By: LINDA LEUZZI
Supporters of the Greater Patchogue Historical Society swarmed into the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts Wednesday night, 175 of them, to raise their glasses to an organization bent on illuminating the village’s significant history and to see their new, copyrighted map.
The night was not without its overflow of good will.
Proclamations were presented by officials, but also vice versa. Suffolk County Legis. Rob Calarco, who supported the map endeavor with a $10,000 grant from the Suffolk County Hotel/Motel tax, was honored with a framed rendering. Calarco has supported GPHS with two $10,000 grants, one in 2013 and one this year.
“When the state gave us authorization to expand [recipients] of the tax, they required that a percentage goes for historic purposes, a portion goes to art and theatre,” he told the Advance. “The historical society has worked on so many things and on a shoestring budget. I think the historic fight that started everything was saving the Carnegie Library. Now you can look at history sites throughout time.”
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine got one, too. He remembered coming to Swezey’s Department Store when he was 3, he said, and attended the Rialto Theatre on South Ocean Avenue, where he saw his first movie. “Patchogue has always been the hub of Suffolk County,” he said. “This will hang in the lobby of Town Hall because it will be before the whole town of Brookhaven.” Other recipients included Lauren Nichols, director of the Patchogue-Medford Library, which approved GPHS’s segue from meeting in its conference room to its own lower-floor presence at the renovated Carnegie when it opens, enabling future exhibitions. And Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director David Kennedy was gifted as well.
The Long Island Advance also received one for our stories.
Mayor Paul Pontieri made the longest speech. Besides relating that Patchogue was a port of entry in colonial times, he grew up two blocks from village hall, he said. His father ran Johnnie’s Luncheonette on South Ocean Avenue, and he reminisced about how he and a friend swiped movie preview posters from the Rialto Theatre and then hid them in coloring books in the friend’s attic. They were resurrected recently. “It was ‘Davy Crockett,’ ‘Moby Dick,’ ‘Johnny Tremain,’ all iconic films,” he said. His daughter suggested selling them on eBay. Nope, he said.
“You can sell my childhood when I’m gone; it’s the history,” he said.
After his poignant speech, the historical society upped the ante. It didn’t render Pontieri speechless, but it came close.
Besides the map, Pontieri was presented with a framed photo of his grandfather Frank Romeo in shirt and tie, overseeing the building of Medford Avenue when he owned Romeo and Lotito Concrete.
The vinyl 6-by-4 color map highlights 80 historical buildings and sites starting in 1840. Some are still standing, others are not, but all are marked with historical explanations.
GPHS vice president Steve Lucas commented that no local artist specialized in their map vision, who could paint buildings, homes and other historic icons in small detail, so they tapped Bart Arnold from Lenox, Mass., who took the ferry from Bridgeport and walked the village doing mockup drawings with Lucas, noting the stops they wanted. President Jim Roselle was the graphic artist; his wife Alyson Roselle produced the narrative captions. The vinyl map, Lucas said, cost $6,000 in total to create and will be on display at street fairs.
Lucas said they raised about $2,500 from the evening. More events would be coming.
“Our main fundraiser has been at the Clare Rose Playhouse and we’d pick a play,” he said. “The dress rehearsal was always given to us as a lure and we’d use it for our scholarship program. We did it for 10 years and are grateful to them, but we decided to change direction this year and have it right in the village. This is our first big-time fundraiser.”
Food and drink were donated by local businesses including That Meetball Place, Roast Coffee & Tea Trading Co., Bobbique, BrickHouse Brewery, The Cheese Patch, Public House 49, The Village Idiot Sports Pub, and Harbor Crab Co.
A Historical Map & Guide of Patchogue, a handy go-to foldout for anyone who wants to spend a few mornings or afternoons stopping at each location, was handed out and is available in the Greater Chamber of Commerce office, the Patchogue-Medford Library and various restaurants. The map spans west from River Avenue to Roe Avenue in East Patchogue, south to the waterfront, and north just past Sunrise Highway.