Woodhull: An American Ballad” which tells one version of the death of Nathaniel Woodhull, American patriot, Brigadier General and brother-in-law of William Floyd. Learn the history of the man and the story of the legend that sprung up around his demise. His connection to AMC’s Turn is also explained.

Hear our fearless poetry reenactors bring this ballad back to life amid fanfare, galloping horses and flashing blades. Many thanks to Anne McCaffrey, Frances Schauss and Kristine Hanson.

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Stories of Storm and Sea

Folklorists would make good podcasters. They are used to finding interesting people and getting them to tell good stories. Take Nancy Solomon for example. As the executive director of Long Island Traditions, she has spent years collecting and studying the stories of baymen, offshore fishermen, boat builders and the like. Today we’ll talk to her about a number of those stories revolving around the subject of weather lore. Continue reading “Stories of Storm and Sea”

Some Would Even Say It Glows

We return to our conversation with investigative journalist Karl Grossman, picking up his career after the memorable fight against the Fire Island road in the 1960s. For a journalist, what story could top that?

Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. Photo courtesy of the Shoreham Wading River Media Center.
Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. Image courtesy of the Shoreham Wading River High School Media Center.

Cut to: Shoreham Nuclear Power Station #1. It’s the 1970s and the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) is building the first of up to eleven proposed nuclear power plants, poised to turn Long Island into a “nuclear park.” After working at the Long Island Press until its demise in 1977, Karl covers the LILCO story through local papers like the Long Island Advance, the Suffolk County News, the Southampton Press and the East Hampton Star.

Long Island Advance May 5, 1977. From NYS Historic Newspapers.
Long Island Advance May 5, 1977. From NYS Historic Newspapers.

In addition to Karl, the story is also being followed by Murray Barbash and Irving Like. Veterans of the Fire Island fight, Irv and Murray help form the Citizens Committee to Replace LILCO. Karl relates the various tactics they and others used to help thwart the completion of the Shoreham plant and bring about passage of the Long Island Power Act and the formation of the Long Island Power Authority.

Karl also shares his thoughts on the current state of journalism, electronic media, and what has and hasn’t changed on Long Island.

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“My Kind of Conservationist”

Murray, Susan and Cathy Barbash (l-r). Photo courtesy of the Barbash Family.
Murray, Susan and Cathy Barbash (l-r). Photo courtesy of the Barbash Family.

 

It’s 1962 and a Nor’easter has just torn through Long Island. In its wake is another storm, Long Island Parks Commissioner Robert Moses with his plan to build a road down the middle of Fire Island. It will stabilize the beach, he says. It will provide beauty and ease to the motorist, he says.

But local builder Murray Barbash notices that the road will run right through his new development of Dunewood, flattening it and pretty much anything else in its path (including Sunken Forest). Murray gets together with his brother-in-law Irving Like and the rest, if you don’t know already, is history.

Murray’s daughters Cathy and Susan knew the story but over the course of the last year they set about documenting that history. Sifting through a number of local and regional archives (including Dowling’s) they pieced together the saga of the road-that-never-was. On this episode you’ll hear from Cathy and Susan and their mother Lillian about how an unlikely coalition of Long Island “vigilantes” outwitted and outlasted the great Robert Moses.

You can soon see Cathy’s and Susan’s research for yourself when the exhibit they created is permanently installed with Seatuck at the Suffolk County Environmental Center in Islip. For now, use the handy scorecard below to keep track of who’s who in this gripping story of intrigue and power set against the natural beauty of Fire Island.

Many thanks to the Barbash family for sharing their time, memories and photos.

Scorecard for this Episode

The Long Island “Vigilantes”

  • Murray Barbash: builder with an eye for beauty, developer of Dunewood
  • Lillian Barbash: his wife
  • Irving Like: indomitable lawyer and Murray’s brother-in-law
  • Paul Townsend: “The Wizard,” publisher of the Long Island Business News
  • Robert Cushman Murphy: the tallest ornithologist in the world

The State

  • Robert Moses: New York’s [insert your own adjective] Master Builder
  • Nelson Rockefeller: the not-to-be-bullied Governor of New York
  • Laurance Rockefeller: Nelson’s brother and noted conservationist

Long Island’s Legislators

  • Stuyvesant Wainwright: Congressman from New York’s 1st District, proposed a Fire Island National Seashore when no one was looking
  • Otis Pike: wins Wainwright’s seat with Moses’ backing, becomes reluctant sponsor of the Fire Island National Seashore bill

The Feds

  • Stewart Udall – Secretary of the Interior, consummate insider and good guy
  • President John F. Kennedy: wanted National Parks in the East, dammit

The Media

  • Charles Collingwood: Saltaire resident and CBS newsman
  • Wolcott Gibbs: writer for the New Yorker and Fire Island playwright
  • Teddy White: Fair Harbor resident and chronicler of presidents
  • Julius Monk: New York cabaret impresario whom we have to thank for the classic “Slow Down Moses”

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Battling Robert Moses

Karl1Karl Grossman has been an investigative reporter on Long Island since the early 1960s. Barely in his twenties, he cut his journalistic teeth at the Babylon Town Leader taking on one of the most powerful men in New York State: Robert Moses.

Karl covered the developing story of Moses’ plan to build a highway down the middle of Fire Island. Although the plan horrified local residents, many on the Island and in the press supported it. Through the work of Karl and papers like the Suffolk County News and the Long Island Business News and most importantly people like Murray Barbash, Irving Like and Robert Cuhsman Murphy, the plan was washed away. In its place we have the Fire Island National Seashore.

Today is part 1 of our interview with Karl on his early career, the power of the press, and how he was almost an alum of Dowling College (then known as Adelphi Suffolk College). You’ll hear about his further battles in part 2 but first in two weeks we’ll revisit the Moses fight from the perspective of the Barbash family. Stay tuned!

 

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A Neighborhood of History

St. David AME Zion Church in Eastville. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.
St. David AME Zion Church in Eastville. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.

Eastville endures. Through the rise and fall of the whaling industry, over the long slow death of slavery, past the rising tide of development on the East End of Long Island. From the early 19th-century this small collection of streets and houses east of Sag Harbor, anchored around the St. David AME Zion Church, has retained its character as a place that a vibrant mix of African Americans, Native Americans, and European immigrants called home.

On this episode of the Project, we speak with Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, Executive Director and Curator of the Eastville Community Historical Society. She relates the history of the area, from the early 1830s into the late 20th century when the Society was founded.

Portrait of an Eastville resident. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.
Portrait of an Eastville resident. Photo courtesy of the Eastville Community Historical Society.

You’ll hear about the prominence of Native Americans and African Americans in the whaling industry as well as the importance of Sag Harbor as the first port of entry in New York. Among the people we discuss are Nathan Cuffee, a Montaukett member of the community who co-wrote the novel Lords of the Soil in 1905, depicting life on the east end of Long Island. Georgette also tells the surprising story of Pyrrhus Concer from nearby Southampton, an African American who, on a whaling voyage in 1845, became one of the first Americans to visit Japan.

We also discuss the challenges of documenting and preserving the histories of marginalized people. How do you prove, for example, that one of the trapdoors in the Church was used to hide escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad? How do you protect an unassuming house that is actually made out of wood from recovered 19th century shipwrecks and may contain generations of important stories?

EastvilleLOGOcapsBLUEfinal
Courtesy of the Eastville Historical Society

Sometimes you get lucky and discover a trove of tintype portraits nailed face-down into the floor of a cottage. Sometimes you fail, and structures get razed despite what they might be able to tell us about the past. Sometimes the results are mixed. Pyrrhus Concer’s house was demolished but only after significant parts had been salvaged.

You’ll hear Georgette talk about these cases and related issues along with the importance of understanding and enforcing the codes that should be helping inform decisions around such properties. You’ll also hear about ongoing projects to document African American burial sites throughout Long Island.

And if you enjoy these episodes, make sure to follow this site via email or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. Leave us a comment and let us know what aspects of Long Island history you’d like to hear discussed.

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Behind the Camera with Thom Hoffman

Shinnecock DVD case
Shinnecock (2013). Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

When something piques Thom Hoffman’s interest, he starts asking questions. Then he tries to work out the answers through film. The result has been an eclectic mix of documentaries (three to date) that share some common traits: his desire to educate and his love of Long Island history.

Brother Cinema Poster copy
Brother, Can You Spare a Dollar? (2012).Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

On today’s interview you’ll hear how Thom got his start working with Ray Adell on the “About Long Island” radio series and then expanded into documentaries. His first film featured the story of Brooklyn doo-wop stalwart Lenny Cocco and the Chimes. Next came his comparison of the Great Depression and the Great Recession. His latest, Shinnecock, explores the long history of the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton.

Still In The Mood  DVD cover copy
Still in the Mood for Love (2010). Photo courtesy of Thom Hoffman

We also ask Thom about the challenges of producing and distributing documentaries on Long Island. How do you get them to a wider audience? How do you get the quality of production needed? His answers echo many of the things we’ve heard in our discussions with others involved in documentary filmmaking on Long Island.

On that note, if you’re interested in screening any of his movies or helping find a home for the “About Long Island” archive, you can contact Thom at hof565 [at] optonline.net

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Peter Fox Cohalan Part II

Suffolk County Historian Peter Fox Cohalan is back in session for part two of our interview. This week we get deeper into the history of Islip, traveling all the way from the bottom of the Bay (and who really owned it) back to Islip, England and the ancestral home of the Nicoll family.

We also get Peter Fox’s insight into historic preservation at the local and regional levels as well as the unique situations that can arise on Long Island.

Finally, we’ll hear about the work of the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation. As a board member, Peter Fox is involved in helping the Foundation support the study and preservation of New York history with a focus on Islip and Suffolk County.

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Holding Court with Peter Fox Cohalan

Peter Fox Cohalan was named Suffolk County Historian in 2012 but in many ways he’s been preparing for the role his whole life. In fact, the Cohalans and history go way back. The first Cohalan in America arrived with Lafayette during the Revolution. One branch of the family led to a Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall, another to the first Catholic priest on Long Island. In his own storied career, Peter Fox has been Islip Town Supervisor, Suffolk County Executive, and State Supreme Court Judge (one of five Cohalans -including his father-  to reach that position.)

With the historian’s eye for detail and the Irishman’s gift for storytelling, Peter Fox can discuss the Sayville of his youth as easily as the quarrels of the early Federalists. On this episode of the Project he recounts the Sayville of the 1930s and ’40s along with his father’s time as coach at the La Salle Military Academy in Oakdale.  We’ll also hear about preservation efforts he spearheaded (like the Islip Grange in Sayville) as well as his family’s connections to the unforgettable Robert David Lion Gardiner.

Join us next week for Part 2.

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Tales from the Shinnecock

Welcome back to our Native American Heritage Month discussion!

From Whaling and Fishing by Charles Nordhoff, 1895.
From Whaling and Fishing by Charles Nordhoff, 1895.

Today we bring you the rest of our conversation with members of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum in Southampton, Long Island. This time out we’ll hear from director and curator David Bunn Martine. David relates how he got interested in Shinnecock history and by telling his family’s story he uncovers much of the scope and sweep of the Native American experience.

Geronimo. Illustrated American, Aug 16, 1890
Geronimo. Illustrated American, Aug 16, 1890

By the end of the episode you’ll hear about Samson Occum, long whaling voyages, the Shinnecock connection to Teddy Roosevelt, Geronimo, the Boarding School Period and more. We also talk about the difference between Plains and Woodlands people and the enduring danger of stereotypes.

Thanks also to Eileen Dugan, Education Coordinator at the Museum, for arranging these interviews.

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A Walk Through Time With the Shinnecock

David Martine, Cholena Smith, Chris Kretz, Connie Currie (l to r)
David Martine, Cholena Smith, Chris Kretz, Connie Currie (l to r)

To honor Native American Heritage month here at the Project, we’ve got two interviews lined up regarding the Shinnecock Nation in Southanmpton. Connie and I sat down with David Bunn Martine (Director and Curator) and Cholena Smith (Education and Program Manager) from the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum to discuss the history of the tribe and the operations of the Museum. Located at 100 Montauk Highway in Southampton, this is the only Native American-owned and -operated museum on Long Island.

Today in Part 1 you’ll hear about the origins and development of the Museum including their efforts to propagate the Shinnecock language. We also discuss the Shinnecock Powwow, the persistent challenge of stereotypes and, as a bonus, I finally get to use my knowledge of popular 19th-century German fiction writers.

Thanks also to Eileen Dugan, Education Coordinator at the Museum, for arranging these interviews.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in two weeks in which David will tell us more about Shinnecock history and the Native American experience in this country.

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Off to See the Wizard: Bringing Tesla to the Screen

ElectricTesla
“Showing the Inventor in the Effulgent Glory of Myriad Tongues of Electric Flame After He Has Saturated Himself with Electricity.” New York World, July 22, 1894.

Nikola Tesla was a bona fide Gilded Age celebrity, pulling front page headlines in the New York press and attracting the rich and famous to his late night laboratory demonstrations. You were nobody until Tesla shot you through with electricity.

And now Tesla’s time has come again. We conclude our special Tesla Month here at the Long island History Project talking to filmmaker Joe Sikorski about his documentary Tower to the People: Tesla’s Dream at Wardenclyffe Continues. Co-written with Michael Calomino, Tower to the People tells the story of Tesla and the successful fight to save his Wardenclyffe lab.

Bringing Tesla’s story to the screen has been a labor of love of Joe’s for some time and you’ll hear about his original dream: the full-length feature film Fragments from Olympus. We discuss the challenges of documentary film making and reveal more of Tesla’s fascinating life and why it lends itself so perfectly to film.

Are you in Los Angeles October 23-29th? Catch a special screening of Tower to the People at the Crest Theatre, 1262 Westwood Blvd. And tell them the Long Island History Project sent you!

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Lightning Strikes: Saving the Wardenclyffe Lab in Shoreham

Tesla Street
Corner of the Wardenclyffe site. Photo by Chris Kretz.

The historic site you want to preserve is up for sale for $1.3 million dollars. The good news: New York State will give you $850,000. The bad news: you have to raise the same amount. And there are other interested buyers. And the clock is ticking.

That’s the position The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe (TSCW) found themselves in by the summer of 2012. But don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. In this second of a two-part interview, Jane Alcorn (TSCW president) explains how they turned things around. The secret ingredient: enlist the aide of Matthew Inman, creator of the website The Oatmeal.

In the whirlwind of events that followed, offers of help poured in and TSCW was able to meet all their goals. And then the hard work began. Jane recounts it all and lays out future plans for the site and for Nikola Tesla’s legacy of scientific innovation. Remember to check the TSCW website for ways that you can get involved.

And stay tuned as our Tesla month continues. Next week on the podcast we interview filmmaker Joe Sikorski on his Tesla/Wardenclyffe documentary Tower to the People.

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Hooked on Tesla

“Nikola Tesla, Dreamer” From The World To-Day, 1901.

Jane Alcorn was hooked on science from an early age but it was not until a friend clued her in to the Wizard of Electricity  that she became hooked on Nikola Tesla. A major scientific player at the turn of the last century, Tesla established a lab at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, Long Island to pursue his innovative experiments in electricity, radio, and broadcast energy.

Drawing inspiration from his story, Jane and a dedicated group founded The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. And eventually, they realized the dream of securing Tesla’s lab and have begun to restore it.

In the first of a two-part interview, Jane describes that journey and provides background on what made Tesla so inspiring. You’ll hear stories of his inventions and his interactions with the people of Shoreham as well as his connections to people like Mark Twain, Stanford White and George Westinghouse.

Look for part 2 next week when we discuss the long and surprising road to purchasing the Wardenclyffe site.

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Tuning in to Ray Adell

Longtime radio broadcaster Ray Adell of Ray Adell Media, WGSM, WBAB and more.
Longtime radio broadcaster Ray Adell of Ray Adell Media, WGSM, WBAB and more. Photo by Tom Hoffman.

Ray Adell is a radio man, from his early days broadcasting down in Virginia to his arrival at WGSM (World’s Greatest Suburban Market!) in Huntington in the early 1950s. But perhaps you’ll remember him best as the voice (and mind) behind “About Long Island,” the long-running radio spot sponsored by the Grumman Corporation. For over twenty years Ray and his staff at Adell Media served up snippets of Long Island history in morning drive time to educate and entertain.

In this interview Ray looks back at the people he’s met (Jack Ellsworth and Edmund Hillary to name just two), stations he’s worked at (WCAP, WEST, WKBS, WGSM and WBAB to name just five), and answers the question: is radio dead?

Leave a comment if you have memories of Ray or any of the old Long Island stations. And special thanks to Thom Hoffman for arranging this interview.

BONUS: The Long Island History Project is now listed in iTunes! If you like what you hear, please leave a review or rate us. If you’re not sure how, read this first.

Many great interviews ahead so keep listening! You can bookmark us, use the “follow” button to get email updates, or subscribe in iTunes or your podcast reader of choice.

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The Lost Lords of the Manor

Historical Papers on Shelter Island and Its Presbyterian Church, with Genealogical Tables. N.Y, 1899
Sylvester Manor from Historical Papers on Shelter Island and Its Presbyterian Church, with Genealogical Tables. N.Y, 1899

We’re back for part II of our interview with Dr. Gaynell Stone, executive director of the Suffolk County Archaeological Association and now accomplished filmmaker. Her connection to Stephen Mrozowski’s work at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island led to her first film, The Sugar Connection: Holland, Barbados, Shelter Island in 2012.

The story of manors on Long Island is a tale that grows in the telling, however, so Dr. Stone has mapped out an ambitious series of documentaries encompassing Gardiner’s Island, Eaton’s Neck, the Manor of St. George and more.

Today you’ll get a glimpse of the stories that were uncovered: alchemists on Fisher’s Island, what lies buried on Plum Island, the forgotten patriot John Sloss Hobart, and pirates sailing out of the Connetquot River. You’ll also hear about the struggles to get these documentaries off the ground and seen by the public.

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An Island of History Under Our Feet

photo-jul-01-4-36-15-pmDr. Gaynell Stone was instrumental in the creation of Readings in Long Island Archaeology and Ethnohistory, the series of reference books that, starting in the 1970s, pulled together the foundational sources and background information on archaeology in the region.

In the first part of this two-part interview, Dr. Stone walks us through the fascinating history of Long Island archaeology, uncovering along the way: the myth of the 13 Indian tribes, the importance of Thomas Jefferson, the gravestones of Southampton, and much more. Look for part 2 in two weeks when we discuss the Manors of Long Island!

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Being Teddy Roosevelt

Jim Foote (l) and Theodore Roosevelt (r)
James Foote (l. Photo courtesy of James and Joni Foote). President Roosevelt (r. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

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James Foote has some pretty big shoes to fill but he’s been pulling it off effortlessly for decades. Starting with a close resemblance to the 26th President of the United States and adding a passion for research, James has built a career as one of the most sought-after Theodore Roosevelt re-enactors in the country. He’s portrayed Teddy at corporate events, on river boats, at the White House, and most fittingly, at the christening of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In this interview with Connie Currie and Chris Kretz, you’ll hear how James approaches his role, the research he’s undertaken, and how he’s learned to handle everything from hecklers to heart attacks. We also discuss Theodore Roosevelt’s life, his connections to Long Island, and his enduring place in the American memory. Running time 47:43.

And mark your calendars! On Sunday, July 12th, 2015, Sagamore Hill will reopen to the public after a major three-year renovation project. James Foote will be part of the celebration at “the Summer White House” in Oyster Bay.

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When Rocky Point was Radio Central

Bob Lundquist – Part I


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Bob Lundquist – Part II


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Robert Lundquist was station engineer at the vast RCA transmitting station at Rocky Point known the world over as Radio Central. In this two-part interview he provides a crash course in the history, development, and technology of radio. You’ll also hear about the history of RCA, David Sarnoff, Guglielmo Marconi, and the role of Sputnik in the demise of Radio Central.

Among the memories Bob shares are the the day in 1978 when Governor Hugh Carey accepted the property (along with the RCA station in Riverhead) on behalf of New York State, along with the time he had to decide the fate of Marconi’s shack, an important relic of Long Island’s radio history.

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The Truth Behind the Spies: Decoding AMC’s Turn

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BevTyler
Historian Bev Tyler of the Three Village Historical Society

Bev Tyler, historian with the Three Village Historical Society, walks us through the true story of the Culper Spy Ring that operated out of Setauket and Manhattan during the Revolutionary War. Made up of a small tight-knit group of friends and relatives, the Ring provided valuable information on British activities that helped George Washington outmaneuver and out-spy a much more powerful enemy. All of this was conducted in occupied territory, a Long Island beset by British troops with no love for the population they were meant to protect and raiders from the Sound who preyed on Loyalist and Patriot alike. We also discuss the AMC series Turn which depicts a fictionalized version of the Ring. Find out where the story strays from the history and which facts and characters stay true to the historical record. From Abraham Woodhull to Robert Townsend, Anna Strong, and Caleb Brewster, find out what they were really like and their fate after the war. Turn starts its second season in the spring of 2015.

North Shore of Long Island, 1780
North Shore of Long Island, 1780. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

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The Sage of Blue Point

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Gene Horton and friend.
Gene Horton and friend.

“You are on the Merrick Road, not far from Blue Point, the place that made the oyster famous. You look to the right and to the left, and, tacked to a tree, you see a sign and you try to read it, but the top of it has been shot off by a quail hunter. However, on the lower part you decipher, between the birdshot: ‘An inn what is an inn.’ ”

Welcome to Ye Anchorage Inn, as described in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1908. Your host is Capt. Bill Graham: huckster, artist, impresario, and roadside entrepreneur. He and his wife Molly ran the Inn from 1897 to 1920, creating a unique amalgam of tavern, hotel, hunting lodge, picnic ground, and Bohemian hot spot on the northwest corner of Montauk Highway and Kennedy Ave.

Graham’s clientele ranged from vaudevillians and silent movie stars to politicians, philosophers, and artists. Winsor McCay and Montgomery Flagg left sketches on the walls while early motorists made Ye Anchorage a must-see destination on their Long Island jaunts. Graham kept up a constant parade of promotional events, from his famous Sphinx statue (now in Bayport) to faux bullfights and horse raffles. He chronicled it all in his own personal magazine, The Log, full of stories, poems, artwork, and anything else he could think of.

In this episode, Blue Point historian Gene Horton details the history of Will Graham, the Irish immigrant who became a part of the history of the Great South Bay. Drawing on his vast research and collection, Gene paints a vivid picture of the man and his times.

 

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Swimming with Dolphins and Alligators

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dontwanttogo
I Don’t Want to Go from Lobster Press Written by Addie Meyers, illustrations by Andrew Rowland ( Image from GoodReads)

 

A self-confessed Nancy Drew aficionado, Addie Meyers has followed her passion and made writing an integral part of her life, finding inspiration for her books from the wide range of her experiences. Here she discusses how she went from raising children in Sayville to teaching poetry in schools (Alligators, Monsters & Cool School Poems), researching dyslexia (The Upside Down Kids written with Dr. Harold N. Levinson)  and swimming with dolphins (Top Fin.)  She also discusses the writing process – refining concepts, finding the right publisher, and ignoring trends in favor of your own ideas.  You’ll hear her read some of her poems and the picture book I Don’t Want to Go, revealing at the same time the secret to Grandpa’s super special tomato sauce.

Books by Addie Meyer Sanders via Worldcat.org

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Life on the Air

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Retired from a life in radio and television, Stuart Chamberlain can look back on the long hours, overnight shifts, small town stations, and manic deadlines with a smile. In this interview he recounts his path from WMAJ in State College, PA to ABC where he wrote and produced “World News This Week.” One of the highlights, however, was his time working with Paul Harvey in Chicago. Stu discusses his forays into acting and reveals an old connection to the Sayville Musical Workshop. Throughout Stu delivers a thoughtful disquisition on the state of radio and the news media along with a look at the work of Long Island stations like WLIM and WLNG.

Stu Chamberlain
Stu Chamberlain

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Sayville Musical Workshop

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Tove Hasselriis Abrams was there at the beginning, four-and-a-half years old and watching her mother Karen perform in H.M.S. Pinafore at the old Sayville High School on Greene Avenue. That first group of performers went on to found the Sayville Musical Workshop.  Tove soon joined in, starring as Gretel in Humperdinck’s opera of Hansel and Gretel. After a break for college and work, she returned to catch the eye of and marry Steve Abrams, the Workshop’s pianist.

One of the first community theaters in the country, the Sayville Musical Workshop produced musicals, dramas, and operettas until 1985. There’s a lot of theater lore in this interview, including the major impact Rodgers and Hammerstein had on community theater , Troy Donohue and Brian Dennehy’s time with the Workshop, and the role of community theaters in the post-World War II era.

Tove Abrams
Tove Abrams. (Photo courtesy of Tove Abrams)

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Warren McDowell and the Fire Island Tide

The summer of 1977 brought Star Wars, blackouts, and the first appearance of The Fire Island Tide. From that first 24-page Memorial Day edition, Warren McDowell’s dream grew to a  140-page color news magazine with poetry, history and artwork along with community news.  Here Warren recounts that growth and the work it took: delivering papers every Friday by boat from Kismet to Watch Hill, dealing with national advertisers warily marketing to the “alternative lifestyle”, and loving every minute of it. Although clearly aware of the dangers facing newspapers (and radio stations) today, his message to those dreaming of starting their own: go for it!

 

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Moriches and the Terry-Ketcham Inn


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Growing up in the Moriches, Mary Field noticed what most people didn’t. As old buildings were being torn down, she wondered who would remember what had gone before. What followed was a lifetime of interest in local history, culminating in books like The Illustrated History of the Moriches Bay Area and the 1881 Diary of Nettie Ketcham. In this interview she tells stories of old Moriches she learned from earlier generations and anecdotes from Nettie Ketcham’s experiences at the end of the 19th century. Mary also recounts the work of her husband Van, a ham radio operator, historian of Long Island shipwrecks, and participant in the LORAN Project from World War II.

Books by Van and Mary Field via WorldCat.org


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The 1989  fire that nearly destroyed the Terry-Ketcham Inn brought Bert Seides to tears but it also set him on the road to saving the historic Moriches landmark.  Building from a small group of volunteers meeting around Mary and Van Field’s kitchen table, Bert marshaled support and learned to navigate a maze of regulations, paperwork, and government agencies to bring the 1693 Inn back to life. In this discussion he provides a road map for preservation projects and reveals the hard work involved, from painstaking research to outreach programs to, of course, book sales.

The Ketcham Inn Foundation

The Terry Ketcham Inn courtesy of the Ketcham Inn Foundation
The Terry Ketcham Inn courtesy of the Ketcham Inn Foundation

 

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The Jaunty Major-General

audio http://wwwx.dowling.edu/library/new/GeorgeMunkenbeck.mp3

His full name was about as long and storied as his career: Philippe Regis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand. He was a Baron, a novelist, a painter, a gardener,  a member of the Garde Lafayette (Fifty-fifth New York), a hero of Gettysburg, and summertime resident of Bayport.

Historian George Munkenbeck (Co. H, 14th Brooklyn) recaps the fascinating life of this “soldier’s soldier”, including his time in the Dakota Territory and his marriage to New York heiress Mary Mason-Jones.

Major-General Regis de Trobirand
Major-General Regis de Trobriand Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpb-06299

 

 

Major-General Trobriand is buried in Union Cemetery in Sayville, NY.
Major-General Trobriand is buried in Union Cemetery in Sayville, NY.

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Racing the Island


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Photo courtesy of the Marty Himes Collection.
Photo courtesy of the Marty Himes Collection.

Long Island at the turn of the last century was a dream come true for early racing enthusiasts: miles and miles of flat open roads. In this interview, Marty Himes relates the history of auto racing on Long Island, from the early days of the Vanderbilt Cup Races to the post-WWII boom in midget car and stock car racing. Marty is himself a racer, starting the day he rolled his home-made soapbox derby car onto the track at Freeport Stadium. Learn more about the museum he has created to preserve the history of this fascinating aspect of Long Island’s history.

The Himes Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia

tickets
Tickets for the Freeport Speedway.

 

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The Home Grown String Band

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Welcome to the lives and times of The Home Grown String Band.  Rick and Georgianne Jackofsky have been performing old time traditional music with their daughters Erica and Annalee since 1997. In this interview you’ll hear how they got their start along with tales from the road as well as a  leisurely tour through the intertwining histories of old-time music, bluegrass, radio and television. The talk leads from  Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs to the Carter Family, Andy Griffith, and why there’s so little Long Island-specific music history.

The Homegrown String Band

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