April 2022

History Matters

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Letter from the Director

—————-

Dear Friends,
—–
To get better acquainted with the East Hampton Historical Society, I have been rereading Imagining the Past: East Hampton Histories by Tim Breen. While there are many great histories of East Hampton by Jeannette Rattray, Nancy Hyden Woodward, and Averill Geus (just to name a few), Professor Breen’s book is my favorite. I like that it’s not just a history; it’s about history making. As the current Executive Director of the Historical Society, I appreciate learning how my predecessors like Ralph Carpentier and David Swickard grappled with sustaining and professionalizing the organization while preserving and interpreting our many historic sites and collections.
———
Through their interviews in the book, I’ve enjoyed getting to know East Hampton history practitioners from decades ago like Carleton Kelsey, who was Town Historian and Amagansett Librarian, Trevor Kelsall, the East Hampton Village Historian, and Tom and Cathy Lester, who served as Town Supervisor. I never had a chance to meet them, but as Professor Breen exclaims, they illustrate how “a lot of people in East Hampton take their history very seriously.”
———
Reading the book today, I am struck by how many of the same tensions in our present community mirror what was happening forty years ago when Tim Breen was hired as Resident Humanist by the East Hampton Historical Society. Professor Breen recounts debates about residential development, environmental sustainability, fishing rights, and what defines a local that sound like they could have come directly from a Town Board meeting or letter to the editor in 2022.
———
Professor Breen’s perspective on East Hampton is a bit depressing. Even now – when I spoke to him by phone recently – he emphasized “competing pasts” that were “embattled” in East Hampton. In his book, he laments that in East Hampton – like other communities across America – we perceive there is a past worth preserving, but we aren’t certain what that history is. We are a “self-consciously historic community” that is not sure what it means to live with our own history. Professor Breen couldn’t foresee resolving these issues.
———
I’m far more optimistic about how our community uses the past. Although we may never all agree on what the past means, in the short time I’ve worked at the Historical Society, I’ve been very impressed with the passion and cooperation among the many historical organizations in East Hampton. Instead of needing to claim sole authority over the past, we are far more interested in promoting a participatory historical culture. With that goal in mind, I hope you’ll consider participating at the Historical Society. If you’re interested in volunteering, we could definitely use your help managing our collections, interpreting our sites, and strengthening our relationships with the East Hampton community.
———
Have you read a terrific book about East Hampton that’s shaped how you think about our community’s past? If so, please share it with us on Facebook and Instagram.
———
Sincerely,
Steve
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Volunteer Spotlight

Randy Wallace

—–

For 35 years, Randy Wallace would escape the City to East Hampton on the weekends. After he retired in September 2001, he bought a house and moved here full-time. What has made him stay all these years is the pace of the area, and although he is not a beach person at all, he loves all his volunteer “jobs” and is the main reason why he remains here.
—–
He started volunteering at the Historical Society about 13 years ago, helping with answering the phones and doing whatever odds-and-ends Richard Barons, the previous Executive Director, needed him to do. Randy continues to assist once per week. He continues volunteering because he loves the people and the history, which gives him a sense of purpose. When asked what his favorite location is between the Moran Studio, Mulford Farm, and the Marine Museum he said, “Moran Studio because it is so eccentric and esoteric in taste.”
—–
Randy also volunteers at the Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) as an office volunteer and a member of their Annual Dog Walk Committee. He said, “I love how helpful and loving the organization is.” Randy especially loves his five dogs including Louie, 11 years old, Chachacha, age 10, Peter, age 9, Jack, age 7, and Sweet Pea, who is 6. Almost all of his dogs were adopted from ARF.
—–
When he isn’t volunteering, Randy likes to go for walks with his dogs around his neighborhood. When asked what he does for fun, his response was “Volunteering is what I do for fun!!” 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We’re looking for Volunteer Interpreters!

———————
Are you passionate about East Hampton history? If so, please join us as a Volunteer Interpreter at the East Hampton Historical Society and share the history of our museums and historic sites. We really need your help this year to open and present our museums safely and effectively!
—–
The responsibilities of our Volunteer Interpreters include greeting the public, providing tours and information to visitors, and encouraging our community to engage with the past. Whatever your historical interest, we have a museum that’s perfect for you, including –
  • Clinton Academy
  • Marine Museum
  • Mulford Farmstead
  • Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran Home & Studio
—–
Our interpreters typically volunteer one or two days per week from May through September. However, more flexible schedules are also available. To participate, please join us at our upcoming Educator Training Workshops on April 29 (at the Marine Museum), May 5 (at the Moran Studio), and/or May 6 (at Mulford Farm).
—–
To apply or receive more information, please email info@easthamptonhistory.org or call 631.324.6850 x3.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Curator’s Corner

—–

Recently, I had the opportunity to examine a couple of boxes in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection that contain “archeological” artifacts associated with Clinton Academy. According to Dennis Fabiszak and Andrea Meyer at Library, there is nothing documenting where or when the items were excavated or how they arrived at the Long Island Collection. Seemingly random pottery fragments, bones, nails, and glass shards have been piled into small aluminum pie tins – like in the photo – and kept in paper bags, which have “Clinton Academy” written on them. Without any archeological context, the collection is essentially worthless to historians and other scholars.
—–
Still, I’m most intrigued by the nails, which appear to date from the 18th or 19th century. Might they have a connection to when Clinton Academy was built in 1784, enlarged in the 1880s, or restored in 1920? Prior to the 1790s when machine-made options became available, nails were handwrought often by a local blacksmith. Shortly before the construction of Clinton Academy, there were three blacksmiths living in East Hampton: William Hedges, age 40, Jeremiah Sherrill, Jr., age 23, and David Talmage, age 37. Their names, occupation, and ages were included among the “Signers of the Loyalty Oath” in 1778.
—–
Since the Library also houses artifacts from archeology projects led by Mel King and “Dutch” Miller in the 1970s, Dennis, Andrea, and I wondered if they might have been responsible for the Clinton Academy collection, too. We quickly realized this was very unlikely because – even though they weren’t professionally-trained archeologists – Mr. King and Ms. Miller were members of the New York State Archeological Association and documented their work.
—–
I’ve come across only one reference to an excavation at Clinton Academy. It appears in an East Hampton Star article from 1952 when Frank Eldredge said, “that in excavating for a small cellar to Clinton Academy during its remodeling, they came across foundations of an early house…” A “Contractor Eldredge” was responsible for the reconstruction of Clinton Academy in 1919-20, and my hunch is that the Library’s Clinton Academy artifacts were originally accumulated during Eldredge’s cellar excavation and exterior work. According to an article in the Southampton Press from October 1919, Eldredge had removed “the main hall, waiting room, and dressing rooms” of Clinton Hall and “all that remains standing is the internal structure of old Clinton Academy with its hewn timbers and beams exposed to view.” A month later, the Star reported that Eldredge was rapidly completing the alterations using handwrought nails made by Frank Harris, a Sag Harbor blacksmith, just like the ones that were used in the building’s construction 130 years earlier. Could the handwrought nails in the Library’s “Clinton Academy” collection be early 20th reproductions discarded by a member of Eldredge’s crew? Or are the nails and other items part of the rubble that filled in the foundation of the earlier house that Frank Eldredge mentioned in 1952?
—–
If you have any leads or information about excavation work at Clinton Academy, please email curator@easthamptonhistory.org.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Art returns to Clinton Academy

—–

Groups of artists have exhibited their work at Clinton Academy since the 1880s and when the Historical Society was founded 100 years ago, one of its primary roles was to operate a gallery for East Hampton artists. As part of our Centennial celebration this month, we’re thrilled to host Bonac Then and Now: EH High School Student & Alumni Art Show in collaboration with the East Hampton Arts Council.
—–
The exhibition will be on view at Clinton Academy from May 13 through May 22 with an Artist Reception on May 13 from 5 to 7pm. Check our website for visiting hours.
—–
The exhibit is made possible by Golden Eagle, Village Hardware, One Stop Market, and East Hampton Plumbing and Building Supply.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gift Shop Full of Unique Gifts Online!

————

Check out the great items online!
—–
You can shop online and have your order shipped directly to you or picked up at Clinton Academy.
—–
Use code FLASH for 50% off your order.
—–
Our Visitor Center at Clinton Academy is open Monday – Friday from 10am – 3pm at 151 Main Street, East Hampton.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

East Hampton Historical Societywww.easthamptonhistory.org

————————-

==================================================== 

AAQ / Resource: Ben Krupinski Builder

___________________________________________________________________________