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07/18/18 6:00am
07/18/2018 6:00 AM

The Southold Historical Society is presenting “Clink! A Toast to Long Island Wine,” a visual essay exhibition of the history of wine on Long Island.

The historical society took a unique crowdsourcing approach to curate the exhibit. Members of the community and the wine industry were asked to donate or loan artifacts that showcased the beginnings and growth of North Fork vineyards. READ

09/21/14 8:00am
09/21/2014 8:00 AM
Built in 1900 for Joseph and Ella Boldry Hallock, the Ann Currie-Bell House is Southold Historical Society's centerpiece. At left is the museum complex's Pine Neck Barn, a 1700s English-style structure built with hand-hewn beams. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Built in 1900 for Joseph and Ella Boldry Hallock, the Ann Currie-Bell House is Southold Historical Society’s centerpiece. At left is the museum complex’s Pine Neck Barn, a 1700s English-style structure built with hand-hewn beams. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Founded in 1960, the Southold Historical Society owns more than a dozen buildings dating from 1750 to the turn of the 20th century, most of which sit at the intersection of Main Road and Maple Lane. The organization has its headquarters in the 19th-century Henry W. Prince building in downtown Southold and also operates a nautical museum at Horton Point Lighthouse.  (more…)

09/09/14 8:00am
09/09/2014 8:00 AM
(Credit: southoldhistoricalsociety.org)

(Credit: southoldhistoricalsociety.org)

Enough with the baloney.

That could have very well been the title of the Southold Historical Society’s latest nonfiction publication, called A World Unto Itself: The Remarkable History of Plum Island, New York.

The 388-page tome is being billed as “the definitive history” of the island off Orient Point.


08/23/14 6:00am
08/23/2014 6:00 AM
"S.S. Rendezvous and Race" by Mattituck artist Pat Feiler.

“S.S. Rendezvous and Race” by Mattituck artist Pat Feiler.

• A concert titled ‘Craigslistlieder and Other Love Songs’ will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at Poquatuck Hall in Orient.

Pianist Steven Blier will be joined by soprano Chelsea Morris, mezzo soprano Lauren Eberwein, tenor William Goforth and bass Theo Hoffman. (more…)

05/30/14 9:00am
05/30/2014 9:00 AM
The art work of Mac Titmus will be on display at the Southold Historical Society.

The art work of Mac Titmus will be on display at the Southold Historical Society.

“A Passion for Colour,” an exhibit of original art by Mac Titmus and Christopher Alexander, will be on display June 3 to 14 at Southold Historical Society’s Cosden-Price Gallery in the Reichert Family Center on Main Road. A reception will be held Friday, June 6, from 5 to 7 p.m.  (more…)

04/26/14 5:00am
04/26/2014 5:00 AM
'Village Scene by Whitney M. Hubbard. (Credit: Southold Historical Society)

‘Village Scene by Whitney M. Hubbard. (Credit: Southold Historical Society)

Southold Historical Society will host its annual art auction Saturday, April 26, at Castello di Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue. A preview will begin at 6 p.m., followed by bidding at 7.

Current local artists whose work will be offered include John Crimmins, Laura Westlake, Dominick DiLorenzo, Jada Rowland, Lee Cleary and Barbara Zegarek. Local artists from the past include Caroline M. Bell, Whitney M. Hubbard, Albert Latham, Otto J. Kurth and Franklin G. Brooks.  (more…)

08/22/13 12:00pm
08/22/2013 12:00 PM

MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY COURTESY PHOTO | A mammoth skull on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The Southold Historical Society is disputing the federal government’s claim that woolly mammoth bones were once discovered on Plum Island.

The finding was mentioned in one sentence of the 500-page Final Environmental Impact Statement for the island, released this past October by the General Services Administration.

When questioned by a reporter about the discovery, a GSA spokesperson cited an 1879 article published in The Long Islander newspaper of Huntington as the basis for the claim. The article announced the discovery of a woolly mammoth skull on the island, indicating that it could contain other prehistoric remains dating as far back as the Paleo-Indian era.

But Southold Historical Society director Geoffrey Fleming said several references in the article lead his organization to believe the discovery was made on Plum Island, Mass.

“As soon as we read the [Long Islander] article we realized it wasn’t from here,” he said. “It was very clear from the locations being discussed, like the life saving station, which never existed on Plum Island [New York].”

Mr. Fleming also said a reference to “Brothers Beach” and a captain named in the article further indicate that the article was about the island in Massachusetts, though the piece does not specifically mention the state in which the discovery was made.

The historical society is currently researching Plum Island for a book it plans to release later this year.

Environmental groups pushing for the preservation of Plum Island have said the FEIS is lacking critical information required to assess various potential impacts associated with the property’s anticipated sale, and they’ve called for additional studies.

“Regardless of whether there are woolly mammoth bones on Plum Island you would expect the federal government would want to know what is out there in terms of archeology and biology,” Randy Parsons, policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy of Long Island, told the Suffolk Times earlier this month. “It points to a weakness in the way the island is run by the federal government.”

New York senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop have also joined in pointing out flaws in the environmental study.

The three elected officials outlined eight areas in need of additional study in a letter sent to the GSA last Friday. Soil and groundwater contamination, an inventory of solid waste sites and an assessment of the island’s existing sewage treatment structure were all examples listed in the letter.

“In order to best plan for its future and to prevent a rush to mistakenly move it to an unwise and unwarranted sale, we need a top-to-bottom environmental review of Plum Island, especially in light of the scientific research conducted at Plum Island,” Mr. Schumer said in a prepared statement.

Despite the “outstanding issues” detailed in the letter, the GSA plans to move forward with the sale without any additional testing, according to GSA public affairs officer Patrick Sclafani, who added that a note may still be added to correct the location of the mammoth bone discovery.

“The federal government is required by law to sell Plum Island,” reads a prepared statement from the GSA. “An Environmental Impact Statement prepared over a two-year time frame takes into account hundreds of comments from the public and analyzes the potential impacts of the sale of Plum Island on human health and the environment.GSA and DHS will continue to work closely with EPA, congressional and local officials to ensure all environmental concerns are reviewed and considered.” Once the property is sold, state and local regulatory agencies will have the authority to conduct additional reviews of the island, according to the statement.

The 840-acre island is home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which is expected to be shut down and replaced by a new $1 billion animal disease research facility in Manhattan, Kan. Should the lab close, the GSA hopes to sell the property to a private developer for possible construction of up to 500 homes, according to the FEIS.

Since the island is federally owned, it is not currently subject to local zoning regulations. If it were sold, Southold Town would have jurisdiction over the property, which has prompted local officials to create new zoning categories for the island. The zoning is a precautionary measure aimed at preventing commercial development if the island is sold. It proposes two separate zones reflecting current uses as a research center and considerable open space.

The Southold Town Board is expected vote on the proposed zoning during its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 27.

[email protected] 

04/06/13 12:00pm
04/06/2013 12:00 PM

Ever hear of the Wickham ax murders? If so, chances are it was through a North Fork native, not a textbook.

The rarely told mid-19th-century tale concerns James Wickham, a Cutchogue farmer whose family-owned land is still in operation on Main Road, and his wife, Frances, who were killed in their bedroom by a disgruntled former employee.

Eventually, this story faded into local myth, passed on around campfires and in bedtime stories.

Now, for the first time, the real story, supported by transcripts from one of the North Fork’s most historic trials, is available in paperback.

Southold Historical Society director Geoffrey Fleming and collections manager Amy Folk hope to preserve the tale for future generations in their latest book, “Murder on Long Island: A Nineteenth-Century Tale of Tragedy & Revenge.”

The authors said they believe the book is important because it provides an accurate account of a truly gruesome event.

“People would say ‘No one will ever forget this crime’ — and yet they did,” Ms. Folk said. “Once the last survivor goes, it’s gone.”

According to book, in 1854 Mr. Wickham got into an argument with one of his workers, Nicholas Behan, who was harassing a housemaid who refused to marry him. Several days after his dismissal, Mr. Behan sneaked back into the house and used an ax to kill the Wickhams. After he fled to a nearby swamp, he was captured, tried and convicted of the murders. On Dec. 15, 1854, Behan became the third-to-last person to be hanged in Suffolk County.

Nearly 40,000 people watched.

“It was an enormous story in its day,” Mr. Fleming said. “It was reported as far away as Ohio when it happened. It was so important that the attorney general of the state of New York came to Riverhead to try the case personally.”

The two local historians said they decided to start their research about a year ago, around the same time they began work on a book about the history of Plum Island, which is due out this spring.

The Southold Historical Society also plans to hold a related exhibit featuring the ax used in the Wichkam murders, Mr. Fleming said. The weapon is currently in the collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead.

Mr. Fleming said he and Ms. Folk decided to step away from their Plum Island book temporarily to focus on the Wickham family’s story because they felt a sense of urgency about preserving the local tale. Although he was initially concerned about finding information for the book, Mr. Fleming said he was pleasantly surprised to locate transcripts related to the Behan trial in Riverhead, such as the inquest and testimony from some of the witnesses, that gave the story an “original flavor.”

The transcripts provide a clearer picture of how the crime unfolded, as opposed to newspaper accounts, Ms. Folk said.

“What we’ve found,” she said, “particularly in modern [newspapers], was the story has gotten more and more distorted over time.”

Mr. Fleming said the verbatim records also allow the book to “pull in all of the personalities together.”

One of his favorite characters is Spicer Dayton, an attorney from Riverhead who represented Mr. Behan.

Mr. Fleming described Mr. Dayton as a stereotypical lawyer who didn’t graduate first in his class and never had a stellar career. Although he worked hard and won some cases, it appears his career never took off.

“He obviously picks up this case thinking ‘If I can get them off, I’ll become famous and I’ll become rich,’ ” Mr. Fleming said. “Of course, he loses, so his career continues to go nowhere.”

Mr. Fleming said he believes the book’s foreword — written by Joseph S. Wickham, a descendant of James Wickham’s brother, William, who was the district attorney of Suffolk County when the murders took place — explains it all in a nutshell: “It is a story about a humane couple named James and Frances Wickham, who made a courageous decision to protect a young woman from a bully and ended up paying the ultimate price.”

“It’s a great tale,” Mr. Fleming said. “It’s got blood and gore, and then, at the end, the bad guy gets hanged.”

The book, published March 27 by The History Press, is available at the Southold Historical Society’s gift shop and online through Amazon.com.

[email protected]