Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fire Island Lighthouse

Fire Island Lighthouse is an important aspect of Long Island history. The first Fire Island lighthouse was built and completed in 1826. The structure was only 74-feet high and octagonal pyramid shaped. The structure was cream-colored and made of Connecticut River blue split stone. Only being 74-feet high, the lighthouse was ineffective for its purpose of guiding transatlantic ships coming to the New York Harbor. Due to its ineffectiveness, this lighthouse was removed and the materials were reused to build a terrace on the new lighthouse. All that remains of the original lighthouse structure is a ring of bricks and stones.

With the need of a useful lighthouse for transatlantic ships, Congress appropriated $40,000 for a new structure in 1857. This new structure would be over double the height of the original, at 168 feet tall. After its completion, it was officially in use and lit on November 1, 1858. This new tower was made of red bricks which were painted a creamy yellow color and eventually again in August of 1891, it was repainted to alternating black and white bands which still remains its colors.

The lens that was fitted to the tower was called the First Order Fresnel Lens which released a white flash once a minute. The Lens was connected to a Funk Lamp with 5 concentric wicks which caused the illumination inside the lens. Since the lens was fitted to the tower, various different fuels were used with whale oil, lard oil mineral oil and kerosene being the most commonly used. Electricity was not reached to the tower until September 20 of 1938, and ironically the next day a hurricane struck cutting out the electricity, making the lighthouse’s electrification process delayed.

The lighthouse was decommissioned as an aid for transatlantic ships on December 31 of 1973, but the structure was left remaining and use of the light house and its tract, which spans approximately 82 acres, was temporarily given to the National Park Service for five years. Eventually, the tract was declared by law to be within the boundaries of the Fire Island National Seashore in 1979.
The year 1982 marked the creation of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society which successfully raised over 1.3 million dollars. The money raised was to restore and preserve the lighthouse.

Two years later, in 1984, the Fire Island Lighthouse was marked as a historic site and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The restoration and preservation team decided to restore the lighthouse to its condition at the time of electrification, which was in 1939 due to delay from the hurricane.

The restoration was eventually completed and on Memorial Day of 1986, the lighthouse was relit and was reestablished as an official aid to navigation for boaters.

December of 1996, the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society was able to gain control over maintenance and operation of the Lighthouse and the Keeper’s Quarters. These aspects of control were through an agreement with the National Park Services, but did not give the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society ownership of the historic site.

The lighthouse is currently lit by two 1000-watt bulbs. These rotate in a counter-clockwise direction which gives the appearance of flashing lights every 7.5 seconds. The light from the lighthouse is visible for approximately 21-24 miles.

Source: http://www.fireislandlighthouse.com/history.html

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Haunted Places: Sweet Hollow Road

Sweet Hollow Road is the site of several ghostly legends. The most tragic among them states that a school bus full of children was driving along the Northern State overpass bridge above Sweet Hollow Road on a snowy day. After its driver lost control, the bus skidded off the bridge, killing everyone inside. It is said that if you stop your car under the bridge and put it in neutral the spirits of the deceased children will push you forward.

Another legend involves a day camp which supposedly existed along the road during the 1930s. Some of the children who went to the camp are said to have been abused or even killed, and their spirits can occasionally be seen walking along the road wearing ‘30s clothing, though they quickly vanish. Sweet Hollow Road is also said to be home to a police officer who was shot and killed. His ghost still patrols the street and will pull motorists over from time to time.

The road is also the subject of one of the Mary’s Grave legends. This version takes place centuries after most of the others, but involves a young woman named Mary who suffered a tragic fate. Mary is said to have gotten into a fight with her boyfriend while driving down the road and was then either pushed out of the car by him or jumped out of it herself; in either event, she was quickly hit by oncoming traffic and died. Some say you can still see a lady in white walking along the side of the road, and that she will jump in front of your car when you pass. Mary’s grave and tombstone are also alleged to be located in a small cemetery on Sweet Hollow Road.

Non-human ghosts are also said to haunt Sweet Hollow Road and include a black Labrador, a horse and a mysterious dog-like creature. The ghostly horse has been seen and chased into the woods near the crossroads of Mount Misery Road and Sweet Hollow. Once it enters the woods, it simply vanishes. In addition, there have been sightings of a dog-like creature who digs along where the woods meet the road, then stands on its hind legs and walks back into the woods.


Brosky, Kerriann Flanagan. “Long Island's Legends and Myths - Part III - Sweet Hollow Road.” Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch, Patch, 12 Nov. 2012, patch.com/new-york/huntington/bp--long-islands-legends-and-myths-part-iii-sweet-hollow-road

“Sweet Hollow Road.” LIHauntedHouses.com, www.lihauntedhouses.com/real-haunt/sweet-hollow-road.html

Sweet Hollow Road, liparanormalinvestigators.com/our-recent-investigations/sweet-hollow-road

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gardiner's Island Mill

Gardiner’s Island Mill in Easthampton was erected on May 23, 1795. It was built by Nathaniel Dominy for Abraham Gardiner for the cost of $773.36. The mill continued to operate until 1900.

The mill stands on a small knoll about three feet above the level of the ground, making it possible to catch some of the wind. This mill is of the hand-operated, top-turning variety, and covered with shingles. It has simple wood batten doors, and shutters on the three stories. A weather vane of sheet metal stands on the roof above the dormer window which has wood shutters hung in a frame, opposite the dormer through which the wind shaft passes.

Grain is taken in on the first floor, and hoisted by hand-windlass through a trap-door in the floor to the second story, where it is fed into hoppers, one for wheat, and the other for corn. This is a "two-stone mill," having the usual two grindstones for each hopper.

It is one of the surviving 18th and 19th Century windmills and the least altered. It was rebuilt in 1815 and the work of that time is some of the most advanced technology found in a Long Island windmill.


“Gardiner’s Island Windmill.” Historic American Engineering Record. April, 1984

Jaray, Cornell. The Mills of Long Island. Ira J. Friedman, Inc., 1962

“Photographs: Written Historical and Descriptive Data, District No. 4.”  Historic American Buildings Survey. June, 1934

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Culper Spy Ring

British forces occupied New York in August 1776, and the city would remain a British stronghold and a major naval base for the duration of the Revolutionary War. Getting information from New York on British troop movements and other plans was critical to General George Washington, there wasn’t a reliable intelligence network that existed on the Patriot side at that time. In 1778, a cavalry officer named Benjamin Tallmadge established a small group of trustworthy men and women from his hometown of Setauket, Long Island. Known as the Culper Spy Ring, Tallmadge’s network would become the most effective of any intelligence-gathering operation on either side during the Revolutionary War.

Tallmadge recruited only those whom he could absolutely trust, beginning with his childhood friend, the farmer Abraham Woodhull, and Caleb Brewster. Tallmadge went by the code name John Bolton, while Woodhull went by the name of Samuel Culper. Woodhull, who ran the group’s day-to-day operations on Long Island, traveled back and forth to New York collecting information and observing naval maneuvers there. Dispatches would then be given to Brewster, who would carry them across the Sound to Fairfield, Connecticut, and Tallmadge would then pass them on to Washington.
In the summer of 1779, Woodhull had recruited another man, the well-connected New York merchant Robert Townsend, to serve as the ring’s primary source in the city. Townsend wrote his reports as “Samuel Culper, Jr.” and Woodhull went by “Samuel Culper, Sr.” Austin Roe, a tavern keeper in Setauket who acted as a courier for the Culper ring traveled to Manhattan with the excuse of buying supplies for his business. A local Setauket woman and Woodhull’s neighbor, Anna Smith Strong, was also said to have aided in the spy ring’s activities. She reportedly used the laundry on her clothesline to leave signals regarding Brewster’s location for meetings with Woodhull.

The Culper Ring employed several methods of spycraft in its operations. In addition to providing his agents with code names, Tallmadge devised a cipher system for their intelligence reports. Key words and terms were encoded as a three-digit number based upon their position in John Entick’s The New Spelling Dictionary, a popular work of the day. Those reports were also written with invisible ink that required a special chemical compound to be brushed over it to reveal the writing. Moreover, the reports were frequently embedded in letters addressed to notorious Tory sympathizers on Long Island as an additional step to prevent their seizure by British troops inspecting material carried by Culper agents.

The Culper Spy Ring has been credited with uncovering information involving the treasonous correspondence between Benedict Arnold and John Andre, chief intelligence officer under General Henry Clinton, commander of the British forces in New York, who were conspiring to give the British control over the army fort at West Point.

The exploits of this ring were turned into a television series called “Turn; Washington’s Spies,” which aired for four seasons on AMC.


“The Culper Spy Ring.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/culper-spy-ring

Gould, Kevin. “Culper Spy Ring.” Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Inc., 6 May 2016, www.britannica.com/topic/Culper-Spy-Ring

Friday, August 10, 2018

Camp Upton

Camp Upton was built in 1917 as an induction and training facility for new soldiers who were to fight in World War I. The camp was named after Major General Emory Upton, a Union general in the Civil War. Construction began in the summer of 1917. When the first men arrived on September 10th, two-thirds of the camp had yet to be completed. The new soldiers were put side by side with the laborers to help complete the camp. On December 20th, the camp was officially declared complete, and turned over to Camp Commander Major General J. Franklin Bell.

In October, General Bell put into action a sixteen-week training program, which included almost every aspect of infantry combat. French and British officers were brought to the U.S. and instructed the men in tank, trench and gas warfare. The draftees trained in the use of hand grenades and machine guns, and professional boxers taught the men hand-to-hand combat.

From these raw recruits came the nucleus of the 77th Division. Officially formed before the first draftee arrived in camp, the 77th was to gain recognition for its valor at the Argonne Forest in August of 1918.

With the war's end in November of 1918, Upton's use was limited. The camp served as a demobilization site for returning veterans, but the Army soon decided that Camp Upton was of no further use, and it was deactivated.

In 1944, Camp Upton was used as a hospital to treat wounded veterans of the war.  It also served as a Prisoner of War Camp, when in May of 1945, 500 German prisoners were sent to Camp Upton.

In 1947, the camp was replaced by Brookhaven National Laboratory, to conduct scientific research. The lab remains in operation to this day as a multi-program national laboratory operated by Brookhaven Science Associates for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  It currently staffs 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff as well as over 4,000 guest researchers annually.


“Camp Upton.” BNL Blood Drives: 56 Facts, www.bnl.gov/about/history/campupton.php

Genealogy, Long Island. “CampUpton.” History of Hempstead Village, longislandgenealogy.com/CampUpton.html

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp/Massapequa Zoo and Kiddie Park

Frank Buck was a household name on Long Island from the 1920s through the 1940s. He was a renowned animal hunter and collector of exotic animals for circuses. He also starred in a few movies. At the World’s Fair in Chicago, he set up an exhibit of the animals he had collected in his travels. When the fair closed, he moved the entire camp to Long Island.

Frank Buck’s Jungle Camp was forty acres and housed lions, elephants, tigers, monkeys, reptiles, and other wild animals. Many of the animals came from the collection of Charles W. Beall. One of the main attraction was Monkey Mountain, a seventy-five foot tall exhibit at the center of the property.

The Camp contained multiple buildings on the property including a three-story Tudor Style building--the Frank Buck Hotel--as well as other restaurants and stores. Above all, Buck’s Jungle Camp housed hundreds of exotic animals including lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys, and reptiles, among others. The Camp’s animals became an important feature of the community and live animals like elephants were brought to galas and society events in nearby towns to help boost publicity and ticket sales. In addition to functioning as a zoo and amusement center, the Camp served as a holding center for exotic animals coming into New York from Buck’s expeditions before being sent to other zoos and circuses. The Camp was a hit with the press and often was written about in newspapers such as the New York Times, which discussed all different types of topics, such as new arrivals and animal births in the compound.

In 1943, the camp was not able to sustain itself anymore and the animals were shipped to public and private zoos across the country. In the 1950s, the Grimaldi family bought the remaining property and renamed it Sunrise Kiddie Land and Animal Farm. It was renamed the Massapequa Zoo and Kiddie Park a year later. This six-acre zoo had kiddie rides and animals. Local residents can recall that the Massapequa Drive In was located adjacent to the zoo from 1950 until 1968; before the zoo closed, visitors to the Drive-In purchased their tickets near Monkey Mountain and monkeys could be seen from car windows.

The zoo remained open until 1965 when the property was sold to a developer to make additional parking space for a shopping center.  The Westfield Sunrise Mall now occupies this site.


Berman, Marisa L. Historic Amusement Parks of Long Island. The History Press, 2015.

Pallone, Jillian. “Frank Buck: Bring ‘Em Back Alive.”  www.hofstra.edu/pdf/library/libspc-oe-lisi-frank-buck.pdf

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sagamore Hill

When Theodore Roosevelt had finished college and was beginning to start a family, he thought that the best possible place to settle with his wife and to raise children would be Oyster Bay. He purchased farmland in Cove Neck, a peninsula just east of Oyster Bay village and envisioned building a large, sturdy, modern home. He hired New York City architects Lamb and Rich to design such a house, and construction based on their Queen Anne-style sketches began in 1884.

Plans for the house were nearly halted due to the sudden death of Roosevelt's young wife Alice in February 1884. She had died just two days after giving birth to a daughter who was named Alice after her. Family members convinced Roosevelt that despite the tragedy of his wife's death, he would still need a proper home for his baby daughter, and he soon decided to go ahead with the house construction.

In 1886 Roosevelt became re-acquainted with Edith Kermit Carow, a friend of his sister's whom he had known since he was six. It took them very little time to resume an earlier relationship and to become engaged. After they were married, Roosevelt and his second wife Edith took up full-time residency at Sagamore Hill in 1887. The couple would raise a total of six children in the house and, over the next 30 years, they would experience some of the most memorable and cherished moments of their lives there.

The most significant events took place at Sagamore Hill during the seven summers it served as Theodore Roosevelt's Summer White House, from 1902 until 1908. During that time, Roosevelt used his home to host luminaries from around the country and around the world.

Theodore Roosevelt died at Sagamore Hill on January 6, 1919 when he was sixty years old. Ted Roosevelt, eldest son of the president, hoped eventually to take over the house and to raise his family in it. However his mother Edith wanted to remain in the old house, and she gave Ted a few acres of land on which to build a new one (eventually known as Old Orchard house). Despite extensive travels in her later years, Edith always came back to the old house at Sagamore Hill. She died there in September 1948 at the age of eighty-seven.

Named after the Indian chief Sagamore Mohannis, Sagamore Hill stands atop Cove Neck on 95 acres of forest, tidal salt marsh, and bay beach; land which was purchased in 1880 for $10,000 down and a 20-year, $20,000 mortgage. The house itself is a sprawling 23 room, two-floored, Victorian styled building, with a massive 30 x 40 grand room known as the North Room where Roosevelt kept his trophies, books, paintings, sculptures, library, and dozens of priceless artifacts given to him by foreign dignitaries.

The first floor contains the large center hall, library, dining room, kitchen, and drawing room. The house is surrounded by a spacious raised porch shaded by an unmistakable green awning. The second floor contains the bedrooms, nursery, guest rooms, and a turn of the century water closet with a uniquely large porcelain tub.

After Edith Roosevelt passed away in 1948, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association acquired the home in 1950 and undertook a significant restoration, adding a porch, which the National Park Service recently removed. In 2015, hundreds of specialists restored and refurbished the interior while ensuring the exterior was reinforced and ready to stand for decades. From repairing the roof, gutters and woodwork and installing a new LED lighting system to replacing all 98 windows and reapplying period-specific wallpaper, the project brought the home up to date, while making sure that guests only see what Theodore Roosevelt saw. Since acquiring the home in 1963, this project was the Park Service's first true deep dive into the largest presidential home it oversees, which gave those working there a greater appreciation of the Oyster Bay mansion's unique character.


“History & Culture.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/sahi/learn/historyculture/index.htm

“Sagamore Hill - Home of Theodore Roosevelt - Roosevelt Almanac.” The Man in the Arena - April 23, 1910 - Theodore Roosevelt Speeches- Roosevelt Almanac, 1 Mar. 2010, www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsahi.html

Sisson, Patrick. “Magnificent $10M Restoration of Teddy Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill Home Exemplifies Peak Taxidermy.” Curbed, Curbed, 14 July 2015, www.curbed.com/2015/7/14/9940818/sagamore-hill-reopens-theodore-teddy-roosevelt-historic-home