HISTORY OF HALLOCKVILLE
THE MUSEUM FARM, THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND THE SURROUNDING LAND INCLUDING HALLOCK STATE PARK PRESERVE
By Richard Wines
Revised – July 23, 2008
Hallockville, the KeySpan Property and Jamesport State Park
The story of Hallockville includes Native Americans, Puritans, Polish immigrants and many others who have touched this land. It includes the men and women who tilled the soil, fished off its shores and lived off its bounty – and those who attempted to develop it. They all had a vision for the future – whether it was of providing rich farms for their descendents or inexpensive nuclear power for the region. And, whatever their vision for the land, they left behind visible evidence of their presence, ranging from prehistoric artifacts and historic farm buildings to the detritus of modern industrial operations. What follows is their story.
In the late 20th century, the approximately 520 acres in the northeast corner of Riverhead Town and a small portion of adjacent Southold Town came to be known as the “KeySpan Property.” It included about 300 acres of farmland, 200 acres of woodland ( mostly old fields and second-growth forest) and over 5,000 feet of shorefront on Long Island Sound, backed by high bluffs of sand and clay. Some parts of this area were highly disturbed by recent activities, but it also included the pristine Hallock Pond and large areas of wooded and semi-wooded wildlife habitat. In the first decade of the 21st century, this became the site of a remarkable preservation story that created Hallock State Park Preserve and permanently prevented development on the adjacent farmland. The area referred to in the 19th century as “Hallockville” because of the presence of so many Hallock families is approximately the same as the 20th century “KeySpan” property. Consequently, we can treat the histories of both as parts of a single narrative.
Pre-history and Native Americans
The land itself was largely shaped during the Wisconsin glacial period. When the glaciers that once covered northern North America finally receded about 15,000 years ago, they left behind massive terminal moraines. The high bluffs along the Sound, peaking at 112 feet, are composed of huge boulders, sand and clay bulldozed by the glacier from Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Sound shore is where the glacier stopped on its final advance – what geologists call a terminal moraine. Streams running off the glacier deposited material in an “outwash plain” that gradually slopes southward towards Great Peconic Bay. The layers of sand and clay deposited by that glacier are the sources of the rich soils that made Long Island such a productive agricultural region.
Long before the Hallocks or other Puritan settlers came into the region, Native Americans occupied what is now the KeySpan property. About 1975 the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) commissioned anthropologists John F. Vetter and Bert Salwen to undertake an “Archaeological Reconnaissance” as part of the environmental impact study in preparation for building nuclear power plants planned for the site. Vetter and Salwen conducted subsurface tests on the southwest side of Hallock Pond and found a variety of “aboriginal artifacts” including knives, scrapers, projectile points, hammerstones and grinding stones. Based on their limited excavations, the archaeologists determined that the site “represents a series of Late Archaic and Transitional occupations dating back to at least 1500 B.C.” They concluded that the area near the pond was “a rich archaeological resource” and that its preservation was “extremely important.” They even recommended nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Vetter and Salwen also identified another site, covering about 15 acres running along the eastern boundary of the property halfway between Sound Avenue and the shoreline of Long Island Sound. On or near the surface they found numerous artifacts “suggesting one or more Late Archaic occupations.” Irving Downs, who farmed near that area until the 1960’s, had an extensive collection of arrowheads and other aboriginal artifacts he picked up there, again confirming the intensity of Native American occupation. In their report, Vetter and Salwen also recommend that this part of the property not be disturbed.
The 17th and 18th Century: Puritan Settlers
The entire KeySpan property was part of the Town of Southold, which stretched all the way west to Wading River, until Riverhead was finally set off as a separate town in 1792. Originally, the area was common land belonging to all of the citizens of Southold, who were mostly part of the large-scale 1630s Puritan exodus from England. In 1661, however, the freeholders met in a town meeting and decided to divide the area called “Aquebogue” into forty lots running from “sea to sea” – i.e., from Long Island Sound on the north to Great Peconic Bay on the south. This “First Aquebogue Division” covered the area starting at the “Canoe Place” at the head of Mattituck Inlet and running west almost to Union Avenue. The KeySpan property includes parts of nine allotments, each of which was 40 rods (660 feet) wide.
The Hallockville Museum Farm’s 28 acres are located on allotments originally granted to John Sweasy (the Homestead farm) and Barnabas Wines (the Cichanowicz farm). William Hallock received two allotments just to the east of the current Riverhead-Southold border. Running west from there across the KeySpan parcel, lots were granted to Edward Petty, John Swezey, Barnabas Wines, Barnabas Horton and the “Widow” (Margaret) Cooper. Grants were distributed according to wealth, with the richer inhabitants getting more lots. Except for Barnabas Wines, who received only one and John Swezey who received four, each of these individuals received two lots apiece. All of these men and women were from the “first families” of Southold and most have streets named for them somewhere on the North Fork.
The borders dividing the allotments were known as “eleven o’clock lines,” supposedly because of the direction of the sun’s shadows at that time of the day. More likely this was a surveyor’s term for a line that was 30 degrees west of magnetic north – or at the 11-oclock position on the compass dial. These 17th century lines, intended to be roughly perpendicular with the shores of Long Island Sound and Great Peconic Bay, still determine the east and west boundaries of the KeySpan property. Most of the numerous old boundaries, farm roads and hedgerows on the property today also still follow these “eleven o’clock” lines and are visible legacies of that first survey done back in 1661. Indeed, the hedgerow separating the Museum Farm’s two fields is actually the 1661 boundary between the lands of Barnabas Wines and John Swasey.
William Hallock was the first settler in the entire First Aquebogue Dividend, according to Virginia Wines’s booklet, “West from the Canoe Place.” William was the only son of Peter Hallock, supposedly one of the original Puritan settlers of Southold in 1640. Peter lived in what is now Southold Village, but his son William moved to his Aquebogue allotment shortly after its granting in 1661 and built a house on what is now called Hallock Lane, about half a mile east of the museum. The mid-19th century house of George Omar Hallock, a direct descendant, is now on the site about half a mile north of Sound Avenue. All of the Hallocks in America are probably descendants of William. Indeed, at Hallock family reunions, participants wear nametags indicating which of William’s sons – Thomas, Peter, William or John – they are descended from. Remarkably, a chart of William’s descendants prepared in 1906 listed over 3,600 descendants. At that rate, there would probably be close to a quarter million descendants another century later in 2008!
None of the other original owners in the Hallockville area ever lived on their Aquebogue allotments. Generally, it was not until the second or third generation that their descendents spread as far west as the Aquebogue lands. Most likely, Richard Howell (1654-1709) was the earliest person to settle on the KeySpan property itself. In 1675, his father-in-law, William Hallock, also his stepfather, gave him a 20-rod wide strip on the far west edge of his two allotments, running from Sound to Bay. The north end of this strip is now the eastern-most part of the Keyspan property (see Figure 1). The deed stipulated that “Richard Howell shall not lett or farme said land to any person or persons but to such as shall be approved by the neighborhood to be honest, peaceable and quiet.”
A surviving payment record indicates that Richard Howell built a house on that property in 1678. According to the story passed down in the Howell family, when the property was subsequently surveyed, after the east line was run “south of the swamp,” the surveyor discovered that the house was straddling the line. Consequently, it was necessary for Howell to buy a 4-rod-wide jog to the east that can still be seen on survey maps of the KeySpan property.
Howell’s house must have stood near the east line of the KeySpan property, south of the jog in the property line and south of the wetlands that still exist in the area (house # 2 in Figure 1). The first house was some 2,000 feet north of the early-19th century Howell house still standing on Sound Avenue (house # 14 in Figure 1). Indeed, the current house may incorporate portions moved from the original house. The Howell family gradually acquired more land to the west and continued to live on the farm, now part of the KeySpan property, for more than 250 years until the last family member living there died in 1951.
Although Sound Avenue, then known as the “Road to Setauket” was already in use, like most late-17th and early-18th century houses in the area, Howell’s house was located in a spot convenient to water, rather than along the road. Howell’s father-in-law, William Hallock, who probably had built his own house well back from Sound Avenue for similar reasons. The Hallock house was only a few hundred yards east of Howell’s house may have been another reason Howell settle on that part of his almost-four-mile long strip of land.
One of John Swezey’s grandsons, Richard Swezey (1690-1782), was likely the second Southolder to settle on the KeySpan property. He inherited the northern half of his grandfather’s original Aquebogue allotments. In 1718, shortly after Richard’s marriage to Elizabeth Parshall, he received a quitclaim deed to the property from his brother. The young couple likely built a house on the property about that time. The 1776 and 1778 censuses list him between Samuel Hudson, who lived just west of the KeySpan property, and Jonathan Howell, a grandson of Richard Howell, on the east.
Capt. Zachariah Hallock (1760-1820), a great-great grandson of William Hallock, who grew up in the old Hallock house on Hallock Lane, bought this farm, including a small house, from two of Richard Swezey’s daughters in separate transactions in 1780 and 1783. So, it is quite likely to have been the old Swezey house into which Zachariah moved his own young family. According to family recollection, this home was near a pond that has since disappeared, in a low spot still visible on the topographical map about 2,000 feet north of Sound Avenue on the east line of the farm that belonged to the Trubisz family in the 20th century, just east of the current Hallockville Museum (house # 1 in Figure 1).
Reuben Brown (c. 1734-1794) and Elinor Youngs, his bride, were probably the third family to settle on the KeySpan property. About the time of their 1765 marriage they built the earliest portion of what is now known as the Hallock homestead (house # 8 in Figure 1). Brown sold his house and farm to the Hallock family sometime in the late1790’s. The house was then just a simple story-and-a-half structure that is almost totally hidden by latter construction.
In addition to the Howells, Swezeys and Browns, there was at least one other family living on the current KeySpan property by end of the Revolution. David Tuthill had a story-and-a-half house that stood on Sound Avenue a little east of the Museum complex (house # 10 in Figure 1). Sometime in the 1780’s, Capt. Zachariah Hallock bought Tuthill’s house, and moved his family there. An interesting family anecdote was passed down about one of his sons carrying coals for a fire down from their previous house closer to the Sound. Zachariah occupied this house until his death, when an inventory indicates it was a seven-room story-and-a-half structure. The house was occupied through the 19th century by members of the Hallock family, but was probably demolished about 1904.
Not much is known about David Tuthill. Military records indicate that a 19-year-old David Tuthill served in a local regiment of Minutemen in 1776. Later in the war he was a crewmember on a privateer, The Confederacy, operated out of Connecticut. The house may have been relatively new when Zachariah Hallock bought it, since Tuthill was not listed in either the 1776 or the 1778 census of the area. If the military records are correct about Tuthill’s age, it seems most likely that he built the house after the Revolution, when he would have been in his mid-20’s.
The American Revolution at Hallockville
At the time of the Revolution, there were four families in or near the area later considered Hallockville. Reuben Brown (1734-1794) and his wife Elinor (Youngs) were living in the oldest part of what is now called the Hallock Homestead. Richard Swezey lived on the parcel just to the east, but his house was set well back from Sound Avenue by the long-disappeared pond. To his east, just past the current Riverhead-Southold town line, Richard Howell’s grandson, Jonathan Howell, was living in the family house, also set well back from Sound Avenue. And, a little further east, the Hallock family, including Zachariah Hallock I (who would soon move to the farm just east of the Homestead), lived in William Hallock’s old house on Hallock Lane.
The conflict between Britain and its colonies escalated in 1774 as Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party. These harsh laws caused open rebellion in many parts of America. Colonists began organizing and holding mass meetings. In New York, as this movement gained momentum, the colonists began forming local associations to take over the responsibilities of government from the Crown.
Like most of the men in Suffolk County in 1775, Hallock, Brown, Howell and Swezey were all signers of the “Form of Association” — as were Zachariah Hallock’s father and brothers. This declaration was a pledge of support to the Continental Congress. Signers also expressed their shock at recent events in Massachusetts Bay, their opposition to British efforts to raise revenue in America and their resolve “never to become slaves.” The North Fork appears to have been something of a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment. There were very few men who refused to sign.
Brown, Howell and Hallock also appear to have served together as enlisted men in the First Regiment of Militia Men – Suffolk County regiment of Minute Men in 1776, under the command of Colonel Josiah Smith. Captain Paul Reeves of Aquebogue and Lieutenants John Corwin and David Horton were probably their immediate commanders. We even learn from one of the muster rolls that Brown was 5 foot 10 inches tall, age 39, had a light complexion and that his “accoutrements” were complete. Zachariah Hallock is listed as a sergeant in one of the rosters from that year. (He did not become a captain of the militia until the after the Revolution, in the 1790s.) The other neighbor, Richard Swezey was 85 years old in 1776 and obviously too old to serve.
Unfortunately for the local patriots, the war did not go well on the Long Island. On August 27, 1776 the British defeated Washington at the Battle of Long Island (actually in Brooklyn), forced the American army to evacuate and quickly occupied the whole island. The occupation lasted for the duration of the war. Needless to say, conditions were not easy for ardent patriots under these conditions, and many thousands were forced to flee to Connecticut where they spent the war under miserable conditions as refugees.
Howell was treated harshly by the British and their loyalist sympathizers. According to a journal kept by Orient native Augustus Griffin, in retaliation for some patriotic comments, Howell was tied to a tree and given three or four hundred lashes on his bare back – from which he barely survived. Along with many other Long Island supporters of the cause, Howell was forced to evacuate to Connecticut for the duration of the war. Like refugees in all wars, these “Refugees of 1776” suffered great hardships during their exile. Details of his exile are scarce, except that in 1777 Howell petitioned Connecticut authorities for permission to go over to Long Island, then behind enemy lines, to retrieve some flax and wool from his farm.
Brown, like Howell, was forced to evacuate to Connecticut for the duration of the war. After serving as both a private and a sergeant in Colonel Smith’s regiment of Minutemen, he may have served later in both Westchester and Connecticut, although the records are not clear. Surviving records show payments he made for the transportation of household goods and foodstuffs from Long Island to Guilford, Connecticut on September 26, 1776 – just a month after the American defeat on the Battle of Long Island. He paid Capt. Jonathan Vaill [sic.] 18 shillings and 9 pence to transport “two bushel of wheat one load of houshold goods fore passengers.” A month later, he paid Capt. Jno. Ingraham three shillings and eight pence “for transporting one barrel provisions two bushel wheat bundle of leather& one passage from Long Island to Guilford.” Additional transportation expenses occurred in 1777.
Brown had married just 11 years earlier, in 1765. When he was forced into exile, the homestead was probably barely a decade old. Presumably, the “fore” passengers on Capt. Vail’s boat included his wife Elinor, their eight-year old son David and their three-year-old daughter Elizabeth. By the time they were able to return for or five years later, their farm must have been in ruins. Indeed, it is possible that economic hardship resulting for the war led to the sale of the homestead to the Hallock family after Brown’s death in 1792.
It is not clear when Brown and Howell were able to return. Some refugees were able to return to the East End as early as 1780, but others did not make it home until 1783. At any rate, both families spent at least four years living in rather difficult conditions while their homes and farms went to ruin.
What happened to the Hallock family during the war? This is less clear. Neither Zachariah or any of this brothers appear to have been forced into exile. None of them appear to have served in the Continental army or seen any other service for the cause besides their Minutemen enrollment in 1775. Perhaps his patriotism was less robust or less visible. At any rate, he and his family managed to coexist with the British occupation for the duration of the struggle.
Not surprisingly, after the war, Hallock fared much better economically than the Brown and Howell families, eventually buying up much of the farmland in the area including the old Swezey and Brown places.
No military actions occurred in the area before or during the British occupation of Long Island, which lasted for the duration of the war. However, many years later, Howell family descendants found a Hessian sword blade near a spring in the northeast corner of what is now Jamesport State Park.
A Local Battle in the War of 1812
The only military action ever to occur near Hallockville took place in 1814, near the end of the War of 1812. The battle, actually more of a skirmish, started when local farmers were fishing with a seine net off of Luce’s Landing, now the Iron Pier public beach at the end of Pier Avenue, early on a foggy June morning. When the fog lifted, they were surprised to spot a small American ship, which was in turn surprised to find itself dangerously close to a much-larger 74-gun double deck British frigate. The American sloop turned out to be the revenue cutter Nathan Hale, manned by a crew of Yale students. Finding themselves much out-gunned – they only had one small cannon – the Yale students rowed their ship to shore to escape the threat.
The farmers tried to help the Yale students tow their ship east to Mattituck Inlet, the nearest safe harbor, but only succeeded in reaching a gully near the west edge of the KeySpan property before they were overtaken by the British ship. They beached the boat in the gully, carried the cannon to a high point on top of the cliffs at the west boundary of the KeySpan property and sent out an alarm to other local farmers. Hallock family legend has it that 10-year old Herman, a son of Zachariah II and grandson of Capt. Zachariah, was one of three riders sent Paul Revere-style on horseback to warn the neighboring farmers of the enemy vessel in the Sound.
Local farmers rallied to their cliff-top redoubt. There, they and the Yalies held their own against the man-of-war for three days with only the small cannon, muskets and rapidly diminishing ammunition. At one point, the farmers, many of whom were excellent marksmen because of their hunting experience, repulsed a British landing party, allegedly inflicting severe casualties on the invaders. On the second morning, another British frigate appeared, eventually taking up a station near the shore directly north of the Hallock homestead in an attempt to rake the American positions from the side. A cannon ball from the first ship, stationed directly off shore, shot straight down the fence running along the west boundary of Jamesport State Park, destroying a long section and setting loose the farmers’ horses tied to it. Despite a heavy bombardment, none of the defenders were killed – perhaps because their lookouts watched diligently for the flash of cannon on the British ships, giving the defenders time to duck for cover before the balls arrived. The British used the combined barges of the two warships in another attempt to capture the cutter, but were again repulsed by the local defenders.
On the third day, as American ammunition ran out, the British succeeded in capturing the cutter and towing it away. As Miss Bessie Hallock recorded in her “Autobiography of an Old House” a century later: “Although a losing battle, it was fought valiantly for three days.” The only physical evidence of this engagement are a few cannonballs later picked up in the fields, two of which are displayed in the Hallockville Museum’s Hudson-Sydlowski house.
Hallocks on the Land: A Nine-generation Story
Five old farmhouses stand on the Sound Avenue frontage of the KeySpan property, flanking both east and west the historic house and barns owned by the Hallockville Museum. Along with the homestead, the museum’s “catalogue house” and its staff house and three more structures nearby, the eleven houses are referred to as “Hallockville” because all of them (or their predecessors) were built or inhabited by members of the Hallock family in the 19th century. Together these houses tell a remarkable two-century-long story about how family patriarchs looked out for their children by providing them with homes and farms – generally at the time of their marriage — and at the same time kept their offspring nearby and under parental control. This part of the story started with Capt. Zachariah Hallock (1749-1820), the father, grandfather or great-grandfather of the builders of all the Hallockville homes.
But, the story really starts four generations earlier, shortly after the 1661 first Aquebogue Division when William Hallock ( -1684) moved to his new land in the wilderness and built the first home in the area, on what is now Hallock Lane. William’s oldest son Thomas lived there, followed by Thomas’s oldest son, Zerubabel, 1st (1696-1761), followed by his oldest son, Zerubabel, 2nd (1722-1800). All apparently lived on Hallock Lane and are buried in the Mattituck cemetery. Indeed second Zerubabel‘s grave in the northwest corner of that cemetery is one of the most spectacular examples of early gravestone carving in the area.
The Zerubabel’s went on for another three generations, and their descendants continued to live on Hallock Lane until the mid-20th century – nine generations in all. But, the story of the immediate neighborhood of the Hallockville museum – shall we call it “Hallockville proper – really begins with Capt. Zachariah. He was the fourth son in a family of six sons and three daughters. Most likely, he needed to move out from the old homestead to find a place of his own.
About 1780, Capt. Zachariah acquired the old Swezey house (#1 in Figure 1) and became the first member of the Hallock family to live in the area that much later became part of the KeySpan property. His nearest neighbors would have been Jonathan Howell to the east and Reuben Brown to the west. Capt. Zachariah had served with both in the Minutemen, but had not joined the “Refugees of 1776” in Connecticut. Perhaps his patriotism was not quite as fervent as Brown’s or Howell’s.
The 150 acres that Capt. Zachariah acquired from the Swezeys in 1780 ran across the northern half of the Hallock farm behind the museum and the farms to the east and west (see Figure 1). The old Swezey house was on the southern edge of that property. A few years later, Zachariah acquired a larger home from David Tuthill on Sound Avenue just to the east of Reuben Brown’s house (the current museum) and moved there (house # 10 in Figure 1). By the time of his death in 1820, Capt. Zachariah acquired all of the western two-thirds of the KeySpan property except for the western-most farm, as well as extensive property south of the road and elsewhere (see Hallock holdings in Figure 1).
In 1801, Capt. Zachariah acquired the old Brown homestead from his brother Ezra (who had bought it from the Brown family a few years earlier), and settled his son Zachariah II there with his new bride (house # 8 in Figure 1). He settled the second son, John, around the time of the latter’s marriage in 1806, in a new house west of Zachariah II (house # 5 in Figure 1). This house stood between houses later built for John’s owns sons, but disappeared sometime in the 19th century. When his third son, Bethuel, married in 1813, Capt. Zachariah also settled him in a new house just to the east of the museum, part of which was incorporated into the 1840’s house that became the Trubisz family home in the 20th century (house # 9 in Figure 1). This house was demolished about 2002.
In turn, each of Captain Zachariah’s three children managed to provide farms for all their sons, generally about the times of their marriages. Between them, they provided ten homes. Bethuel (1790-1866) had four sons. He acquired additional property and built the small house (just over 500 square feet) just east of his own for his third son, Joseph Edwin, who in 1835 was the first to marry (house # 11 in Figure 1). This house was demolished about 2002.
When this son Bethuel Evander Hallock (1814-1861) married neighbor Elizabeth Terry Hudson in 1837, Bethuel the father built an equally small house across the street for the young couple (house # 17 in Figure 1). Bethuel Evander Hallock only lived there about 10 years before he moved to the new port that James Tuthill laid out on Peconic Bay and euphoniously named “James Port” (now South Jamesport). That house, very similar in size, still stands on South Jamesport Avenue, the second house south of Third Street on the East side. Bethuel became the captain of a schooner that made frequent trips out of Jamesport in the 1840’s. After he died in 1841, his widow moved back to the house on Sound Avenue. In the 1980’s, Robert Entenmann acquired the property and donated the house to the Hallockville Museum. It was moved to its current location behind the museum barn to serve as a staff cottage.
Bethuel (the father) remarried in 1837 and soon moved to his new wife’s farm a mile east near Bergen Avenue in what was referred to then as “West Mattituck.” When he moved to Mattituck, he sold his house to a nephew, John Franklin Hallock. At the same time, he sold to his son Joseph Edwin the adjacent farm, apparently containing the house he had recently built for him on that property.
John also had four sons. Three had houses surrounding their father’s house. The 1850 Caleb Hallock house ( # 4 in Figure 1) stood until it was demolished about 2002. The 1841 Daniel Wells Hallock house, is still standing in 2008, but in very poor condition to the west of the museum (house #6 in Figure 1). The Hallockville Museum’s Cichanowicz farmhouse (once thought to be a Sears Catalogue House) is a ca. 1930 replacement for the third house, which was built about 1832 for son Isaiah and burned in 1915 (house # 7 in Figure 1). John’s fourth son, John Franklin, ultimately moved into his Uncle Bethuel’s old house, just east of the museum on KeySpan property (house # 9 in Figure 1), when the latter moved to West Mattituck. The entire story-and-a-half front part of that house was most likely built after John Franklin moved there, burying Bethuel’s original house in the back right corner.
Zachariah II did equally well by his two sons. In 1827 he bought a 130-acre farm about a mile to the west. At first, he settled his oldest son Herman, who was newly married, on that farm in a house that stood until recently on the corner of Pier Avenue and Sound Avenue. Parts of that house are incorporated into the author’s own house. The other son, Zachariah III, remained on the home farm. In 1845, the two brothers exchanged houses for reasons no one has been able to discern. Herman came back to live in the old homestead and Zachariah III moved to the west house. Both brothers soon vastly expanded and modernized their houses, raising the roofs and changing the profiles considerably.
The process continued into the fourth generation, although on a more limited basis. In 1859 Joseph Edwin’s son, Eugene, built a large house just to the east of his father’s (house # 12 in Figure 1). This is now the eastern-most house still standing on the KeySpan property. Herman’s son, David Halsey, took over the old homestead, but the other two brothers left the area. John Franklin’s only surviving son, also named John, moved into the old Tuthill house (house # 10) that his great-grandfather Capt. Zachariah Hallock had occupied from the 1780’s until his death in 1820. A mile to the west, Herman’s brother Zachariah left his house to his son Henry Lewis. Another son, George Wilson, ended up with a new house across the street from his father and a daughter, Matilda Keziah, married Sheldon R. Downs, who built a new house on his family’s property within sight of both of their parent’s houses.
Perhaps the best-documented example of a father providing a home for his fourth-generation son occurred in 1878. That year the local paper reported that John’s son Isaiah was “building a dwelling house for his son [Lemuel Beecher] Hallock located on Herrick Road.” That house, which was within sight of Isaiah’s own house, is also still standing, having recently been converted into the Red Barn B&B (house # 15 in Figure 1). Like most of the Hallocks of his generation, L. Beecher Hallock eventually gave up farming. By the time the Hallock Genealogy was published in 1926, he was listed as “a general helper and handy man.”
Isaiah Hallock also apparently provided homes for his other two sons. The oldest surviving son, George C. Hallock (1842-1927), received a farm about 1,000 feet to the west of his father’s house on land that now constitutes the farthest west portion of the KeySpan property (house # 3 in Figure 1). George C. probably lived in a house built about 1800 by Jonathan Howell (1771 – 1832), son of the Revolutionary War era Jonathan who lived on the east side of the Hallocks. Mrs. John Kujawski now (2008) lives in a 20-th century home on the site. Isaiah’s youngest son, William Fillmore Hallock, received his father’s old place (house # 7), the predecessor of the “catalogue house” now owned by the museum.
In some cases, the pattern continued into the fifth generation, most notably in the old homestead where the last Hallock lived until 1979. Similarly, just to the east John Hallock’s son, John Morse Hallock succeeded his grandfather in the old Bethuel Hallock house (house # 9) about 1886. John Morse became locally famous for raising fine racing horses. However, that business may have led to his financial ruin, as he sold the farm in 1907 and moved to New Jersey where he became a “factory operative,” in the words of the Hallock Genealogy.
The story was quite different for daughters. Although Capt. Zachariah had seven daughters, none received land from their father. The custom of buying or providing a farm for sons did not carry through to providing a farm for daughters or sons-in-law. For instance, one of Capt. Zachariah’s daughters, Elizabeth, married Jonathan Howell, of the Howell family just to the east. Jonathan and Elizabeth ended up living just west of her father’s land on the western-most farm that made up the KeySpan property, as mentioned above (house # 3 in Figure1). However, Howell bought the property himself rather than receiving it as a gift from his father-in-law. Two more of Capt. Zachariah’s daughters also married local farmers, but again did not receive farms from their father. The other four daughters moved to either New York City or Brooklyn (two with their husbands and two with their married sisters). Similar fates apparently befell the daughters in the next generation.
This pattern of not providing farms for daughters and sons-in-law was still holding strong two generations later. Caleb Hallock, one of John’s sons, had only one child, a daughter Adeline who married Joseph Woodhull in 1862. In 1866, Woodhull bought the farm adjacent to this father-in-law from the latter’s brother, Daniel Wells Hallock (# 6 in Figure 1), who in turn moved to a farm in Aquebogue. Joseph and Adeline never received any property from her father, although Woodhull worked his farm together with his father-in-law next door. After Woodhull’s untimely death in 1872, both farms soon passed out of the family.
Similarly, David Halsey Hallock sold property to his daughter, Eula, and son-in-law Charles Wells rather than giving it to them, as had been the custom for so many Hallock sons. In 1903 David Halsey Hallock detached the no-longer-needed 1860 wing from the west side of the homestead and moved it across the street to the farmland he owned on the south side of Sound Avenue, where it formed the core of a new house (# 16 in Figure 1). In 1907 he sold that property to his daughter, Eula, and son-in-law, Charles Wells. They had married in 1891 and lived on West Lane and further west on Sound Avenue before purchasing this farm. Presumably there was a barn on the property or David Halsey Hallock had one built. Charles Wells built a second barn on the property in 1907. Charles and Eula lived here until about 1917 when they sold the farm. The house burned to the ground in 1938, when it belonged to the Zimnoski family. Two barns survive from Charles and Eula’s farm and have been restored by Martha Clara Vineyards.
At one time or another, at least fourteen Hallock houses stood in the area called “Hallockville.” Of these, six are still standing — the museum homestead (house # 8), the Eugene Hallock house (#4, recently restored in 2008), the Bethuel “Jr.” house (# 17) now located behind the homestead barn, the Daniel Wells Hallock house (#11, in serious disrepair in 2008), the Red Barn B&B on Herrick’s Lane (#15) and the John Hallock house that is now part of Jen’s nursery in Mattituck (recently restored in 2008).
The Isaiah/William Fillmore house (#7) burned down in 1915 and was eventually replaced by the Cichanowicz house, the Charles and Eula [Hallock] Wells house (# 16) that once stood across the street on property now owned by Martha Clara Vineyards and burned down in 1938, the George C. Hallock house (# 3) near the southeast corner of the KeySpan property was replaced by current Kujawski house in the early 20th century. Three more houses were demolished in 2002 by KeySpan (#s,6,9, and 12) as they had deteriorated to such a point that they were safety hazards.
This still leaves three other early Hallock houses unaccounted for – Capt. Zachariah’s original house he acquired in 1780 by the pond northeast of the museum (#1), the former Tuthill house on Sound Avenue that he moved down to latter in the 1780’s (# 10) and the house built for his son John about 1806 (#5).
At one point in his research, the author thought he had located Capt. Zachariah’s second house (# 10 in Figure 1). According to a newspaper clipping from 1907, “The remaining portion of John Hallock’s house has been purchased by John G. Reeve and moved to a site east of Reeve’s [who lived in what is now the west house at Jen’s Nursery in Mattituck]” where it was to be “put in order.” Four generations of Hallocks in a row were all named “John” – causing considerable confusion. However, the “John” referred to in the article is most likely the one who lived just east of the Bethuel Hallock house and was married to “Aunt” Francis Hallock whose cute Victorian washhouse stood behind the location of the house as was moved to the Museum in 2003 and restored.
Since John lived in Capt. Zachariah’s old house, it seemed possible that structure had been the one moved a mile or so east in 1907. However, examination of the building (now the much-altered core of the eastern-most of the two old houses currently occupied by Jen’s Nursery) indicates that is was built in the middle decades of the 19th century. Most likely it was an addition to (or possibly replacement for) Capt. Zachariah’s old house that John built sometime after his marriage in 1854. Probably this then-relatively-new structure was the only part of John’s house thought worth saving in 1907.
At their peak in the third quarter of the 19th century, the Hallocks occupied nine or ten houses along the Sound Avenue frontage of the KeySpan property. In 1814, according to a tally prepared by Miss Ella Hallock, there were four Hallocks living there, with Howell relatives on each side. An 1858 map shows eight Hallocks in a row in the area. An 1873 map shows eleven houses along the frontage of the Riverhead part of the KeySpan property. Of these, six were labeled as Hallock houses, two are unlabeled, but were likely occupied by Hallocks and a Hallock son-in-law occupied another. By 1896, as family members gradually died off or moved away, the number was down to six Hallock houses. By 1909, there were only three, two of which belonged to Hallock widows. By the time David Halsey Hallock died in 1939 at 101, the only Hallocks left were his three unmarried children living in the old homestead.
Even more remarkable, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Capt. Zachariah owned all of the KeySpan property except for the two farms furthest east. Of these farms, the very eastern-most 30 acres originally was part of William Hallock’s two lots in the First Aquebogue Division of 1661. The next 60 acres westward, although never owned by a Hallock, was owed by the Howells, who were of course Hallock descendants.
Archaeological Sites, Ponds and the Shoreline
Clearly, the house sites on the KeySpan property harbor a lot of interesting archaeological evidence about the early history of the area. The Vetter and Salwen “Archaeological Reconnaissance” commissioned by LILCO included four test excavations around the 1813 Bethuel Hallock house (# 9 in Figure 1). The archaeologists were excited to find “relatively undisturbed stratigraphy” with ceramics specimens they could easily date from about 1760 to 1840. Although they did not do any excavations around the other historic houses on the property, they concluded “the visibly undisturbed condition of the area and the known and documented antiquity of the existing historic structures insures the presence of important subsurface archaeological materials throughout the Historic District [i.e., around the farmsteads along Sound Avenue].”
Vetter and Salwen were apparently unaware that there are four additional house sites with potential 17th, 18th century and early-19th century archaeological material. Indeed, the discovery of these other four house sites was the biggest surprise for the author as he commenced research on the project. The oldest of these was the location of the 1678 Richard Howell house on the far eastern boundary of the KeySpan property (# 2 in Figure 1) — in an area that also apparently contains pre-historic artifacts.
Next oldest was the c. 1718 Richard Swezey home that Capt. Zachariah Hallock likely occupied briefly in the early 1780’s (# 1 in Figure 1) in the middle of the fields to the northeast of the museum. The third-oldest was the Tuthill house that Capt. Zachariah moved to later in the 1780’s and occupied until his death in 1820 (house # 10). And finally, the house built about 1806 by John Hallock, one of Capt. Zachariah Hallock’s sons, that stood between the Caleb Hallock and Daniel Wells Hallock houses to the west of the museum property (house # 5). That area also appears to be relatively undisturbed and could be a good archaeological site.
The Vetter and Salwen archaeological survey concluded: “It is extremely important that no activities be permitted within this sensitive zone [around the houses] that would disturb or destroy the value of the LILCO portion of the [Sound Avenue] Historic District as an archaeological site.“ Interestingly, the two anthropologists did not feel strongly about the preservation of the houses themselves.
Hallock’s Pond, which sits 71 feet above sea level, and the smaller Lilly Pond to the east are both “perched ponds.” They are not spring fed. Instead, they sit on a thick layer of impervious clay deposited by the Wisconsin glacier. The clay prevents rainwater from percolating down to the water table far below, thus creating the ponds. Such “perched ponds” are relatively common on Long Island, with others existing to the east in Mattituck and elsewhere. This pond, however, must have some connection to the ground water table. It was used for irrigation in the 1950’s and 60’s, but despite pumping water all summer, the water level dropped barely six inches according to one of the farmers involved.
The pond was an important part of the Hallock family farm. They always referred to it as the “farm pond.” It was part of Capt. Zachariah Hallock’s first purchase in 1780, although his house was by another pond further east and south that has since disappeared. He undoubtedly used both ponds for watering livestock and similar purposes. When he died in 1820, he was very careful in his will to run the dividing line between property left to his sons Zachariah and John through this pond so that both could have access to it. In 1838, John Hallock in turn sold a 3-rod wide strip across the top of his property to a neighbor to the west so that he could also have access to the pond for watering cattle. Although the third son, Bethuel, did not get access to Hallock’s Pond, his portion of his father’s estate included two other ponds – Lilly Pond up in the hills and the now-mostly-disappeared pond further south where his father, Capt. Zachariah, first lived.
In 1851 the Hallocks laid a lead pipeline from their pond down to the homestead – providing running water for both house and barn. The Hallocks were particularly happy to have plentiful soft water available for washing, since well water was quite hard, in addition to being a long way down. The house sits about 10 feet lower than the pond. The slope of the land made the pipeline feasible without any pumping. According to family account books, the project cost $503.12, a large sum in those days. Unfortunately, the pipe was too small and quickly became clogged. The Hallocks dug it up and sold it as lead scrap during the Civil War.
The Hallocks used the pond as a source of ice in the second half of the 19th century. Family records indicate that they had an icehouse at the pond in 1861. Later, they brought ice down to an icehouse behind the barn, where it was stored under straw for use in warm weather. The pond was not a direct source of food for the family, although it apparently contained catfish, perch, goldfish and eels. However, the Hallocks used the boggy areas just to the east of the pond to grow cranberries well into the 20th century.
The pond also played a role in family recreation. Early 20th century photographs show it as the beautiful sylvan setting of summer picnics and strolls. In the winter, it was a great place for ice-skating. It was also apparently the source of some tragedy. According to a 1980 interview with Ella Hallock, at least three boys drowned there over the years – either in ice skating or swimming accidents.
Water sources were also an important part of the landscape for the Howell family on the eastern portion of the KeySpan property. As indicated above, Richard Howells’ first house was near a low spot where water still stands seasonally and where the water table is presumably near the surface. According to the story told the author by Alice Downs, a descendant of the Howells and one of the landowners who sold out to Levon Properties in the 1960’s, there is a spring on the north part of the Howell property, more or less in the middle of the wooded area. When the property was divided between family members in the mid-19th century, the north part of the dividing line was curved eastward to provide both sides with access to that spring for watering their livestock. Later, when the spring became less important, Chauncey P. Howell (1845-1920) paid his cousin next door on the west $100 to straighten the line.
The Howell spring still exists (in 2008), in thick underbrush a few hundred feet from the east boundary of Jamesport State Park. It emerges at from the ground about 500 feet south of the cliff line, and flows into a gully going northward towards the Sound. However, before it reaches the beach, it disappears back into the sand.
Family records also show that the Hallocks made significant use of the Sound beach. The lane running towards the Sound between the museum property and the Bethuel Hallock house is mentioned in deeds and wills as early as 1820. It provided important access to the Sound shore. The rocky, exposed shoreline was not suitable for shipping agricultural produce. However, the Hallocks, like many of their neighbors, probably shipped cordwood to the New York market in the early 19th century from a landing near the east side of the KeySpan property that was accessible down a gully by wagon.
The Hallocks took full advantage of the Sound’s maritime bounty. As the account of the 1814 battle demonstrates, they were active fishermen. David Halsey Hallock’s diary for 1855 contains accounts for the fishing company that engaged in large-scale fishing from the Sound shore. The catch was mostly used for fertilizer, playing a key role in restoring the fertility of easily depleted Long Island soils. Choice fish undoubtedly made it to the family tables where they constituted an important portion of the diet. An 1873 newspaper account mentions that Isaiah Hallock had recently caught “100,000 bunkers in a small net at the Sound” while his cousin next door, David Halsey Hallock, caught 52 “fine Spanish mackerel” in his net.
Polish Immigrant Farmers Achieve Success
The most significant story of the first half of the 20th century was the influx of Polish immigrants who began arriving in the area around the turn of the century. Often they worked first as farm laborers, saving up enough money to eventually buy farms of their own. By the middle of the 20th century, most of the land now owned by KeySpan was farmed by families of Polish descent. Typical of these Polish farmers was Konstanty Cichanowicz. He came to America as a young man in 1902. He was employed for a few years on a local farm, and then moved to Glen Cove where he was an estate manger. Along the way, he met and married Adele Lipnicka, who was also born in Poland. In 1923 they bought the farm just west of the museum complex.
The old Isaiah Hallock house on the farm had burned down that had burned down in 1915. The Cichanowiczes initially lived in a small outbuilding. But, by about 1930, the hard-working family had saving enough money to build the four-square farmhouse that that now is part of the museum complex (on the site of house #7 in Figure 1). Konstanty farmed the property successfully until his death in 1944. His children and grandchildren continued to farm that property and land across the street and eventually leased most of the eastern portion of the KeySpan property.
One by one, all of the old Hallock farms were either acquired or taken over by Kujawskis, Trubiszes, Celics, Naugles, Cichanowiczes and Romanowskis. These families all worked hard and became successful farmers. Like the Hallocks before them, in most cases they passed their farms for two or three subsequent generations. In the end, their run on the property may be as long as was the Hallocks’. In the 2003, members of John and Raymond Kujawski were able to buy back the western portion of the KeySpan-owned agricultural land that their family had sold years earlier, but had been farming ever since.
Typically, the first generation worked hard and acquired the farm and made a success of the operation. Generally, the next generation also stayed on the farm, with the third generation often moving on to other occupations.
A typical Polish immigrant success story is that of Kazimierz Trubisz. He was born in 1885 in Pietrylowicze, Poland, a small town near Vilna in an area that was then part of the Russian Empire, but is now in Belarus. In 1910, the 25-year-old “Kasimir Trubisch” arrived at Ellis Island on the SS Cleveland from Hamburg with only a few dollars in his pockets. Immigration records indicate that his father funded the trip. Young Trubisz soon changed his first name to “Charles.”
Charles worked on a Young family farm in Aquebogue for a few years. Then, at the suggestion of Mr. Young, he bought the farm just east of the Hallock Homestead in 1918. This farm had been in successive generations of the Hallock family since Capt. Zachariah Hallock acquired it in the late 18th century. But, John Morse Hallock, the last of the Hallock line to live there, appears to have gone bankrupt – perhaps because of his addiction to fancy horses and fancy living. He sold the farm in 1908 and moved to New Jersey, where according to the family genealogy he became a “factory operative.” His possessions were sold at auction. The initial buyer of the farm held it for only a few years before selling it in 1912 to Halsey W. Hallock, who lived next door with his father David Halsey Hallock in the old Hallock Homestead.
Halsey W. Hallock held the farm for only a few years before in turn selling it to Charles Trubisz. According to oral family history, the Hallocks were very impressed by the industrious young Polish immigrant. The Hallocks however, did not hold the mortgage. Instead, the $7,000 mortgage was held by a professional mortgage lender in Huntington.
Interestingly, Frank Cichanowicz (brother of Konstanzy), who grew up in the same little town in Poland, just a couple of farms away, purchased the farm across the street on the same day, using the same lawyer and the same mortgage lender. Obviously, the Trubisz and Cichanowicz families were recreating a bit of the old country on Sound Avenue.
Trubisz, then a eligible bachelor in his mid-30’s, moved into the old Bethuel Hallock house, much enlarged and modernized by John M. Hallock in the late 19th century. He starting holding parties in the grand house, and soon met Stephanie Anderson (nee Andruszkiewicz) the daughter of another Polish immigrant family who lived just down the street. Charles and Stephanie married in 1919. She was 19, he was 35 years old. Their first son, Charles was born a little more than a year later, but lived only four months.
In the years just after World War I, agricultural prices were high and times were good for farmers. Amazingly, Trubisz was able to pay off his mortgage by 1921, the same year his only surviving son Antone was born. Two years later, in 1923 Charles becomes a US citizen. In 1926 a daughter Irene was born. A second daughter Margaret was born in 1930, but died the following year. And finally, the youngest daughter Theresa was born in 1933.
Then tragedy struck the family. In 1936, Charles was hospitalized from overwork. His wife Stephanie took over the farm operation and became not only a successful farmer in her own right, but also the second largest sprout grower on Long Island. Their son Antone left school at age 13 to help on the farm.
During World War II, Antone was exempt from the draft due to his essential work as a farmer. After the lean years of the Great Depression, these were again prosperous years for farmers in the area. In 1942, Antone Trubisz married Jean Cierach. Since Stephanie was still living in the “Big House” the young couple moved into “Little House” on the farm, a very modest building of about 600 square feet that had once been the washhouse of “Aunt Francis” Hallock, the mother of John M. Hallock. The young couple soon had a son and a daughter, but continued to live in the four-room house until 1953.
After Charles Trubisz died, Stephanie married the church organist and moved to town. However, she didn’t give the farm to her son. Rather she forced him to purchase it from her, and even charged him for the family milk cow! Antone moved his family into the “Big House” and continued to farm up to 1967 when he, along with neighboring farmers, sold their land for the Riverhead Harbor Industrial Park project. The Trubisz family moved to Riverhead.
Completing the typical story of this successful immigrant family, Antone’s son, Anthony Jr. went from his upbringing on the family farm to a career in the utility industry that led, eventually, to his becoming CEO of Columbia Gas of Virginia.
The Trubisz “Big House” was demolished in 2002, but two buildings from the farm were salvaged and moved to the Hallockville Museum the following year: The Trubisz “Little House” and the Trubisz Sprout House. Both were restored by the museum and dedicated at a gala picnic in 2008 sponsored by Anthony Trubisz, Jr for family members and all the descendants of their Polish immigrant neighbors.
A Side Business for Some Farmers: Prohibition and Rum Running
In a minor diversion from their farming, some of the families living on the KeySpan property during prohibition engaged in a little rum running operation. They even constructed a primitive inclined railway on the north end of George Naugles’s farm that made it easier to haul cases of bootleg liquor up the steep cliffs, where it was loaded into fast cars for delivery to a thirsty New York City market. An accident with a cable that operated the lifting mechanism resulted in the death of one of the farmers. His obituary listed the cause of death as a “heart attack” – but didn’t mention the proximate cause – beheading by cable.
As part of this operation, George’s brother Stanley owned a small plane, a 1931 Brunner-Winkle BIRD. It was an open cockpit biplane with a 35-foot wingspan. Naugles used it to meet boats waiting beyond the three-mile limit and drop messages as to whether or not it was safe to approach the shore. The plane, which had a payload capacity of 1,000 pounds, was also used to make deliveries as far away as Boston. Top flying speed was only 85 miles per hour, so that must have been quite a trip.
Remarkably, the plane still survives. John Talmage of Bating Hollow acquired it about 1981 and has completely restored it back to original condition, except that it is now red instead of blue. For a 2005 dinner at the Naugles barn thanking KeySpan for donating farmland to the museum, Talmage flew the plane to Hallockville and landed it on a mowed strip of field behind the barn. After enjoying the dinner, when he went to return, the compressed air starter failed to start the plane. Undaunted, Talmage hopped out and used the propeller blade to “whip start” the engine while spectators held the tail down to keep the plane from taking off without him.
The Naugles hangar also still survives, the small building on the south-west corner of Herrick’s Lane and Sound Avenue. According to Naugles family lore, when their old barn burned down in 1936 at the height of the Great Depression, the profits from the rum-running operation allowed them to build the handsome new barn now owned by the Hallockville Museum. After George Naugles house (the old Caleb Hallock house, #3 in Figure 1) was abandoned following its purchase by Levon Properties, a cache of gin labels was found in an upstairs bedroom closet. This was typical Prohibition practice. A rum runners like the Naugles family brought in unlabeled bottles of generic alcohol – and then attached labels for Gin, Vodka or whatever their customers had ordered!
The Farmscape and Woodlands of the KeySpan Property
The heart of the KeySpan property is the 320-plus acres of farmland. Most of it is prime, relatively level and highly productive soil, although the quality of the land lessens towards the terminal moraine along the Sound shore. It was this productive land that first brought the Howells, Swezeys, Browns, Tuthills and Hallocks to the property in the late-17th and18th centuries. In the 20th century, the same productivity brought the Kujawskis, Trubiszes, Celics, Naugels and Cichanowiczes.
The KeySpan holding was divided into nine family farms for much of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries (see old farm boundaries indicated on Figure 1), with each farm averaging a little under 55 acres. Six of the hedgerows that once divided farm from farm still survive on the eastern half of the property. Each follows the historic pattern of “eleven o’clock” lines first established in the 17th century. Both the west and east boundaries of the property, as well as one of the internal hedgerows, follow lines laid out in the late 17th century. Most of the rest of the hedgerows that still form some of the most prominent features of the KeySpan property landscape are on lines laid out in the 18th early-19th centuries as the farmland boundaries were reconfigured by successive generations of Hallocks and Howells. The hedgerows on each side of the farm behind the Hallockville Museum are probably among the newest, but still close to two centuries old. They were delineated by Captain Zachariah Hallock’s will in 1820 to divide his property among his three sons. Several additional hedgerows probably once divided the western portion of the property, but have been removed to facilitate 20th century agricultural operations.
In the 19th century, these farms were all divided into fields of five-to-ten acres, each surrounded by split rail fences or a system of ditches and mounds surmounted by loped trees. At least half the acreage of each farm was devoted to hay and grazing, with numerous sheep and cattle left to pasture themselves. The rest of the land would have been devoted to corn, oats, buckwheat and similar crops. Most of the harvest was fed either to cattle or horses. Potatoes were a relatively small part of the picture, occupying only a few acres on each farm. Most farms had extensive orchards for cider production and home consumption.
The Hallocks and their neighbors were highly successful in the late 19th century. Each farm gradually sprouted an impressive collection of barns and other farm buildings, as can still be seen at the Museum Farm. The Hallocks were also leaders in the introduction of modern agricultural techniques, founders of the local agricultural society and staunch believers in “progress.”
The landscape changed considerably in the 20th century. Potatoes became the dominant crop, almost a monoculture on most farms. The advent of tractors and mechanized equipment eliminated the need for the extensive pastures and hayfields necessary to feed horses. Mechanized agriculture also encouraged removal of fence lines to create larger fields more suitable for modern equipment. Mechanization also encouraged farmers to plant in long rows running north and south instead of the short east-and-west rows that show up in a rare mid-1920’s aerial photograph of the area.
There were far fewer trees on the landscape in the 19th century compared with the present day. The property had been entirely cleared at least once and perhaps multiple times in some parts. Wood was used to construct buildings, build fences, cook and provide fuel for hungry fireplaces in winter. Any excess could always be sold for good money as cordwood in New York City. Indeed, cordwood was by far the most important cash crop in the early 19th century. The numerous locust trees that still grow on the property were also valued for the long-lasting fence posts they produced. Even the hedgerows and fence lines probably contained far fewer trees than they do today, since the constant grazing by sheep and cattle prevented regeneration of trees.
Perhaps the biggest changes in the 20th century have taken place on the northern third of the property. This area was entirely cleared by the early decades of the 19th century for use as pasture. By the 1850’s, the Hallocks were even planting corn in the hilly and thin soils between the pond and the bluffs, although yields were apparently disappointing. Gradually, starting late in the19th century, the pastures and fields nearest the Sound shore were abandoned and allowed to grow back into woodland. Early 20th century Hallock photographs show the area around their pond still mostly cleared, but with scattered glades of trees already 20 or more feet tall.
Writing in the 1930’s, David Halsey Hallock was amazed at how rapidly cedar trees had overtaken the area in the previous 40 or 50 years. He assumed that large colonies of what he called “cliff swallows” – probably the bank swallows that still colonize the clay pinnacles in the area – were responsible. The whole northern third of the farms once owned by the Hallocks, except where later disturbed by the Levon project, is now covered by a dense tangle of second-growth forest probably at least 120 years old in parts mixed with old fields abandoned in the middle decades of the 20th century.
Further east, the Howells also grazed livestock on the hilly northern parts of their property, using the spring up in that area as a convenient source of water. Alice Downs describes the wooded thickets on the northern part of her property as “impenetrable” when she first moved there in 1932. Most likely, this area was never planted with cultivated crops and has not been cut over for at least a century now.
Camp William Carey
The Boys Club of New York opened Camp William Carey in 1903. For several years previously, the Club had been sending boys from the Lower East Side of New York out to a camp on Plum Island on property belonging to Abram S. Hewitt, a former Mayor of New York. However, when the army needed to expand Fort Terry in 1902, the Boys Club decided to acquire a permanent location and name it after the prominent New York editor, William Carey. Initially, they purchased just 30 acres in the northwest corner of the current KeySpan property.
According to the camp’s 1925 “Information Bulletin,” the facility accommodated about 2,500 boys per summer, with 500 new campers ranging from 8-15 years old arriving by bus every other Monday for two-week stays. The camp was part of the Boys Club’s mission “to begin to make useful American citizens out of the undisciplined children of foreign immigrants.” The camp boasted 4 baseball diamonds, 2 basketball courts, 2 volleyball courts and lots of open space for other outdoor activates. The boys were housed in large dormitories. There was a dining hall and a recreation hall. The boys went swimming twice a day, hiked and enjoyed evening entertainment programs. After additional improvements in 1929, the camp even touted that all the boys would be able to take hot showers two out of three days! A newspaper article that year claimed it was “one of the most outstanding camps of that sort in the country.”
The architecture was typical boys camp. The dormitories were low to the ground, with long roof overhangs. The windows had no glass – just screens and shutters. The camp never had true “indoors plumbing” – just latrines with open cesspits beneath.
In 1944, Carey Camp, as it was generally called, bought additional property to the east, including the north end of the Hallock farm, bringing its total holdings to about 125 acres. The camp owned most of Hallock’s Pond, which campers called “the Lake” and used for swimming and picnics, and considerable undeveloped woodland to the east. The camp’s most outstanding feature, however, was approximately a half-mile of Long Island Sound beach – although campers apparently preferred swimming in “the Lake” with its sandy bottom and fresh water to the rocky shore of the Sound.
Carey Camp operated for six decades. During that period, approximately 150,000 disadvantaged boys had the benefit of two weeks of Long Island summer. By the late 1940’s, the Boys Club had moved to 111th Street on the East Side of New York and been taken over by the Italian immigrant community that still lived in that area. As a result, that group made up the vast majority of campers at that time. There were no blacks, no Jews and few non-Italians. But, for the favored few, camp only cost $6.00 for a two-week adventure.
The author can remember being on his grandmother’s farm, across from the entrance to the camp as busloads of excited and screaming boys arrived every-other Monday morning. When the buses left two weeks later, their young passengers were much more subdued, sad to be leaving. Now, all that is left of Carey camp are the tree-lined paved road along the west edge of the KeySpan property, foundations, fences, the garbage incinerator and the mature shade trees that still grace its former grounds – and presumably the memories of thousands of ex-campers.
One of those ex-campers recently queried the News Review for information about the camp. He recalled: “As a young boy I dispersed two (two week) stints at the William Carey Camp for Boys, in Jamesport, LI. I’m unsure of the year but at that time reveille was a song about a horse named Beetle Bomb, as well as, all the great tunes from South Pacific. It was a magical time for a city kid, bussing to Jamesport, fresh from The Boy’s Club of Manhattan, four thirsty hours on a rickety yellow bus. God, did I love it. There was a small lake that was used for picnics, and of course, the wonderful white-pebbled beach at the bottom of the cliffs, watching the dolphins frolic, all summer long.”
Riverhead Harbor Industrial Park: “A Sand Mine in Disguise”
In 1963 Levon Corporation, controlled by George Semerjian then of Port Jefferson, presented a plan to the Town of Riverhead for a $250-million industrial park on the KeySpan property. The project centered around a huge deep-water harbor – hence the original name “Riverhead Harbor Industrial Park.” The large-scale artist’s rendition used at the Town Board meeting showed a half-mile square enclosed harbor surrounded by flat sea-level land covered with dozens of sleek, clean industrial buildings. One ocean-going ship is shown maneuvering in the harbor while another approaches the twin jetties protecting the harbor entrance. Two more large ships are tied up along the shores. The plan even included a “waterfront garden apartment colony” for workers in the industrial complex, with its own marina. Completion of the entire project was projected for 1973, with the first berthing facilities to be completed by July 1966.
The Riverhead Town Board unanimously approved the plan, which required rezoning the property from agricultural/residential to industrial, at a two-hour public hearing December 5, 1963. William J. Leonard, then Supervisor of Riverhead, declared himself “very satisfied” with the plan, despite opposition from “some few people [who] feel they will be hurt.” He was especially pleased that the 125 acres formerly owned by Camp Carey would now be on the tax roles – at industrial tax rates – causing the tax base to be “greatly improved.”
Few apparently noted the improbability of a plan that involved digging a half-mile square harbor through bluffs over 100 feet tall. And no one paid much attention to Semerjian’s history in sand mining. By Levon’s own calculation, it would be necessary to remove 40 million cubic yards of soil to complete the project. This apparently was seen as a necessary cost of building the wonderful project. A New York paper called the plan for an industrial park with its own harbor “unusual,” but nevertheless described its proposed features at some length as if they were quite realistic. According to the paper, Semerjian had formed the Levon Company specifically for the project and had spent $1 million “in cash” to purchase the 520 acres previously occupied by Camp Carey and nine farms.
In explaining their decision to sell, one of the former landowners recalled that there had been a series of disastrous years for potato farming in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Levon paid $1,800 to $2,000 for most of the property, depending on whether it included frontage on Long Island Sound. This provided a welcome way to pay off mortgages or to exit the potato business for many of the owners. John Kujawaski, however, used the proceeds from selling his farm to buy additional land near Herrick’s Lane for only $1,000 per acre. One farmer, George Naugles held out, resisting all offers until the price finally reached $5,000 per acre.
Ella Hallock, then near 80, was the last family member still living in the old homestead,. According to family accounts, she was not too enthusiastic about selling her farm for this project. However, a neighbor who recently retired from farming and wanted to sell his farm to be part of the project, called on Miss Ella. He argued that if she didn’t agree to sell her farm, none of the other landowners – most of whom apparently wanted to sell – would be able to do so. Moreover, he told Miss Hallock that she was “standing in the way of progress” and that this project was going to be wonderful for the future of Riverhead. In the end, she sold, but retained life rights to live in the old family homestead.
In March of 1967, New Jersey-based Curtiss-Wright Corporation bought a controlling interest in Levon Properties. Curtiss-Wright was a proud old aeronautics company that traced it roots to aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright and Glenn Curtiss in the first decades of the 20th century. It is unclear exactly why Curtiss-Wright became involved in the Levon Project. It may have been the result of a new management team that took over the company in the 60’s and pushed a variety of diversification efforts to lessen its dependence on airplane engines. The company still exists today as a $800 million, New York Stock Exchange listed, diversified manufacturing and service enterprise, but has long since exited the land development business.
After the Curtiss-Wright transaction, Semerjian remained in charge and retained a 20% direct interest in the property. In the time between the initial announcement and the Curtiss-Wright deal, Semerjian was busy getting necessary permits from state and federal authorities. The Army Corps of Engineers granted the dredging permit in 1965. New York State granted Levon land under water necessary for the construction of an entrance to the harbor. The New York State Water Resources Commission and the Suffolk County Health Department issued permits in 1967 for a well to draw fresh water for sand and gravel washing.
Shortly afterwards, work began on the first of two proposed 550-foot stone jetties to protect the harbor mouth. The initial proposal was to construct the jetties only out to a water depth of 14 feet and to dredge the channel and harbor to the same depth – sufficient for sand barges but certainly not for the deep-water shipping originally envisioned. Excavation and dredging began in September 1967.
A 1968 article in the New York Times called the project “one of the biggest ever conceived for the Long Island shoreline.” It noted that the operation had “drawn its share of skepticism” and that some critics claimed the whole thing was just “an elaborate veil of a sand and gravel mining operation” with the real profit coming from that business rather than the sale of industrial property. However, the article also quoted Semerjian vigorously denying these charges, saying that profits from the sale of excavated material were being used to develop the harbor. The same article described Semerjian as confidently estimating that the first industrial plant would be operating on the harbor within three years. He offered a vision of a new harbor that would provide a chance to bypass New York’s harbor with all of its transportation problems. Moreover, he noted that the Long Island Expressway was expected to pass a mile to the south and that plans were underway to build a bridge from Eastern Suffolk to New England. How could his project fail?
In another newspaper article from the same period, Semerjian was more forthright about his intentions, openly discussing “barging sand and gravel out to customers.” He added that he expected “enough materials should be removed from the bluff and hill areas to start preparing industrial building sites around the harbor by the end of  or early 1969.” He added: “Of course we could concentrate on mining an area to the required level and digging a waterway to any industry that wanted to move out here before that time.” He added, “Depending on the need for building materials, it should take about two years to complete the mining of the harbor.”
All the references in the above quotes to “mining”, “sand and gravel,” and “customers” made Semerjian’s true intentions relatively transparent. The same newspaper article mentioned that Semerjian’s company was involved in a project in Montauk where 580 acres of bluffs were also to be “mined for sand and gravel building materials” and then developed for industrial use. However, even if Riverhead’s leaders understood the likely intentions of Semerjian, the town was apparently not concerned about sand mining and did not yet have any ordinances regulating or prohibiting the activity.
Just as work was commencing on the harbor in October 1966, the New York State Atomic and Space Development Authority announced that it was planning a $4.5 million atomic powered seawater desalination and electric generating plant on the site. Semerjian donated 45 acres in the northeast corner of the site to the Authority for the plant. The capacity of the plant was to be 2,500 kilowatts of electricity and a million gallons of fresh water per day for Riverhead’s water system. In addition, the plant would produce “high energy radioactive isotopes.” The Authority optimistically projected that the plant would be operating in three years, i.e., by 1969.
It is unclear why New York even had an “Atomic and Space Development” entity. It would have been the first combined desalination and electrical plant in the country. Indeed, none has ever been built since. The proposed costs were astonishingly low. In comparison, when the Long Island Lighting Company first announced plans for its ill-fated Shoreham project, the price tag for a plant only twice as large was estimated at between $65 million and $75 million – a number that eventually ballooned to nearly $6 billion before the project was abandoned in 1989.
It is also unclear why anyone wanted to build a desalination plant in an area with plenty of fresh water. The plan was for the plant to provide “plentiful” water to the town of Riverhead. However, there was no pressing need for fresh water on Eastern Long Island and the technology was largely untested. However, the town’s first master plan, of which Supervisor Bruno Zaloga was very proud, projected that population would surpass 40,000 by 1985 and would eventually reach an astonishing 174,000.
The private contractor failed to come up with plans. The state attempted to find another contractor. Supervisor Vojvoda still believed in 1969 that the desalination plant “was closer than we know.” However, no further work was apparently done on the project, which soon disappeared from view. In retrospect, it hard to imagine what the plant’s promoters were thinking. However, at the time no one publicly raised any questions.
By October of 1967, the first of two 300-foot jetties was nearing completion. Levon was ready to start on dredging the harbor within a couple of weeks. “High on the bluffs overlooking Long Island Sound at Jamesport, . . . roaring bulldozers are excavating to make way for the . . . entrance to Long Island’s first man-made harbor,” bragged the News-Review. A full-page photographic spread in the News-Review showed not only the jetty, but also several views of equipment for mining, washing, grading and transporting sand. However, never did the article acknowledge that this was essentially a sand mining operation.
The 1969 Riverhead Town Yearbook contained a full-page advertisement by Levon Properties claiming that the project was “now underway” to develop industrial property “for Riverhead today . . . & tomorrow.” The spread, complete with the usual illustration of freighters in the artificial 200-acre harbor the noted that jetties were being erected, steel bulkheading installed and channel dredged. Coverage in the “news” part of the Yearbook also touted this “big attraction in Jamesport” – “the first entirely man-dug deepwater seaport on Long Island.” It promised readers that manufacturing plants, warehouses and “even apartment houses” would soon surround the harbor. Semerjian bragged about the 30 million cubic yards of fill that he would have to remove to complete the project. But never was it called a sand mining operation.
But all was not well with the project. Construction of the jetties had barely commenced when they started to cause severe erosion of the cliffs for more than a half-mile immediately to the east. Local property owners became alarmed as erosion of the Sound Shore bluffs accelerated, threatening to undermine a number of homes and topple them into the water. Otis Pike, the Democratic congressmen from Riverhead then representing the East End, led the opposition to the jetties. In late 1969, he publicly accused Curtis-Wright of being nothing more than a sand mining operation.
According to Pike, “There has been an almost fraudulent sale of this project to the town board.” He charged that “they (Levon) keep calling it an ‘industrial park’ and it’s a sand and gravel operation. That’s all it is and that’s all it’s been. It’s much easier to sell a phony industrial park than a real sand operation, so they disguise it. This is exactly what they have done and they’ve gotten away with it.”
Pike claimed that if Levon really wanted a harbor, it would have chosen a low point in the shoreline rather than “120-foot high” cliffs. “If you want to build a harbor, you don’t pick the highest point on the bluffs of the North Shore.” On the other hand, according to the Congressman, it was the ideal site if what “you want [is] sand and gravel.”
In 1970, opposition focused on Levon’s request from the Army Corps of Engineers for renewal of their dredging permit and to lengthen their jetties to 570 feet. Pike led opponents, including the League of Women Voters, environmental groups and about 800 area residents, who crowded into a contentious 6-hour hearing on February 13, 1970 at the Roanoke Avenue School auditorium. Pike charged that Levon had misled Riverhead’s planning board, that the company had not kept its word and that the project was nothing but a mammoth sand and gravel operation. The only support for Levon came from newly elected supervisor, Bruno Zaloga, and David Kemper, the town’s Industrial Commissioner. They were roundly booed by the crowd when they stated that there was no danger to water supplies and expressed their continued confidence that the area would one day become the promised deep-water seaport.
About the same time, Karl Grossman weighed in with an “exposé” in the Long Island Press, that began: “A mile-square, 140-foot-high chunk of Long Island shoreline is being barged off to Connecticut to serve as foundation for roads. The operation is being termed by its critics as one of the biggest ‘rapes’ of Long Island of all time.” He figured that “at the rate of excavation it would take a half century to create the ‘deep-water port’ as presented” and noted “that legal documents called the undertaking a sand and gravel operation.”
The County Legislature weighed in with a resolution asking for a new hearing by the State Water Resources Commission on the 1.5 million-gallons-per-day well on the site. The county noted that the commission’s 1967 approval of the well had been over the objections of both the County Health Department and the Suffolk County Water Authority. Both agencies were worried about problems of salt-water intrusion and pollution of the aquifers on which the area was dependent for its drinking water.
The vigorous opposition prompted a lengthy letter in the News-Review from former Riverhead Supervisor Robert B. Vojvoda, who was in office for most of the time since the initial approval of the project and had served previously on the planning board. In his letter, Vojvoda defended Levon Properties and its project, which he claimed to have visited every two weeks for the previous five-and-a-half years. He accused opponents of being driven solely by political agendas. He pointed out that Riverhead was the only Eastern Suffolk town with a master plan and claimed that the town had been “following it diligently for the past five years.” He noted that the industrial project on the Levon property was important for the “overall growth pattern” of the town. He further noted that there had been “months of tests” and hearings by the NY State Water Resources Commission answering “all conceivable questions” about the project before deciding the it could go ahead “without any problems for the residents of Riverhead.”
He dismissed as “hogwash” allegations that Levon’s jetties were causing erosion to the east. He further noted that the record of Levon had been “faultless” over the previous six years in meeting the fourteen restrictions imposed by the planning board when it approved the project in 1963. He added that when Riverhead adopted its first sand and gravel ordinance in 1969 requiring bonding and filing of topographical and rehabilitation plans, Levon Properties was ”the first to meet all requirements.” His concluding reason to support Levon was that the company had been very generous providing topsoil whenever it was needed for playgrounds, parks and parking lots in Riverhead, even offering to load it into town trucks for free – thus saving considerable taxpayer dollars. (For a sand mining operation, the topsoil was a waste product that needed to be removed to access the sand below.)
Only one member of the town board, George E. Young, attempted to resist Levon. Calling the project a “rape of the town,” he proposed a resolution requesting that the Army Corps of Engineers turn down Levon’s renewal application for its dredging permit. However, no member of the board was willing to second the resolution, so it died. Levon gained additional support from the town’s Chamber of Commerce, which passed a resolution favoring the development.
Interestingly, Riverhead’s two newspapers not only took opposing sides in the arguments but also took sides opposite their current editorial stances. David J. Willmott, editor of Suffolk Life, called the whole situation a “public scandal.” He approvingly quoted Otis Pike’s scathing comments about the project and stated that Supervisor Zaloga’s reassurances were “very hard to believe.”
Riverhead’s other paper, the News-Review ran a strong editorial saying that “[the paper] finds it difficult to believe that Curtis-Wright seeks to put anything over on Riverhead.” The editors went on to say, “we are encouraged by the firm stand” taken by the chamber, the town board and Supervisor Zaloga despite all the public hysteria over this issue. The paper was sure that future generations would appreciate the jobs this development would provide.
The News-Review editorial denounced the February meeting as “distasteful” and claimed it was characterized by a “great deal of misinformation” on the part of the vociferous opponents of the project. The editorial went on to praise “the caliper of men in office” such as Supervisor Zaloga “who refused to succumb to the pressure of the audience” or “bow to the hysteria of the moment” by disavowing the Levon well permit. The Review’s editorial concluded by stating how important it was to “show our confidence” in the capabilities of elected officials.
A few weeks later, a new report by the NYS Water Resources Commission indicated that Levon had actually pumped only 24 million gallons in the two years since the permit, not the 1.5 million gallons daily that opponents had charged. Moreover, the investigation found that almost all of the water was being recharged into the ground, so saltwater intrusion was unlikely. The commission did, however, acknowledge that the well was capable of pumping 1.5 million gallons a day if operated full time on a 24-hour basis. Nevertheless, a News-Review editorial cited the report as evidence that “Levon had been operating well within the terms of the application.”
Less than three months later, the federal Water Pollution Control Administration discovered Levon had not complied with a Corps of Engineers’ order to build two discharge basins for waste water used in washing sand and gravel. The agency ordered the well shut down immediately until an investigation could be completed. Both state and county regulators in turn reopened hearings on the project.
After shutting down the work for a while, the Army Corps of Engineers ultimately approved the permit. However, work did not restart on the project. By this point, perhaps in part because of problems with the permits, but perhaps simply due to the huge cost of the project, financial difficulties helped sink it. The partnership had started bickering amongst itself and Semerjian was suing Curtis-Wright for $20 in damages. By September 1970, reports circulated that Curtis-Wright wanted to sell the operation back to Semerjian, who remained holed up in the Henry Perkins Inn in Riverhead, which he also owned, and refused to comment.
That September, H. Lee Dennison, the County Executive who had made a name for himself in launching county’s pioneering farmland preservation program, made the first proposal to preserve the property. He wanted the county to simply condemn and buy the entire Levon parcel for a park. Not surprisingly, Supervisor Zaloga also opposed this idea, noting that 30% of Riverhead’s land was already off the tax rolls.
After the Army Corp of Engineers went ahead and issued a permit for additional dredging, the property owners east of the Levon property next went to state court. The New York Attorney General’s office joined the case after determining that homeowners had lost “alarming amounts of cliff-top property to the undercutting action of the winter seas.” In mid-1971 the court issued an order forcing Curtiss-Wright to tear down the jetties and close off the entrance to the would-be port. The west jetty was already removed by that October, with the other one under court order to be torn down by year-end, effectively ending the project.
In 1972, the property owners also filed a damages lawsuit in civil court, where progress was slow. However, in 1980 they won over $5 million in damages from Curtiss-Wright, even though that company had long-since disposed of the property to LILCO.
By the time the Levon project was effectively shuttered in the early 1970’s, it had scarred much of the central portion of the shorefront along Long Island Sound and the area behind it stretching back almost as far as the current farmlands. Semerjian’s operations never encroached on the far eastern part of the property, perhaps in part because any plans for operations within 500 feet of the town border would have required an extra layer of approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission, while operations in Southold would also have required that town’s approvals. He also never disturbed any of the agricultural portions of the property, perhaps because keeping the land in farming may have allowed him to enjoy the benefits of agricultural tax rates on that portion of the property. And, thankfully, he never encroached on beautiful Hallock’s Pond, which remained pristine through his ownership, although he did scrape the topsoil off a large area just west of the pond to prepare it for sandmining.
During the period that the Levon project was roiled in controversy, the town also struggled with another proposal for industrial development in Northville. New York interests had proposed a huge plant to remove sulfur from crude oil. The $150 million plant was to be located on a 470-acre parcel near the Northville Dock Corporation’s tank farm about a mile west of the KeySpan property. This proposal also set of a series of loud community protests, including one meeting at the Sound Avenue Hall where a dead oil-smeared duck was hung on the front of the podium were it was prominently visible to the audience, but not to representatives of Fuel Desulfurization, Inc. who were defending their project. The town’s Planning Board decided not to allow the zoning changes necessary for the project and the town board, for once, did not object.
Had both the fuel desulfurization project and the Levon projects been completed as planned, combined with the tank farm of the Northville Dock Corporations that had started in 1976, Northville would have had over 1,000 acres of property zoned for heavy industry – right in the middle of some of the town’s most beautiful farmland and shorefront. It is hard to imagine the impact that so much industrial development might have had on the future of Riverhead.
LILCO’s Nuclear Power Plants
In 1973, Curtiss-Wright sold the entire parcel to the Long Island Lighting Company for approximately $2 million. Just a year after starting construction on its ill-fated Shoreham project, LILCO announced plans for four nuclear power plants on the Riverhead property. LILCO’s partner in the project was to be the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation. A headline in the News-Review of July 4, 1974 declared: “Amid concrete bones of Levon Corporation’s Jamesport sand mining fiasco, the nuclear age will come to eastern Long Island.” Accompanying photographs showed the concrete hulks of structures Levon left behind after abandoning its operations.
LILCO apparently dreamed of becoming a major power exporter. Proponents of nuclear power still talked of “electricity too cheap to meter.” Executives of the company, may have dreamed that their success with nuclear power would propel their stock price into the stratosphere. They were almost all from the west end of the island and allegedly, they assumed that the few rural people in that far off place called “Jamesport” would not be sophisticated enough to mount much of an opposition to such a big and powerful company.
Neverthtless, another huge battle ensued with local residents, who were already aroused by LILCO’s nuclear construction in Shoreham. During the 6-year controversy that ensued, battle lines divided in now-familiar ways. On one side were environmentalists and many concerned local citizens. On the other side were Riverhead Town officials, including Supervisor Allen M. Smith, who pressed the familiar argument that the project would create much needed local jobs and would increase the town’s tax base. LILCO estimated that at its peak, 4,000 jobs would be created at the site.
Smith and his town board allies won re-election twice during this period, each time running on a platform favoring the plants and their much-heralded benefits. Another town board member, Dr. Francis E. Menendez, a local dentist, was quoted as saying there were “a lot of things that the town could do with the increased revenue.” He went on to argue that because the town was loosing “hundreds of acres of land and tax dollars” each year to the county’s farmland preservation program, it was “getting more difficult to maintain our existing tax base.” He concluded “we want nuclear power because we know that they’re clean, but we would be delighted to have any kind of power plant out here.” Opponents argued about jeopardized water supplies, increased traffic during construction, destruction of the countryside and overall health and safety issues.
To bolster its case, LILCO apparently made a preemptory strike in 1975. The company negotiated an agreement with the Town of Riverhead that guaranteed the company would pay taxes or payments in lieu of taxes for the plant as long as the town agreed not to oppose LILCO’s plans. However, this did not become public until the following year. Although Allen Smith was not yet supervisor at that date, he was the town attorney who helped negotiate the deal and was running to succeed Bruno Zaloga. Although this agreement was of dubious legality, it may explain in part why Smith’s support for the plant remained so strong throughout the entire controversy.
The opposition got a substantial boost in March 1976 when the Long Island Farm Bureau announced its opposition to LILCO’s proposed nuclear plants. The prime impetus that galvanized Riverhead’s farmers was a series of hearings conducted by the New York State Public Service Commission about proposed routes for two 345-kilovolt transmission lines across the town’s farmland. Farmers argued that the lines would interfere with farming operations and be an environmental hazard. An artist’s sketch commissioned by the Farm Bureau also showed that the lines would be a major visual blight on the North Fork.
Initially the farmers were pushing only for the burial of the transmission lines were they would not cause so much trouble. However, the agricultural community’s opposition soon expanded to include the plants themselves. As Farm Bureau Director Larry Bertholf explained, “It’s radiation which interests the farmer. If the consumer gets a hint of contamination in Long Island crops, the farmer is ruined forever.” Potato grower, Richie Anderson, added that “Once the rumor leaks out that a crop is damaged the reputation lasts forever. It would kill us.”
The Farm Bureau also attempted to ascertain public opinion on the subject by circulating 10,000 requests for residents’ opinions about the plants and power lines. Bertholf reported that “the vast majority [of the 3,000 responses were] against the plant proposal despite five years of LILCO publicity to enhance them.” The Farm Bureau’s influence, however, was not sufficient to convince the Southold Town Board to join it in opposing the plant. Town Supervisor Albert Martocchia reaffirmed the board’s intention to stay neutral.
Shortly afterwards, in mid-April, a full-page advertisement appeared in local papers of a group called the “Businessmen’s Committee to Prevent the Plants.” However, only 13 of the 180 signers were from Riverhead – not a very high portion of the town’s business community. That same month, a LILCO Vice President Ira Freilicher called nuclear power “safe and economical” and gave a sweeping defense of the company’s nuclear plans at a public hearing in Riverhead – claims that the Farm Bureau called totally unconvincing.
Nevertheless, LILCO still had lots of support in the community. For instance, shortly after the hearing, the annual meeting of the Suffolk County Real Estate Board reaffirmed that industry’s strong support for the plants even though they admitted that some of their members were worried about their safety. As Val Stype, the Board’s president explained, “The taxes the company will be paying will result in a decrease in property taxes paid by the community, and that will bring people into those communities, meaning higher property values.” Their only real worry was a rumor that LILCO might sell the plants to a tax-exempt state entity – a rumor that the company strongly denied.
Another local realtor, Joe Saland, also argued at an August PSC hearing that the plant was “needed for the growth and economy of the East End.” As proof of the benefits, he pointed to the increase in values in the Shoreham area as a result of the LILCO plant under construction there and the taxes it was paying. LILCO strongly reinforced this point. For instance, the company’s manager of environmental engineering, Matthew C. Cordaro, predicted that the two plants would pay $32 million a year to the town, “80% of Riverhead’s taxes,” and that this would “help keep the farmers down on the farm.”
When PSC hearings resumed in the fall of 1976, LILCO was met with pickets and vehement protests. Representatives from the towns of Southampton and East Hampton joined the Farm Bureau and other local groups in opposition to the plant. The opposition continued to grow the following year. That June, the Southold Town Board finally voted to oppose the siting of any kind of a power plant in Jamesport, whether nuclear or coal. However, the Riverhead Town Board did not follow. They were still focused on the benefits and how to make it happen. A few weeks earlier, they had even proposed offering tax abatements to LILCO to put the transmission wires underground, apparently in the hopes that this would weaken the opposition of farmers – even though tax abatements would have reduced the main benefit of the plant, i.e., the taxes.
That July, opponents got their most powerful supporter when Governor Hugh Carey announced his opposition. He cited the problems and dangers of nuclear waste as his main reason for opposing. However, he was undoubtedly listening to the strength of local opposition. The fact that he had a summer house on nearby Shelter Island may also have helped. The governor’s opposition was potentially very significant. New York had a parallel process for the approval of nuclear power plants and four out of the five members of the committee were key members of his administration.
That August, County Executive John V. N. Klein also took a strong stand against the plants. However, a week later, construction trade unions tried to block a vote on the issue at the County Legislature. Their issue was jobs – the other main carrot that LILCO held out for the local community. Construction of two power plants and possibly many more implied thousands of high-paying jobs for union members.
Surprisingly, the nuclear power plants were barely an issue in the Riverhead town elections that fall. Neither the Republican incumbent Allen Smith or the Democratic challenger Bill Haugaard opposed the plants. As the Traveler-Watchman pointed out, “Smith has made no secret of his support for the plants and has pointed out repeatedly that the tax benefit the town could derive from them, estimated by LILCO to be as much as 80 percent of the local burden, is the only remedy on the horizon for the town’s shrinking tax base.” Who could argue with that, certainly not Haugaard. He said that he could “see nothing about nuclear power that poses a threat to anyone” and that during the campaign “very few people” had even mentioned the issue to him.
That October LILCO also filled an application for two 800-foot jetties as part of the proposed nuclear plants – presumably to allow it to bring in prefabricated components of the plant more easily. In some ways, this application was quite surprising since it was Levon Properties’ jetties, which were only 550 feet long, that had caused that ill-fated project to collapse. Given the problems those jetties caused, the court order that resulted in the their removal and the lawsuit then pending against Levon, one wonders what LILCO’s managers were thinking. However, this is further evidence of how strongly they believed that nuclear power would prevail over all obstacles and how little they understood the difficulties and opposition they faced. As one local paper put it, with considerable understatement, “much local opposition is expected” based on past experience with Levon’s jetties.
LILCO continued to battle for the plants throughout the following year, even though Governor Carey’s office announced its intention to block the two Long Island plants as well as two upstate ones. Proponents, as the New York Times noted in a November 12, 1978 article on the plant, were “strenuously arguing the inevitability of progress and the need for cheap power.” The utility company acknowledged that “there‘s a very vocal minority out on the East End opposed to nuclear power and they won’t quit,” but expressed confidence that it would prevail and build the two plants.
In January 1979, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) finally gave the company approval for the first of two 1,150-megawatt nuclear powered plants. As LILCO undoubtedly knew, approval was almost guaranteed. The commission had given preliminary approval the pervious May. Moreover, up to that point, the NRC had never turned down a power company’s request for a permit to build a nuclear powered plant.
However, the opponents certainly did not give up, despite obstacles thrown in their way. For instance, that January, an administrative law judge moved the Public Service Department’s hearings on the plant from Riverhead to Manhattan – most likely to make it more difficult for the opponents of the project. Not surprisingly, Riverhead’s lawyer and LILCO supported this move. Throughout this period, the Farm Bureau continued to lead the opposition. Tom Twomey, then a young lawyer just starting out in practice, was instrumental in representing the farmer’s case and in particular, in bringing the governor into the case. By this point, all the other East End towns and the county of Suffolk were united in their opposition to the plant. Other prominent opponents included the League of Women Voters and ad hoc groups such as Suffolk for Safe Energy and Riverhead First.
That March, the most serious accident at a nuclear power plant in United States occurred at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A malfunction of the plant’s cooling system, compounded by human error, caused the partial meltdown of the plant’s core and resulted in the release of small amounts of radioactive gas into the atmosphere. Even though there were no immediate injuries or health consequences in the area, the intense media focus on the event helped make the dangers of nuclear plants much more real to many Americans. The coincidence that the movie, The China Syndrome, about the consequences of such a meltdown had been released only three weeks earlier, helped compound public anxiety.
Nevertheless, at the local level, the members of the town board continued to re-affirm their support for the nuclear power plants in Riverhead. Greg Blass was then a young lawyer recently out of the navy with an interest in Republican politics. Like many other Jamesport residents, he was worried about the dangers of a nearby nuclear reactor. He stood up at a town meeting in April and insisted on personally polling the five board members individually from the lectern – a level of interaction with the town board that was uncommon in those days.
True to form, Smith noted that the town needed the tax revenue. Another board member, George Young said that he “had faith in American technology and regulatory agencies,” and added for good measure his confidence that “we will tame the atom . . . to keep this country number one.” Yet another town board member, Dr. Menendez became visibly upset at being questioned by Blass. How dare he question all the benefits when the town was getting all those tax benefits and a public beach too? Interestingly, Smith also opposed the county’s pioneering farmland preservation program, claiming what it hurt the tax base, that the preserved land would make impossible for the town to grow and that it simply enabled farmers “to drive around in Cadillacs.”
In June, Blass, seeking a legal way to force a public vote on the issue, latched onto the town’s plan to build restrooms on a public beach that LILCO had agreed to donate to the town at the site. Blass reasoned that, because the town would need to expend public funds for the rest rooms, this could legally become the subject of a referendum. One wonders what the town was thinking in planning for a public beach within a few hundred feet of a nuclear power plant.
Blass worked with Tony Regula, the only Republican on the board, to put the measure on the ballot. When he proposed the vote at a town board meeting, he was worried that there might not even be a second for his resolution. However, much to his surprise, most of the board finally came around and voted 4-0 to put the measure on the ballot, undoubtedly partly in response to the Three Mile Island disaster. The carefully worded measure read: “Shall the Town of Riverhead support the nuclear plant project at Jamesport by operating and maintaining a recreational facility at or near the site, or by any other means?” Supervisor Smith abstained, even though he recognized that “the viability of the nuclear alternative is greatly diminished after Three Mile Island” and indeed, that the nuclear plant proposal was “dead as a doornail.” However, he was still hoping that LILCO would instead build a coal-powered plant on the site.
Smith continued to oppose the referendum, which he denounced as the “potty vote,” and to support the plant. Indeed, instead of campaigning against his Republican opponent Joe Janoski, he spent most of his efforts and advertising dollars in bitterly attacking Blass, who had become a last minute candidate for a seat in the county legislature. Perhaps in part because of the nuclear issue, Smith lost the election to Janoski, even though the latter did not make an issue of the nuclear plants during the campaign. Blass rode the issue in a successful run for a seat in the county legislature that year. Once elected, amongst his first acts were a fact-finding trip to Three Mile Island and a “sense of the legislature” resolution opposing the LILCO plant.
The formal end came the following year, in January, 1980, when the state’s Nuclear Siting Board, composed of heads of various state agencies, denied the application for the two 1,150 megawatt plants after the intervention of Governor Hugh Carey. Over the six years that LILCO attempted to build the plant, approximately 33,000 pages of testimony accumulated at the numerous public hearings. LILCO and its upstate partner spent about $160 million on engineering studies, down payments and other preliminary costs.
The most visible reminder from the property’s atomic era is the 500-foot tower still standing near the southeast corner of the property. It was erected by LILCO to gather meteorological data that might be useful in understanding the effects of an accidental release of radioactive material. Hallock’s Pond, which would have been destroyed to build the nuclear power plants, and all of the surrounding farmland, which would have been severely compromised, all survived intact.
The failure of the Riverhead project was a major blow for LILCO, although not nearly as devastating as the failure of company’s Shoreham plant would eventually become. The company had seriously overreached and its dream of becoming a major exporter of energy to the rest of the country was in tatters.
After New York State rejected LILCO’s proposal for the two nuclear plants on the Sound Avenue property, the company proposed building an 850-megawatt coal-fueled plant on the site. By the end of 1980, it had applied for and received approval for the project from the New York State Public Service Commission. State officials noted that the proposed plant would help reduce the need to burn foreign oil and would enhance the reliability of the local and statewide electric supply system. In November of the following year, LILCO agreed to accept the terms of New York State’s certification for the coal fired plant, but scaled back the size of the project, then slated for completion by 1992. It abandoned the project entirely in 1983 as it ran into increasing difficulties with its Shoreham plant, difficulties that eventually resulted in the closure of that plant and the near-bankruptcy and forced sale of the company, but said it would keep the 525-acre site.
Founding of the Hallockville Museum
LILCO’s ill-fated nuclear ambitions did produce one major benefit for the East End: the founding of the Hallockville Museum. A group of concerned local residents began meeting in 1975 to devise a way to save the circa-1765 Hallock homestead, its deteriorating outbuildings and the other farmsteads along Sound Avenue that belonged to LILCO. Because all of these farms had once belonged to members of the Hallock family, the museum’s founders chose to use the name “Hallockville” as the area had been called in the late 19th century when so many family members lived the area. The last of Captain Zachariah Hallock’s descendants on the property, Ella Hallock, then a spry 90 years old, was still living in the old family home under her life tenancy. Most of the other homes had been vacant for a decade or more and were beginning to show signs of their abandonment.
From the beginning, LILCO cooperated with the group trying to get the museum operating, hoping for a modicum of good will from the community. Initially, the company allowed Hallockville, Inc. to use the Naugles barn for meetings. In 1977 LILCO leased the Caleb Hallock (George Naugles) farmhouse and outbuildings to the fledging museum for 10 years, at $1 per year. At that time, plans were developed to save and restore fifteen historic structures along Sound Avenue on the LILCO property as a living farm museum and a center for traditional crafts. LILCO cooperated by boarding up the abandoned structures and repairing the roofs.
Two years later the single faucet in the homestead kitchen froze, forcing Miss Ella to move to a nursing home in Riverhead where she lived until her death, just after her 100th birthday in 1985. Then the museum began using the homestead itself and the surrounding grounds. In 1981, after Miss Ella ceded her life-tenancy rights, LILCO donated the homestead, the surrounding farm structures and two-and-a-half acres of land to the museum. That same year, the fledging museum held its first Fall Festival and its first Christmas open house in the homestead. In 1984, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1997, after unsuccessful attempts to arrange an additional donation from LILCO, which was then in serious financial difficulties, the museum purchased five more acres from the company for $100,000, bringing the museum’s holdings to 8.5 acres. This new parcel included a small piece east of the Homestead and property extending to the west almost to Herricks Lane, including the 1930’s Cichanowicz house and the site of Isaiah Hallock’s barn. KeySpan later donated a large barn built by the Naugles family, which the museum then moved onto this new property and restored.
The Sound Avenue Historic Corridor
The nuclear controversy may also have helped focus attention on preserving the historic houses along the rest of Sound Avenue. The whole Sound Avenue frontage of the KeySpan property was part of the Northville Historic District inventoried about 1975 with the New York State Division for Historic Preservation. As part of that process, “Building-Structure Inventory Forms” for each of the buildings on the property were filed with the state agency. At the same time, the entire length of Sound Avenue and the structures along it were declared a Historic Corridor by both the Town of Riverhead and by act of the State Legislature in 1974.
Unfortunately, however, the designations were not created as official historic districts under enabling legislation, and consequently neither restricted demolition of historic structures along the corridor nor provided any resources for their preservation. Nevertheless, the town’s Master Plan, adopted in 2004, recognizes the importance of the historic corridor. And, more recently, the Planning Board has made attempts to limit and control development within 500 feet of Sound Avenue.
Efforts at Preservation of the “KeySpan Property”
After the death of LILCO’s proposals for both nuclear-powered and coal-powered plants on the Riverhead site, the property sat idle, apparently forgotten during LILCO’s tribulations as ever-mounting problems with the Shoreham facility pushed the company into a close brush with bankruptcy. It was partially rescued by a 1989 deal with New York State in which the company surrendered the Shoreham plant in return for a state bailout. It took another three years for the final decommissioning decision. Finally, in 1998, after most of LILCO’s assets passed to the Long Island Power Authority, the remnants of LILCO merged with Brooklyn Union Gas to form KeySpan Energy Corporation. As part of this transaction, the surplus Riverhead property came under the control of KeySpan.
During the two decades after 1980, the land lay undisturbed. Underbrush, and even trees gradually grew up in the areas that Levon’s operations had disturbed back in the 1970’s. Throughout this period, farming continued on the roughly 300 acres of agricultural land, with the Kujawaski family on the western half and the Cichanowicz family on the eastern half.
Gradually, during these years of seeming idleness, the forces came together that would ultimately result in the preservation of the entire property. It is a remarkable story, combining both local grassroots efforts and powerful statewide and regional trends. Along the way there were many near misses. The property came close to being developed several times. Ultimately, however, with inspired leadership from all sides, needs of an enlightened corporation came together with those of environmental groups, farm organizations and state and local governmental leaders , resulting in a deal that was totally unique, but will hopefully be a model for future preservation efforts.
When the Cichanowiczes sold their home farm across the street to Martha Clara Vineyards and gave up farming in 2001, KeySpan was reluctant to enter into new leases with other farmers. KeySpan allowed the Hallockville Museum, working with the Long Island Antique Power Association, to plant the historic Hallock farm behind the homestead barn with historically appropriate crops. Most of the remaining farmland once cultivated by the Cichanowiczes was allowed to sit fallow, resulting in wonderful, albeit temporary, habitat for field-loving birds.
Within a year of KeySpan taking over custody of the Jamesport property in 1998, Robert B. Catell, CEO of the company, began to get calls from developers. One especially tenacious caller, a Long Island businessman, said he had $45 million he wanted to use to build an exclusive golf course and resort on the Jamesport property. He even promised “locker number one” to Catell as an added inducement. Fortunately, David J. Manning, the company’s Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs who had dealt with many environmental issues in the energy industry over the course of his career, had a different vision. He encouraged Catell to resist the pressure from developers, pointing out how unique this property was on an island where only 10 of 200 miles of coastline were accessible to the public.
Rumors of developer interest spread rapidly. Among others, they prompted Mary Mulcahy, president of the North Fork Audubon chapter, to bring the issue up to her board of directors in 1999. The board decided to write a letter to Bernadette Castro, New York State Parks Commissioner, urging the state to acquire the property. Mulcahy recalls receiving a nice response from Castro saying that she and Governor George E. Pataki were aware of the property and were looking into it, but heard nothing more.
North Fork Audubon and virtually every other environmental group in the area, including the North Fork Environmental Council, the Pine Barrens Society and the League of Conservation Voters, had preservation of this property high on their priority lists, but they were not able to find a mechanism to make preservation a reality. Nevertheless, the various forces were gradually coming together that would ultimately result in the preservation of the entire parcel in 2002.
An early step in this process in 1985 was the designation of Long Island Sound as one of the first estuaries selected in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Estuary Program. Under the auspices of this program, conservation leaders from both the Connecticut and New York shores of Long Island Sound came together in 1989 to develop strategies to protect and clean the Sound.
As part of that effort, the Audubon Society, under the leadership of David Miller, then its Northeast Director, launched the first “Listen to the Sound” initiative in 1990. Late that spring, a series of fifteen “citizen hearings” were held on both sides of the Sound. Close to 500 people testified and total attendance was over 1,500 individuals. The resulting report issued in 1991, “Listen to the Sound: A Citizens’ Agenda,” called for the Sound’s waters to be made once again “clean, clear, safe to swim in and charged with life.” The report also advocated publicly accessible beaches, preservation of undeveloped lands and the encouragement of “abundant wildlife.” To further this agenda the 200 local, state, regional and national organizations that had participated in “Listen to the Sound” formed the Long Island Sound Watershed Alliance.
Over the ensuing decade significant gains were made. Connecticut Senator Joe Liberman spearheaded an effort of create an EPA Long Island Sound Office, which in turn created a comprehensive conservation and management plan under the National Estuary Program. On the New Yrok side, Governor Pataki’s Clean Water/Clean Air Bond act of 1996 earmarked $200 million for the Sound. A Clean Water/Jobs Coalition was formed of industry, labor and environmental groups. Gradually, the waters of the Sound became cleaner, with a 25% reduction in nitrogen pollution.
However, much remained to be done – including a way to thwart the intense development pressure on the few remaining unprotected areas along the shores of the Sound. Consequently, Audubon organized a second “Listen to the Sound” initiative with a series of ten citizen hearings in May and June of 2000. Audubon worked with Save the Sound and the Regional Plan Association and a long list of co-sponsors including local environmental advocacy groups such as the North Fork Audubon, North Fork Environmental Council and the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. The ensuing report recommended preservation of nearly thirty parcels in Suffolk County, including the KeySpan property, which it described as “an ideal acquisition, part preserve and part recreation area.” In the same report, local Audubon chapters on the East End identified the KeySpan property as their single highest priority. This recommendation dovetailed nicely with an initiative Governor Pataki announced in his 2000 “State of the State” message to add ten Long Island Sound access points over the next ten years, an effort to which he was committing $25 million.
The “Listen to the Sound 2000” report came out in January 2001. That month, John Cahill, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Al Caccesse then Deputy Commissioner for Operations and Land Management at New York State Parks and Bernadette Castro, State Parks Commissioner, went out to Jamesport on a field trip to view the KeySpan property. They choose a bitter cold day. Nevertheless, as Caccesse put it later, “It was very clear that it was our top priority when we walked up to the top of that dune. It was also clear that this acquisition would get a lot of support from the conservation community.” But, again, little came of this visit, except for the cash that Castro left behind in the Hallockville Museum’s gift shop.
That fall, other groups, such as the Pine Barrens Society and the League of Conservation Voters began to work with Audubon New York. Bob Yarrow of the Regional Plan Association, John Atkins of Save the Sound and Eve Kaplan of the North Fork Environmental Council, were also involved in the initial meetings. Early on the group decided to organize a concerted letter writing campaign from each of the organizations to the governor indicating that the KeySpan property was a top priority. They recognized, according to Audubon’s David Miller, that individual letters from each of the organizations, although more difficult to organize, would be far more effective than a group letter.
Miller took the lead in organizing group’s activities between September 2001 and March 2002, which included lobbying visits to the State Parks Department to meet with Bernadette Castro and others, to the DEC to meet with John Cahill and to the legislature to meet with State Senator Kenneth Lavalle and Assemblyman Steve Englebright. As Miller later put it, everyone was receptive. “They can’t conceive of a mile of undeveloped Long Island Sound shorefront.”
Audubon’s own letter to the governor, dated December 5, 2001, stated that this parcel was “truly one of the most magnificent open space projects in recent history.” The letter referred to the dozens of groups involved in the “Listen to the Sound” program, and noted that they all considered this project “one of the top acquisition priorities” in the state – comparable to the Whitney land purchase in the Adirondacks or the Sterling Forest purchase in the Catskills. The letter also indicated that KeySpan was a “willing seller” eager to move soon on a transaction.
Audubon set a goal of having the parcel preserved by the fall of 2002. As Miller described the strategy in an interview with the author, he recognized that the gubernatorial election that November could be a “clear catalyst” to get things going. “We set the deadline for election reasons,” Miller recalled. “We wanted the deal to be delivered by October of that year so it could be used for victory in this election cycle.”
In January 2002, the Governor’s “State of the State” message again contained a reference to his goal of ten new access points to Long Island Sound and also called for the preservation of an additional million acres of open space statewide over the next decade. Audubon followed up with a press release naming the KeySpan property as the organization’s top acquisition priority in the state for 2002. The next day, State Senator Kenneth LaValle issued his own press release about the importance of the property. The News-Review quoted LaValle saying “I would be very surprised if the governor doesn’t jump at this like a trout at a worm.” The senator also indicated that the idea of establishing a gulf course on the property, which he had once suggested, was no longer under consideration. He added that he, as well as County Executive Robert Gaffney, did not support any private uses on the site, except that he thought the agricultural use on the farmland must continue. “That’s not even negotiable.”
In February, an article about North Fork Audubon came out, and this generated additional press opportunities for Senator LaValle. Also, that month, Audubon New York submitted an official resolution naming the KeySpan property its highest open space priority in the state. Local chapters around the state voted on this resolution and agreed to write letters in its support.
In March of 2002 the Suffolk County Legislature passed a resolution, sponsored by Michael Caracciolo, a Wading River Republican and Ginny Fields an Oakdale Democrat, supporting the public purchase of the KeySpan property. Although it didn’t provide any funding for the purchase, it did set in motion the first steps in that direction: a survey, an appraisal, an environmental audit and a title search of the property. According to the resolution, the legislators believed “adequate funding” would be provided from the county’s quarter-percent sales tax program earmarked for open space purchases “as long as the State of New York is willing and able to contribute substantially to such an acquisition.” Again, although the NFEC, Pine Barrens and the League of Conservation Voters were all listed as supporters of preserving this property, there was a direct Audubon connection. Legislator Fields was on the board of directors of Audubon New York.
By this point it had become clear that there was a lot of interest on Eastern Long Island in preserving the property and that the state was likely to be able to help. However, there were still a number of obstacles. While the state was interested, it was by no means clear that that state could come up with sufficient funding to do the deal. Unfortunately, compared with upstate land acquisitions, preservation on Long Island is very expensive and hard to sell to legislators from areas where $30 million will preserve 30,000 acres instead of the 500 it would preserve on Long Island. KeySpan was interested in helping, but also had to meet the needs of its shareholders. It could not just give the property away. At the same time, local governments were concerned over the loss of tax revenue, always their key hot button. And, to add to the mix, developers were definitely interested, adding pressure to get the deal done soon.
Suffolk County brought in the Peconic Land Trust to prepare a conceptual plan for the property that would preserve the maximum amount of farmland and open space, but also include enough limited development to make the project economically viable and blunt some of its possible tax impacts. The Peconic Land Trust was actively involved in a number of other preservation projects on the East End, and had an ongoing relationship with the county’s preservation program. The trust also was already familiar with the parcel. The previous summer (2001) David Manning and Thomas DeJesu from KeySpan had initiated discussions with the trust when the company decided that it was going to sell this asset.
They began by inventorying the environmental attributes of the property, identifying disturbed areas and areas most critical for preservation. They then spent the next year meeting with various players and developing a series of “concept plans.” These plans all called for preserving the farmland for agriculture, but mostly in private hands. They also called for preserving the least disturbed parts of the woodland as a “private nature preserve” and the rest of the woodland and beach frontage as a state park. However, the concept plans also identified a few limited areas for development, including home sites on each of the farm parcels to enhance their value and allow farmers to live on their farms. The plan also included a site for a “country inn” that presumably would have been the biggest economic generator for the project.
These plans were not just pie-in-the-sky exercises. According to Tim Caulfield at the Peconic Land Trust, they were working with a developer who was extremely interested in developing a conference center and senior housing as part of an overall preservation plan. Although the county was picking up the bills, the trust acted as if it had “four key stakeholders” – the county, KeySpan, the town of Riverhead and the state. Caulfield met with all the players, in an effort at “consensus building” and to sell the concept of a private/public partnership.
About the same time, Dave Manning finally took Robert Catell out for his first visit to the property. They walked along the beach and up to the top of Jacob’s Hill, with its panoramic views over Long Island Sound. “I’ve been to so many places around the world, but this truly was one of the most exquisite landscapes I had ever seen,” Catell recounted later. “What was even more amazing was that KeySpan owned this splendid property.” Catell, a strong believer in corporate “enlightened sell interest,” was convinced that the company needed to find some way to preserve the parcel “for our children and grandchildren.”
From March to October that year, Audubon continued to work at all levels, including two visits to lobby the legislature and meetings with numerous other officials. As Miller later described their strategy, “It sends electricity through the system, it gets juice running through the system” every time they met with a legislator or other elected official and that person in turn called the Parks Department or the Governor’s Office. “This helps get [the project] to the top of the pile.”
Certainly, there was plenty of private interest in developing the site. Robert Catell later told the story of how Donald Trump had approached him at a fundraising event at the Waldorf Astoria. Catell knew Trump, whose father had large commercial interests in Brooklyn and had developed a long relationship with Brooklyn Union Gas, KeySpan’s corporate predecessor. Trump opened the conversation by pointing out that Catell had just walked past Miss America without realizing it. Naturally she was standing next to Trump and his girlfriend. But, Trump quickly segued to his favorite topic, real estate. Trump told Catell he wanted to buy “that piece of property of yours on Long Island.”
At that point Cattel still did not even know what parcel Trump wanted, and had to ask Dave Manning, who was also present. Apparently, Trump had already talked to KeySpan’s real estate people about the Jamesport property. He had told them, “My people don’t go to the North Shore [sic], they go to the South Shore,” but this parcel was different. He envisioned a Trump-style resort and golf course there. Catell recalled later that he “could just see the gold letters 20 feet high along Sound Avenue,” but fortunately, Trump did not pursue his interest.
Audubon also quickly realized that they needed to find a way to get through to KeySpan Corporation itself. Miller had met with Vinney Frigeria III, Manager of Governmental Relations in late 2001 and had talked with Dave Manning, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, who said that the company “wanted to do the right thing.” However, Manning added that the company was open to “all options,” implying that they were also still considering selling to a private developer. Audubon also contacted KeySpan’s real estate people directly, but found them noncommittal.
Seeking still higher access in KeySpan Corporation, Miller approached William E. Davis who was on Audubon New York’s board of directors. Davis was the past president of Niagara Mohawk and then, through a merger, president of National Grid. Through his industry contacts, Davis knew Catell, the CEO of KeySpan Corporation. Davis made a call to Catell, and set up a meeting with Miller for late April.
At the meeting, Miller talked with Catell for about three-quarters of an hour about the importance of the property and the importance of this project to Audubon. Although David Manning was out of town, Thomas P. DeJesu, Director, Government & Regulatory Relations, who worked closely with Manning was at the meeting. Catell said that he had already been sold on the concept of preserving this property, but that he didn’t know how to get there. Miller described the scope of the political support for the project and helped Catell see the larger position.
About three weeks later, Miller and Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff, Audubon NY’s Board Chairman, met with the Governor and spent about fifteen minutes telling with him about the importance of the KeySpan property. According to Miller, the Governor kept on saying that he would “love to see this space. I’ve heard so much about it.”
Miller then reported back to Catell about this conversation with the Governor. Catell talked about his need to have a fair appraisal done of the property – so that they could come up with a price that would be defendable to the company’s shareholders. They also decided that Catell and the Governor needed to talk directly, which they later did twice.
Meanwhile, conversations had already started between the State Parks Department and KeySpan Corporation, again partly prodded by the efforts of Audubon NY. Al Caccesse, then Deputy Commissioner for Operations and Land Management at New York State Parks, after meeting with DeJesu in January, met several more times with Manning and DeJesu. KeySpan agreed to allow the state to order an appraisal of the property. Because of the expense of the appraisal, the state had to bid it out.
A Deal to Preserve the Farmland and Create Hallock State Park Preserve
By this point, the state was seriously interested in the property. The parks department had already done the necessary appraisal work. However, the numbers, reputedly ranging from $23 million to $30 million, were significantly above what the state was able or willing to spend.
On June 18, there was a big meeting of all the players at KeySan’s offices in Hicksville. The Peconic Land Trust was there, the county, the Nature Conservancy, the North Fork Environmental Council, Audubon, the state, the Town of Riverhead, the Farm Bureau – as well as a new organization, the Trust for Public Land. By this point, the state was making strong noises that it wanted to own the whole thing. Audubon was also pushing for that end. Consequently, the Peconic Land Trust’s concept of a private-public partnership took the back seat while the Trust for Public Land took a more active role in the negotiations.
The preservation plan ultimately adopted by the state went in a different direction, but these concept plans helped clarify everyone’s thinking about the project and provided a back -up plan in the event that total state purchase was not an option.
Once they had received an appraisal, the state sent a formal letter to KeySpan offering to purchase the property at fair market value. At this point, things began to get more complicated. The environmental community was pushing for the state to buy the entire property. However, the agricultural community wanted to be able to continue farming on the property. The environmentalists were willing to see agriculture continue, but they thought the land should be owned by the state and leased to farmers.
But farmers considered this arrangement unworkable. They worried that they would be unable to obtain credit without ownership and that they would have far les incentive to be good stewards. Problems with leasing farmland on nearby Wildwood State Park in Wading River contributed to these concerns. Miller met with Patrick Hooker, governmental Relations Director for the New York Farm Bureau and the Trust for Public Land. Miller reported later that, because of the relationships Audubon had cultivated with Farm Bureau over the years, it was not an uncomfortable meeting. Indeed, at the end of the meeting they couldn’t figure out why the state needed to own the land and lease it to farmers, rather than selling it directly. However, Dick Amper of the Pine Barrens Society and Senator LaValle were still insisting on this arrangement, because they thought it was what the environmental community wanted.
Meanwhile the Town of Riverhead was raising additional concerns. Caccesse went out and met with Robert Kozakiewicz, the town’s supervisor. Kozakiewicz was worried about the loss of taxes the town, and particularly the Jamesport Fire District, would face if the state bought the property. Because the property has long been zoned industrial, the town, school district and fire district had been collecting at total of $670,000 per year in taxes. He also put in a strong request that the Long Island Antique Power Association receive a couple of acres as part of the deal. The state offered to give the town the lease payments from the farmers in lieu of taxes, but Kozakiewicz didn’t think that was a good idea either. Caccesse tried to explain to Kozakiewicz, who had recently led the effort to borrow $30 million for farmland preservation in the town, that this deal would instantly accomplish half of his goal at no cost to the town, but Kozakiewicz still did not warm to the idea.
The Trust for Public Land proved to be an ideal agent to negotiate a consensus solution. The article in the New York Times back in October 2000 had piqued the interest of the trust. They felt they had some unique capabilities that would help “drive people to compromise.”. They also had contacts with KeySpan and soon set up a meeting. After the June 28 meeting, the Trust for Public Land became far more active in the negotiations. “They saw a way to bridge the valuation gap between the appraisals and what the state was able to pay,” as Erik Kulleseid explained.
They were able to convince KeySpan of the benefits of selling the property below appraised value – in what is technically called a bargain sale. In this type of transaction, the seller gets less than full market value for the property. However, the difference between the “bargain” selling price and the appraised value becomes a tax deduction. Although the tax benefits are never close to the full selling price, combined with other intangible benefits to the company, it was enough to bridge the gap.
The Trust for Public Land also saw a way to get through the town’s issues. If it wasn’t getting taxes, the town wanted payments in lieu of taxes from the state. However, Senator LaValle and others in the state were strongly opposed to this concept. To bridge this gap, the TPL came up with the idea of a single payment in lieu of taxes at the front of the transaction.
As part of this concerted effort to raise the profile of project, the North Fork Environmental Council and the North Fork Audubon sponsored a Migratory Bird Day walk on the KeySpan property on May 11, 2002. The press release stated explicitly “the public’s participation on this bird walk will send signals to the Sate of New York and KeySpan that it should be purchased by the State and protected as open space.” This event attracted a large number of local nature enthusiasts, as well participation by local politicians, such as Assemblywoman Pat Acampora, and representatives of Audubon New York. It generated considerable publicity in the local press and gave Audubon more material to use in its publicity machine.
In yet another effort to demonstrate local support for the KeySpan acquisition, the North Fork Environmental Council collected 500 signatures from Riverhead residents and organized a press conference at Hallockville on June 4. The press conference and gave participants, such as County Legislator Mike Caracciolo, North Fork Audubon, Pine Barrens Society, Senator LaValle’s office, numerous local civic organizations and the Hallockville Museum a chance to voice their perspectives on the issue and attracted still more coverage in the local media.
The Hallockville Museum had long been pursing its own conversations with KeySpan and local political leaders about the preservation of the property. Richard Wines, a board member, had also written a detailed history of the property as a way to gain additional public support.
The only dissenting voice was Riverhead Supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz, who showed up after the news conference was over. Previously Kozakiewicz had called the KeySpan parcel “one of the most developable in Riverhead,” although he claimed his comment had been “misconstrued” and that he was not opposed to preservation of most of the property. However, like previous supervisors in the town, his main concern was still maximizing tax revenue. “There’s got to be balance, he insisted, between preservation and development.
His bottom line was that he wanted some limited development, although not necessarily condominiums, on part of the property that would generate tax revenues for the town and for the Jamesport fire district. Kozakiewicz was especially enthusiastic about preserving the 320 acres of farmland, noting that he was a “farm boy” himself, but urged that instead of incorporating the farmland into a public park, it somehow be put back into the hands of farmers – an idea that had been gaining strong support in the town’s agricultural community, although not necessarily among environmentalists.
Another voice in favor of limited development was the Long Island Farm Bureau. As rumors spread that KeySpan was looking to dispose of the property, Farm Bureau executive director, Joseph Gergela had begun talking to key board members about the their desire to preserve the farmland part of the property and keep it in agriculture. As noted above, Gergela and members of his organization did not want the land to be leased to farmers because of their experience at Wildwood State Park. Instead, Gergela suggested that the land be sold back to farmers. Then, he took this a step further and suggested that this money be put into a special fund for the development of the park [and to pay a one time in lieu of taxes payment to the town].
Gergela wrote a column in the News-Review reiterating the theme that the “KeySpan buy demands balance.” He argued that the “all or nothing approach” of some environmental organizations did not meet the needs of the towns of Riverhead and Southold. Like Kozakiewicz, Gergela supported the preservation of most of the property. However, he also advocated “some reasonable economic development compatible with the tourist economy” on part of the property, perhaps the 50 or so acres that had been seriously disturbed by the Levon sand mining operation in the 1960’s, to help address the tax revenue loss issue.
Gergela also made a strong case for selling the over-300 acres of prime farmland directly to farmers, although without the development rights which presumably would be acquired by either the county or the state. Gergela said that farmers “do not want the state determining what types of farming should be allowed.” As part of its effort to convince political leaders that this idea was feasible, the Farm Bureau had conducted a recent survey of farmers had turned that indicated a least a dozen farmers to buy farmland at a suggested rate of $15,000 per acre. In other words, farmers were willing to put up $4.5 million themselves.
Throughout this period, KeySpan Corporation was being generally cooperative. David Manning handled most of the negotiations, navigating thickets of “political and financial minefields.” He and Catell recognized that even if the company wanted to give the land away, it wasn’t that simple. They had a responsibility to their shareholders, who ultimately owned the property. However, Manning also recognized that, even if they wanted to sell to developers, it would probably take 10 years to get the zoning laws changed to allow homes to be built on the property, and that, in the process, they would “alienate every environmental group in the region.”
Since the company relied on the support and cooperation of environmentalist “partners” in many of its projects to build power plants and lay gas pipes, this would not be a desirable outcome. Nevertheless, the real estate department at KeySpan did put out a formal “request for proposals” from developers. This may have expressed a real interest in some parts of the company in maximizing the economic benefits by developing the prosperity, or it may have been a tactic to prod the state and other public players to move more rapidly.
Caccesse also met with Long Island Farm Bureau Executive Director Joe Gergela, III who also didn’t like the idea of farmers not being able to own the land. Indeed, according to Caccesse, Gergela “almost threw me out of his office.” Gergela asked: Why did the state need to own the farmland? He proposed instead that farmers be allowed to buy the land, and said that they would be willing to put up $3 to $6 million to do so. He said that the farmers didn’t want development rights, but they needed to own the land. They needed to have title in order to get capital for farming and they needed to be able to pass it on to their heirs. In the end, Caccesse said that he thought Gergela was “absolutely right.”
Of course some in the environmental camp were not happy with this, but Al Caccesse was intrigued. He took the idea back to Albany, and sold it to Dave Miller at Audubon. This led to further meetings in Albany that included Audubon and the state Farm Bureau.
Caccesse came back and met again with Gergela. Then he wrote up the suggestion and sent it to the governor. About a day later, Lenette Starke, Pataki’s Deputy Commissioner for the DEC, called to say they had a deal. The mechanism that Gergela proposed, which provided money for a park, “put the deal over the top.” Caccesse went back to Albany and met with Nathan L. Rudgers, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets. Rudgers also saw no reason why the state needed to buy the property. So Caccesse recommended that they let farmers buy the farmland and use the proceeds to help pay for the park. That way the town would get some taxes. And the area would benefit from the additional tourist revenues from an expanded Hallockville and the new Antique Power Museum. There was also an additional logic to this decision. By conceding to the Farm Bureau’s demand that farmers own the land directly, this neutralized the Farm Bureau’s other long-time concern – the tax issue.
And, without support from the Farm Bureau, Bob Kozakiewicz at the town was effectively left without any allies. By giving him a one-time payment in lieu of taxes and by agreeing to his request that his friends in the Long Island Antique Power Association also receive a couple of acres for their new museum, they were able to overcome Kozakiewicz’s objections.
The environmental community was still insisting on state ownership of the farmland. Caccesse went back to Miller at Audubon and said there was no reason the state needed to own the farmland, indeed, that they could do the deal without owning the land.
However, KeySpan was hesitant to enter into a transaction that would not be popular on all sides. After all, they were willing to sell at a price considerably less than they might have been able to obtain from a private developer, in part because they could reap considerable public and political credit from the transaction. However, this necessitated that the deal not make any enemies, especially in the environmental community.
So Caccesse went to Miller and told him that he had to turn the environmental community around. Miller made a few calls. He talked to the regional plan commissioner, then talked to Eve Kaplan at the NFEC, to the Pine Barrens Society and to several other key environmental leaders. Within an hour, he called back to say that he thought that they had a deal – one that would make farmers, environmentalists and the town all happy. Lynette Stark, Pataki’s Deputy Commissioner for the DEC called Amper to say they had a deal.
Along the way, in roughly July, they realized they needed a third party to make this work, someone more flexible that the state that could take title to the land immediately and then eventually do the transaction. Having failed to get the Nature Conservancy involved in the deal, they approached Rose Harvey at the Trust for Public Land.
The final deal was announced a few days later, on October 24, 2002. It called for the state to pay $16 million for the property, with $1.5 million to go to the town and the Jamesport fire district in a one-time payment in lieu of taxes and the rest to KeySpan. Hallockville was to receive 20 acres. The Long Island Antique Power Association was to receive two acres, with the right to purchase additional land. Although details were not yet clear, farmers were to purchase the land, stripped of its development rights. That money, in turn, would be used to develop the new state park.
The governor’s press release included quotes supporting the purchase from what seemed like every elective official possibly involved, ranging from Congressman Felix Grucci, Jr., State Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblywoman Patricia Acampora to the county executive and both of the town supervisors – as well as leaders of various environmental and farm groups that had been involved in the negotiations. The press release also carefully pointed out that this was the fourth of the ten Long Island Sound access pints the governor had pledged to create within a decade in his 2000 State of the State address. As Miller had anticipated, clearly this was to become an important piece in establishing the governor’s environmental credentials in the fall election campaign.
Catell convened a special board meeting at KeySpan to tell them about the deal. He said that although the $14.5 million the company would receive was well below appraised value, making this technically a “bargain sale.” One appraisal had come in at $20 million and it was likely that a developer could have been willing to pay twice that amount. However, Catell reasoned that “the long term value to our corporate image and reputation would be priceless. . . . And most of all, we could sleep well at night knowing we did the right thing.” The board enthusiastically agreed with Catell’s plans. And, after the deal was publicly announced, the media coverage for KeySpan was uniformly positive.
Caccesse called this a “spectacular” deal. It was the first time a deal had ever been structured like this. It made everyone happy – the state, elected representatives, environmentalists, even Kozakiewicz. The supervisor realized that the town was paying a price, but he also realized that he was getting support for farmland preservation and that the town would benefit from the increased tourism potential.
Negotiation the deal involved an incredible number of people. A wide variety of local environmental groups contributed, including Pine Barrens and NFEC. The Farm Bureau was heavily involved at both the state and local levels. Parks Department officials were involved all the way up to the top, where Bernadette Castro, State Parks Commissioner, took a strong personal interest in the project and “just loved the project” according to Caccesse. The DEC, and numerous other state offices also played a role. The governor’s office was also intensely involved, especially Steve Halsey who was in charge of media for the Governor [check]. The Governor himself clearly cared about the environment and set the tone for the transaction. And of course, KeySpan itself, including its CEO Catell were also critical. But, in the background, pulling string and shepherding the project through always seemed to be Audubon NY and David Miller. As he later recounted, “In July, August and September it seemed like I was always on the phone trying to keep the turbulence down. To make sure the deal could get done.”
Senator LaValle and Richard Amper of the Pine Barrens Society scooped the Governor’s announcement of the deal, with their own announcement a few days earlier. While they declined to give details, they managed to dominate the story that appeared in the News-Review the day before the governor’s press conference. Interestingly, they did not get one key detail correct, possibly indicating that they were not part of the last minute negotiations that shaped the deal. They both said that the state would acquire the entire 530-acre parcel for preservation and then lease the farmland to farmers.
Governor George Pataki paid Hallockville a surprise visit to tour the KeySpan property in 2003. Other officials in attendance included KeySpan president Robert Fanin, Long Island Parks Director John Norbeck, the Executive Director of Audubon New York, and the NYS Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets. Others present included assemblywoman Pat Acampora, the supervisors of both Riverhead and Southold, Joe Gergela of the LI Farm Bureau and members of the Trust for Public Land and the Peconic Land Trust. Richard Wines of Hallockville led the governor on his tour.
The TPL also performed an essential service in the execution of the deal. It would have been very difficult for the state to have sold farmland itself. The maze of state rules regulating the sale of public property could have made the process extremely complex, if not impossible. But by structuring the deal so that TPL bought the entire parcel, then sold the parkland and an environmental easement on the farmland to the state and eventually sold the farmland to individual farmers, all of the procedural nightmares that would have attended a state sale were overcome.
Why did the deal happen? There were a lot of reasons. A large number of environmental groups and local voices had pressed for preservation. But in the end, it happened because of the attitude that KeySpan took and because of the ability of Audubon, TPL, the Farm Bureau and the state to negotiate a compromise that made everyone happy. And, it happened because New York had a governor who really cared about the environment, who and make it a political priority of his administration.
At the time of the deal, no one had any clear idea how the farmland would be subdivided on sold to individual farmers. The Trust for Public Land asked the Peconic Land Trust to design and undertake this effort because of its expertise in the land preservation process on the East End. Staff member, Julie Wesnofske, who at the time was the PLT’s Riverhead coordinator, led the effort.
According to Wesnofske, the PLT initially thought about simply auctioning the farmland to the highest bidders. This would maximize the revenue to the state and would absolve the PLT of any accusations of manipulating the results. But, she recalls, “We quickly realized that a sale to the highest bidder would effectively eliminate farmers from the process [and that] the property would likely end up in the hands of real estate speculators and ‘hobby farmers’ who wanted to put their name on a bottle of wine or play in the dirt on weekends.”
By early 2004, after much deliberation between the Peconic Land Trust and Farm Bureau and other interested parties involved in the project, the trust had decided on a subdivision plan that basically followed the model of an affordable housing lottery, although of necessity it was more complex. They devised a plan that divided the farmland into seven parcels ranging in since from approximately 20 acres to nearly 40. In addition, by prior agreement, an eight parcel of 69.3 acres was reserved for the Kujawski family who had been leasing about 100 acres of the property for many years and whose family had farmed parts of the property for nearly a century. These parcels would be offered at a basic price of $13,000 per acre, based on the appraised value of similar agricultural parcels with the development rights removed. Adjustments were made for the presence of wetlands and for the increased value that two old houses provided.
The price was slightly below the going rate for preserved farmland because of extra restrictions that the state easement put on the property. The new owners could use their land only for agricultural purposes, not of any industrial commercial or residential uses (except for the two old houses mentioned previously). Aerial spraying of pesticides, further sub-division, removal of soil and “noxious types of agriculture” were also prohibited. Buildings and other improvements “necessary for farm operation” were allowed on up to 10% of the land area, but only after written approval of the NY State Dept of Parks and Recreation who had final say on size, location, color and design.
The Peconic Land Trust and Farm Bureau also developed a selection process designed to weed out “speculators or hobbyists” and select the most qualified farmers to participate in a lottery. Applications were graded on a 60-point scale. The first 10 points were awarded simply for owning or renting a viable farm operation. Then, in order to separate out the hobbyists, another 10 points were awarded to farmers with gross farm sales over $40,000 or 20 points if gross sales were over $100,000. The final 30 points were awarded on the basis of the farmer’s “stewardship” of their land: 10 points went to farmers with county certified soil and water conservation plans, another 10 points to applicants who owned or leased land in an agricultural district and the final 10 points to farmers who owned or leased land subject to a perpetual conservation easement.
Amazingly, 45 farmers applied and 22 of these qualified for the maximum 60 points. At a packed meeting on the night of March 17, the Riverhead Supervisor choose seven applicants from a barrel and another 10 alternates, in case some of the original winners failed to deliver the required 10% down payments or sign contacts on schedule. Some farmers were disgruntled because of their exclusion from the lottery. Two of them added some spice to the evening by holding ducks over their heads with a placard that read “Farmers Cry Fowl.” As Julie Wesnofske who had organized the lottery for the Peconic Land Trust later observed, “Fortunately, they (the ducks, not the farmers) were well-behaved and the lottery continued without further incident.”
One highlight of the lottery was when 12-year old Henry Kraszewski, Jr. of Southampton went up to the map to choose parcel # 7 for his father, Henry Kraszewski, Sr. who grew vegetables on 500 acres of owned and leased land in Southampton. Other winners included Charles and Ursula Massoud, the owners of Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue; Ed Tuccio and Dee Muma, owners of North Quarter Farm, who raised buffalo and horses and grew corn on 250 acres elsewhere in Riverhead; and George and John Starkie, who owned a garden center in Farmingdale and currently farm 40 acres in Cutchogue. Tuccio was especially delighted because his parcel included the one of two decrepit houses on the property — 1859 Eugene Hallock House. Tuccio’s great-grandmother was a Hallock and a cousin of Eugene.
Once the lottery was over, the Peconc Land Trust began the arduous task of sheparding the project through the subdivision process. One unexpected last minute impediment occurred when the Town of Riverhead held the subdivision map hostage in hopes of getting more money out of the deal (beyond the $1.5 million to compensate for lost taxes provided for in the original deal). By January 2005, the surveys were done, the subdivision process was competed and Hallockville, LIAPA and eight farmers had all received final title to their parcels.
New York Governor George Pataki and State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro came to a ceremony behind the Naugles Barn at Hallockville on May 18, 2005 to rename the KeySpan property “Jamesport State Park and Preserve” – ignoring all the local wisdom about the place being in Northville, not Jamesport. “This is just a wonderful day,” the governor said. “Jamesport is not going to just be a park, it’s going to be a park preserve. We do not want to disturb the natural habitat.”
That fall, the Hallockville museum celebrated the preservation project and thanked KeySpan Corporation for the donation of 20 acres by hosting the company’s CEO, Robert Catell, at a gala dinner under a tent behind the Naugles Barn. The highlight of the event was the landing of the 1931 Brunner-Winkle BIRD that had once been part of the Nagules family’s rum-running operation. Another highlight of the evening was the unveiling of a plaque thanking KeySpan that is now on the wall of the Naugles Barn. Yet another highlight was Catell’s signing of his recent book, The CEO and the Monk, which contained a chapter celebrating the “Jamesport” preservation project.
After the governor left, parks department employees took down the Jamesport State Park sign and stored it in the loft of Hallockville’s Naugles barn. Nothing more was heard from the state about the park until a year-and-a-half later, in October 2006 when State Senator Ken LaValle called a press conference at the nearby Hallockville Museum Farm on Monday to announce funding of an environmental education and visitors’ center in the park. Parks department employees retrieved the sign and planted it again behind the Naugles Barn. State parks commissioner Bernadette Castro came, as well as numerous dignitaries from all levels of government and from Audubon New York and the Trust for Public Land. LaValle presented Castro with a very large, very photogenic $1 million check for the project. Mr. LaValle said “The Jamesport State Park and Preserve is one of Long Island’s most significant preservation acquisitions”
Once again, after the dignitaries had left, state parks employees took the Jamesport State Park sign and placed it back in storage in the Naugles Barn. Nothing more was heard about the park during the Pataki administration. In late 2007, with a new Spitzer administration in Albany, the new parks commissioner, Carol Ash came for a visit, and like everyone before her, loved the site. However, she announced no new plans for the site, or even a process for creating the plans.
As of early 2008, the new Spitzer administration had not made any progress on planning for the park. The farmland, however, was mostly back in agriculture – but with some surprises. Several parcels have been sold to other farmers, including the eastern-most farm which neighboring farmer Ed Harbes purchased from Henry Kraszewski. Both Paumanok and Mudd vineyards have planted grapes on significant portions of their parcels. Ed Tuccio is growing corn on his land. The Kujawski brothers have leased their farmland to a sod farmer “as a rotation crop” to rest the soil for potatoes. The Hallockville Museum has its farmland in traditional crops such as rye, corn, potatoes and hay.
In one of the most positive developments, Ed Tuccio has totally restored the old Eugene Hallock house and made it a Riverhead Town Landmark. However, the Daniel Wells Hallock house on the Paumanok parcel is falling further into disrepair, and unlikely to ever be restored.
The Long Island Antique Power Association acquired an additional three acres of land, giving it five altogether. In 2006, after much difficulty, they began construction on a large pole barn on the property. They had intended to place the structure relatively near Sound Avenue, in the traditional location for a barn. But, the town’s Planning Board insisted that the building be located at least 500 feet back – supposedly in compliance with a provision they had inserted – without anyone’s knowledge – into the subdivision plan for the KeySpan property. This would have placed the structure squarely in the viewshed behind the Hallockville Museum’s Naugles barn. Only after intervention by Senator LaValle and members of the town board was a compromise reached locating the structure just 250 feet back from the road.
Meanwhile, the Hallockville Museum Farm has continued to expand and enhance its campus. After several years of restoration work, the museum open its Naugles Barn with a gala barn dance in June 2003. The event featured an art show of barn related painting and photography, as well as dancing to the music of the fiddle band “Dance All Night” and traditional contra-dance calling by Chart Guthrie.
During the winter of 2004 the museum moved the Trubisz Sprout House and Aunt Frances’s Washhouse (a.k.a. Trubisz Little House) from the adjacent Trubisz farm and ultimately placed on new foundations behind the Hudson-Sydlowski House. Later that year, master decoy carver Jack Combs moved his decoy carving shop from Cutchogue and rebuilt it on a foundation just behind the Sprout and Wash Houses. In 2005 volunteers from the museum fenced in the front portion of the old Cichanowicz farm to make a proper pasture for its two cows.
In 2006, the Museum completed restoration of the 1930’s Cichanowicz Farmhouse and commenced furnishing the interior back to its Depression era appearance. That spring, the museum mounted a temporary exhibit on the Polish Immigrant Farming Experience in the partially finished washhouse/little house and hosted a Polish picnic for descendants of the Polish immigrant families that had once lived in the area.
In 2007, Hallockville dedicated a new interpretive kiosk, funded in part by the Trust for Public Land that told the story of the KeySpan property – from its early history through the stories of its exploitation and ultimate preservation. It also erected new interpretative signage throughout the campus and inaugurated tours of the restored Cichanowicz Farmhouse.
Plans for 2008, include a dedication ceremony to celebrate the completion of restoration work on the two buildings from the Trubisz farm. And, a new executive director with direct farm experience is eager to find ways for Hallockville to use its gift of farmland to further its mission of reconnecting people with their agricultural roots.
Postscript: Jamesport vs. Northville, the Story of Shifting Place Names
On another note, the KeySpan property is often referred to as being in Jamesport. It is part of the Jamesport Fire District and shares a telephone exchange with Jamesport. However, neither the Hallocks nor other residents of the area ever thought of themselves as living in Jamesport. Instead, from at least the middle of the 19th century, the area was considered part of the hamlet of Northville. To avoid confusion, I have referred to the site as the Riverhead KeySpan property.
Apparently, Carey Camp a century ago may have been the first entity to apply the “Jamesport” label to this part of Northville. Perhaps, the camp used a Jamesport post office address, since none was available in Riverhead. At any rate, the subsequent owners of the property – including the Levon Corporation, LILCO and KeySpan – all referred to it as “Jamesport.” They have had lots of company. The local papers, as well as local town officials, have also often used the designation, despite protests from local residents that it was really “Northville.”
The name “Jamesport” has a vagrant history. James Tuthill first coined it about 1832 when he purchased Miamogue Point, laid out a street grid for an ambitious whaling port and named it “James’ Port” after himself. After the railroad came through in 1844, the first post office was set up. Although it was located on the main road, it was called “Jamesport.” The name replaced the hamlet’s old names of “Old Aquebogue” or “Lower Aquebogue.” Late in the century, when the inhabitants of the original “Jamesport” wanted their own post office, they had to settle for “South Jamesport.” Then, in the 20th century, the name Jamesport began migrating further north. Hamlet boundaries have never been officially designated, so confusion is likely to continue.
Acknowledgements and Sources
This history of the KeySpan property is based in large part on material collected by Mrs. Virginia Wines, the author’s mother, who compiled a massive quantity of local history material into a series of twenty-three large albums donated to the Hallockville Museum after her death in 1993. The author has attempted to make this account as unbiased as possible. However, in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Mrs. Wines, along with her friends Estelle Evans and Dr. Carol Granttham, were active opponents of both the Levon deep-water port and the LILCO nuclear power plants proposed for their backyards. The New York Times even gave Mrs. Wines the last word in its 1978 article on the latter controversy: “We knew from the beginning that we were fighting Goliath when we took on LILCO, but then, David won and I think we can too. A lot of people just don’t want to see those plants there.”
Other sources used include: Hallockville Happenings Hallock, David Halsey. My Memories, edited by Lois Young. 2001. Hallock, William A., Charles Hallock, and Lucius H. Hallock,. A Hallock Genealogy. 1926. Mather, Frederic Gregory. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. 1913. Grossman, Karl. Articles in Southampton Press, 2/14/02 and 3/21/02. Wines, Virginia M. Pioneers of Riverhead Town. 1981 Estelle Evans, Mike Sacco, Lois Young and Alice Downs have provided additional information.