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South Country History

The South Country area is rich with history. Bellport.com wanted to create a place where we could showcase some of the photos and artifacts that tell the story of the South Country area. If you have items that you would like us to consider for display on Bellport.com, please contact us at office@bellport.com.




Historical Walking Tours in Bellport & Brookhaven Hamlet

Price Family History

Bellport Memories

Dorothy Parker In Bellport

Pictures Of Old Bellport






Historical Walking Tours in Bellport & Brookhaven Hamlet

Post Morrow Tour

The Post-Morrow Foundation, the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society and the Village of Bellport have joined together to offer a cell-phone tour of the Bellport-Brookhaven Hamlet area. This tour has been developed to inform and educate local residents and visitors to this area about the historical, rural and cultural character of the hamlet of Brookhaven and the Village of Bellport.

This tour includes stops on open space and agricultural land, as well as historically and culturally significant properties and buildings that reflect the rural and historic character of the Bellport-Brookhaven area. It will include the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society Museum.

Click here for more information.






Price Family History

Bellport History

We received many amazing photos from Forrest and Corvus Meachen. Forrest was the great grandson of Mayor Everett Price. We thank Forrest and Corvus very much for allowing us to display their photos. Here’s what Forrest had to say:

“My name is Forrest Meachen and recently I came into possession of old news articles and photos of my great grandfather, "Mayor Price," who was the first Mayor of your beautiful town. I spent much of my childhood there. My grandfather, "Forrest R Bumstead,” helped to build the firehouse and he participated in a fireman competition. Every time I get to NY, I always make the trip to Bellport, which is usually a wonderful trip down memory lane. I have great memories of watching the parades on Station Rd, and fireworks on the dock.”

Click here to see all of their photos in a slideshow.

 



Bellport Memories
by Richard Weissmann

The following is mostly a memory piece, aided by some old documents, of Bellport Village 30-40 years ago, (Yes, in a bygone century)! It is history, although not of the ancient kind (yet). I have used only the first names of people who were part of my early years in Bellport. If some of my memories are slightly off, I invite readers to correct or fill in the gaps. Or, just add memories of their own from that era.

I was thirty-years old when I first visited Bellport in the 1970’s. I had a summer job as a park ranger with the newly formed Fire Island National Seashore. One day I had to drive the patrol vehicle—a rusting Jeep Grand Cherokee—up the beach to Smith Pt. and then down William Floyd Parkway and Montauk Highway to Brown’s of Bellport for servicing. The garage was where MVP Auto is today, and the showroom was the site of Thos. Cornell Galleries. Brown’s sold Jeeps, AMC’s, and Renaults. The Brown brothers (I think they were twins) were always around to take care of customers. While I waited for the servicing, I went across the street for coffee at the luncheonette which is now The Bellport restaurant. It had a classic lunch counter and a line of booths and was a popular breakfast place.

Afterwards, I walked down Main street and discovered the Sou’wester Bookstore—a cozy place with a relaxed atmosphere that invited lingering. Pat and Kathy were well-read and helpful. They directed me to the Bellport Library which was then housed on Bellport Lane in what is now the Village Hall. The library was tiny and stacked with books around a couple of oak tables and easy chairs. I think it was then that I decided to—one day—live in Bellport.

That didn’t happen until 1984. I may be an interloper by “old” Bellport standards, but enough of a local to observe the changes in those 34-years. And there have been a lot of changes.

When I first came to look at houses I talked to Jeff of Old Purchase Properties. The realty stood, as it does today, on the corner that had formerly been a fish market operated by Willie. Across, on the south-west corner stood the Bellport Deli, looking pretty much like the Village Bistro of today. But, the other corners were very different. Where the group of stores including Papa Nicks and Win Loung restaurant stand today was a Mobil gas station. Adjacent to it was Gristede’s parking lot where Cirillos and CVS are today. The opposite corner houses Bellport Liquor today, but then it was the Village Pharmacy where Barry filled prescriptions and kids played video games.

The Village Hall occupied an office that was once a bank, where Wealth Management is today. Half of the space was taken up by the bank’s old walk-in safe. Across the street was Bellport’s best-known business: Wallen’s IGA market. It was both shopping place and meeting place for residents. Old Mike was usually arranging the produce, while his son Bob handled the daily chore of management—and often had a new joke from his endless supply. No one used a credit card. Most locals ran a tab to pay up at month’s end. It was the new age of Apple IIc computers, but Wallen’s cash register still had a hand crank. Oh, and a lot of regulars used the back door through the stock room to enter or leave.

Another favorite was the Variety Mart, (where the General Store is today). Carol sold everything, from a spool of thread or a fly-swatter to a frisbee or a set of lace curtains. Next to it was the stationery store, presided over by the inscrutable Max. He mainly sold newspapers, cigarettes, and lottery tickets, though school supplies and a candy counter gathered dust nearby.

Bellport has always been a summer destination with rentals available. The Great South Bay Inn, just east of Brown’s Jeep advertised rooms with a fireplace and breakfast included for $37.50-per night in 1986. Next door was the historic Temperance Hall, which also housed an art gallery specializing in glass works, sculpture and wood carvings. Rentals were also handled by Wallace Intemann Real Estate, which occupied the Eileen Green building then.

There weren’t as many restaurants in the village then. Besides the luncheonette, there was The Old Inlet Inn in the historic building that is now Avino’s. On the Lane was the Chowder House where people vied for tables on the porch just as they do today at Porters.

Next door to the Chowder House was the barbershop with the barber pole out front advertising Jimmy’s haircuts for men and boys. A few doors away stood another favorite gathering place for locals: Nadeau’s Hardware. Artie sold everything useful from a 10/24 x 3” bolt to a wheelbarrow or a chain saw. He was a Maine man and once closed shop, moved to Maine, then came back and opened shop again. Dwight did the same thing when he moved his Village Silversmith to New Mexico, but he moved back and is still with us today.
Penguin’s Pantry was another popular shop. It was a gourmet food store that occupied the spot where Café Castello is today. Nancy sold all types of imported goodies, and, for a time, also fresh cheeses sliced to order. You could walk from her store into the alley where there was an art supply shop—Art in the Alley—run by Frank, as well as a tiny toy store: Toys in the Alley, which kept the kids entertained.
There were at least two travel agencies in the village. Josette, who was originally from France, ran Bayberry Travel which specialized in European vacations and skiing in the Alps. A German gentleman owned Bellport Travel, located next to where the Rooster Café is today. In 1986 he advertised a 25-day, all inclusive tour of China for $4800.

The Brookhaven Country Florist was in the store that now houses Bellport Jewelers. Next to it was a body shop with a garage and parking lot behind the building. There was also a glazier back there in a separate building.

A couple of women’s clothing stores stood on opposite ends of the village. Virginia ran Plain and Fancy in the building across from the Chowder House, while Poppy Boutique drew customers from Main Street where Tola is today. Briefly, there was a quality men’s store (I’ve forgotten the name) on Main Street just west of the Village Bistro. I think it was where The Red Bench is today.

At least one antique store was on Main Street: Annis and Annis Antiques run by Deanna sold high end furnishings. Across the street, Perennial Interiors of Boston dealt in designs for the home.
Today’s Bellport Frame shop housed New Visions Unisex Hairdesigners; a salon run by Joyce. Where Café Di Palma is today was Bellport Liquors, with its one step up, where owner, Ron, sometimes arrived on his Harley. Oh, and somewhere in that group of stores was Port Confectionery, I don’t remember the exact location.

I also don’t remember what was in the little shop that is now Carla Marla ice cream parlor. I know it was a candy store for a while, but I don’t think that was until the 1990’s. It’s Only Natural was there in the 80’s, but next to it was a bank before the Beacon Building was constructed in the 90’s.

In the late 80’s, the Bellport Kitchen—later shortened to BK—grew wider when the sidewalk porch from a popular Manhattan restaurant—Daley’s Dandelion on 3rd Ave—was added on. Later it became simply: The Bellport.

So, I offer this up as a little slice of history of our remarkable village as it was more than three-decades ago. If I’ve made mistakes or left anything out, please feel free to correct the record.

 



Dorothy Parker In Bellport
by Richard Weissmann

Richard WeissmannWe recently received the below article from Bellport resident, Richard Weissmann about Dorothy Parker and the Wyandotte Hotel.








Twenty-six years ago I bought a piece of vacant property on Wyandotte Lane and built a house. Soon afterwards, I found out that the property used to be part of the site of a summer resort which existed in Bellport from the 19th to the mid-twentieth century. It was known as the Wyandotte Hotel and included a rambling hotel building, several cottages, tennis courts, a boat dock, and a sweeping lawn stretching down to the bay at what is now the end of Brewster Lane. This interested me as a lover of history. But as a writer, I was even more intrigued by some famous names that were connected to the old hotel: most significantly, Dorothy Parker.

The acerbic Ms. Parker, whose rapier (and sometimes meat cleaver) wit is one of the most often quoted women of the 20th-century, even by people who may not recognize the name of the long-time "New Yorker" writer and unofficial leader of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table literary group. Dorothy lived from 1893 to 1962 and left us with such famous observations as:

"Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses."

"You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think."

"Brevity is the soul of lingerie."

"She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B."

"I don’t care what they say about me, as long as it isn’t true."

Besides being known for her wit and outrageous comments (she once said: “If all the young ladies who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, no one would be surprised,”) Dorothy was also known as a two-fisted drinker. This fact led me to believe that she must have frequented the Wyandotte Hotel during her flapper days when it was a speakeasy. So, I was surprised to find out, as I recently read her biography, that she actually spent her childhood summers here and even had her twelfth birthday out on the lawn with 15-friends in attendance. This would have been the summer of 1905 when girls still dressed in white Victorian dresses and men wore straw boaters. Also, that summer her older sister became engaged and later married a Bellporter named George Droste. But I haven’t found any record of where the Droste family lived.

Although she was an intellectual powerhouse, Dorothy Parker was never educated beyond a few years in school. The woman who wrote drama and book reviews for "Vanity Fair" and the "New Yorker", and who once said of a book she was reviewing, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly, it should be thrown with great force,” got her early education reading away the summer days on the porch of the Wyandotte Hotel. I like to think that there was something about the bucolic setting of the hotel on Bellport Bay that inspired the nascent writer in young Dorothy.

Of course, she did comment to her father in letters written home to New York that Bellport was “terribly hot” in the summer of 1906 and that the older girls complained that there were “hardly any fellows here.” But there was daily swimming and sailing on the bay and evening games of croquet on the lawn. She even got to ride in one of the new “motorcars” that were just beginning to be a novelty.

Later on, the young woman who “went to bed at 8:30 to the sound of lapping waves,” would develop into the cynical wit who would write a poem many of us remember from high school English:


Resume
Razors pain you; rivers are damp
Acids stain you; and drugs cause cramp
Guns aren’t lawful; nooses give
Gas smells awful; you might as well live.


Dorothy Parker will be forever linked to Manhattan, where she lived most of her life in hotels so she never had to worry about such mundane things as housekeeping or doing laundry. But, for at least a couple of innocent years, she lived right here in my front yard.

Somehow, I don’t think that the comment she wanted inscribed on her tombstone can ever be applied to Bellport:

“Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment”


*I would like to hear from any readers who have additional information or comments about the Wyandotte Hotel.

 


"Dorothy Parker In Bellport" Comments...



7/10/2012, Janet Gardner Gemignani wrote...

I lived in Bellport from 1956 to 1968. In 1962 when I was 12, I had problems with my knees and the doctor prescribed bicycle riding every day. My bicycle route included riding down Academy Lane, then a swing around the Yacht Club (you could even drive around it then),cycling up Browns Lane and then I cut through the grounds of the Wyandotte Hotel which was deserted. I remember it as a creepy, dank, overgrown, run down place.

 



3/4/2010, Robbie Bedell wrote...

Thank You for your story Rich. It brings back many memories for me. I grew up in the house my father (William Bedell) built at 12 Pearl St. in 1955 (on the corner of Browns Lane). When I was young (late 50s, early 60s) I was told that Dorothy Parker also spent time in the house across the street from us which was later to become the Unitarian Church. The Wyandotte Hotel buildings were all still standing then, but vacant, and my friends and I use to get in all sorts of trouble going into the old structures. To us they were a bit scary, large and filled with ghosts. I remember we went into one room and it was filled with Gideon bibles!

 



1
/11/2010, Mary McCarthy-D'Angelis wrote...

Thanks Rich for that nice story. My parents Mary and Joe McCarthy (the writer - not the Senator or baseball manager) summered at the Wyandotte after the war. My older siblings remember it well. Dorothy Parker is still one of my favorite writers - especially her short stories.




12
/8/2009, Chris Taylor wrote...

Thanks, Rich, for a well written summary on local history, which I found both interesting and informative- hope you find out more!

 


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Pictures Of Old Bellport
from Charles Marvin Finn

I grew up in Bellport. During World War II, my Mother, Virginia Finn, and I lived with my Grandmother, Lillian Marvin, at 4 Browns Lane. After the War, my Father Al went to work at the Lab and we lived at 178 South Country Road. This house was owned by the family until after my Fathers death in the late 1990's.

Last week, a friend from Bellport High, Richard Beyer, sent me six pictures from your website, one of which is a painting by Jody Love depicting craft sailing on a frozen Bay. I have a similar painting hanging in my home here in California. The caption refers to the craft as "iceboats."

When I was growing up, what we called iceboats were long narrow craft with three runners hanging down, one in front and one on either side (you have a picture of such iceboats also on the website).

What is shown in the picture Richard sent me are what we called scooters -- short for South Bay scooters -- which were designed differently. Their hull was oval and runners were attached to the hull's bottom.

The difference between these craft was important. After the Bay froze, patches of open water sometimes appeared. If a true iceboat hit one of these patches the front runner went down in the water and that was the end of the sail. If a scooter hit such a patch, a skillful captain could sail across it emerging unscathed at the far side. To the best of my knowledge scooters were indigenous to Great South Bay.

Two unrelated notes:

During World War II citizens were encouraged to have what were called Victory Gardens. The crops grown on them freed up vegetables to feed the fighting soldiers and sailors. My grandmother rented land on the south side of her property from the Catholic church for her Victory Garden. It was lovingly tended by The Rev. Elliot Travalee, pastor of the AME church.

Jody Love's husband, Dr. Robert Love, and my Father often drove together to the Medical Department at the Lab where Bob Love was in charge of industrial medicine and my Dad was administrator. That connection is how I got my painting of scooters on the Bay by Jody Love.

Our former home was sold some years ago, and due to a disability I am unable to travel to Bellport again. But my memories are very fond. And I write this when I'm sure there's ice on the Bay once again.

Sincerely,

Charles Marvin Finn
Clayton, CA