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North Country Garden Club Honored By OBHS

OBHS Koenig Center proves a perfect venue for upcoming events with the TRA and SHNHP

The members of the North Country Garden Club (NCGC) were honored by the Oyster Bay Historical Society (OBHS) on June 10, for their work over the years in maintaining the colonial garden of the Earle-Wightman House, the headquarters of the society.
North Country Garden Club Thanked

As the business part of the meeting ended, Philip Blocklyn, OBHS executive director turned to the members of the NCGC to thank them for all the work they have done in the colonial garden and maintaining it over the years. “It is one of the great spots in Oyster Bay. I try to spend some time there, each day, even in winter,” said Mr. Blocklyn. He presented them with a plaque which will be mounted in the colonial garden.

It contains a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s The Succession of Forest Trees, “I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” Mr. Blocklyn shared, “It was my mother’s favorite quote.”

Mr. Blocklyn also thanked them for their donation of a miniature of the North Room at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (SHNHS). (Please see story on page 8.)

The NCGC members for their part, thanked the OBHS for providing a “home” for their miniature of the North Room at SHNHS that was crafted by its members in 1975. For many years it was displayed at the NPS TR Inaugural Site in Buffalo and was returned to the club in October 2002.

“We are very grateful. It took 10 years to find a place for the house,” said Jane Greenleaf. Ms. Greenleaf said the orignal work was done in her mother’s sculpture studio. Her husband made the box that contains the room. She and several NCGC members chatted about the different elements in the room and the woman who made each one of them, such as the chairs, the needlepoint and the paintings.

The room is electrified and light shines in through the windows making all the details come alive.

The NSGC is very proud of the work they have done at the Earle-Wightman House colonial garden as well as the Raynham Hall Museum Victorian herb garden which was created in memory of Carly Wagner, a devoted RHM board member and a member of the NCGC. The whole garden is built around the herbs used during Victorian times.

Looking Back At The Year

The Koenig Center construction is finished and it is completely funded, said OBHS Board President Frank Leone, as he greeted the members. It’s been a long process and involved a great many people and groups. The interior of the building has been furnished with desks and tables donated by the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA), said OBHS Executive Director Philip Blocklyn.

Additionally, Nicole Menchise, OBHS librarian/curator said they recently received the donation of six large metal storage cabinets from Sagamore Hill which has more than doubled their storage area for the Earle Wightman House materials. She added, “There is room for more objects.”

Mr. Blocklyn reminded the members, “We are still raising funds for things like exhibition cabinets and storage shelving. There is a long list of things we still need to continually improve the society. As we get collections, we need boxes and shelves to accommodate them. And every exhibition is different so it is a continual process. We met this goal and there are other goals still to meet.”

New Trustees Elected

President Leone thanked the hardworking outgoing trustees, “who have done a wonderful job the last two years” and welcomed the new trustees saying, “We have a lot of work for you guys.” That was when he announced that the Koenig Center, of three floors with an elevator, proper heating and air conditioning, is all paid for — 100 percent. He said, “The 57-year old society has never been in such good standing.”

Trustee Election

OBHS board member John Hammond announced the new trustees, Class of 2013: John Hammond, Stephen Walker and Timothy Horgan; Class of 2014: Rev. Kenneth Nelson, Kevin Porteus, Frances Leone, Darcy Tobako, Deborah Bertolli and Mark DeRugerius; and the Class of 2015: Frank Leone, Warwick Robinson, Terry Strauss, Stefanie Leone, and Martin Murray, Esq. Mr. Hammond asked if there were any nominations from the floor, but there were none offered and those nominated were elected by voice vote. The new officers are: President Frank Leone, Treasurer Mark DeRugerius, Secretary Terry Strauss and Membership Coordinator Stefanie Leone.

More News

In his role as Oyster Bay Town Historian, John Hammond announced that the OBHS was the first group to adopt a cemetery in the town’s new program to get civic minded groups to adopt neglected and abandoned cemeteries in the township. “A half dozen groups have adopted cemeteries so far,” he said.

Ms. Menchise gave the highlights of her work this past year as curator and librarian. They now have the records of Christ Church and the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) in their collection. Begun in 1915, the VNA lasted for 97 years as a vital part of the health care of Oyster Bay, she said.

Over the past year they have had various donations including: paintings, an Elizabeth Roosevelt letter, items from the Appleford family, a WWII woman serviceperson’s jacket, a crystal punch cup from a 1902 garden party at Sagamore Hill, and scrapbooks from several Oyster Bay residents.

She said the Earle-Wightman House was recently re-furbished to reflect the 18th- and 19th-century use of the house. They have moved all the fragile items to the second floor of the Koenig Center. And, she announced a mini-project completed is the digitalizing of eight atlases from 1873 to 1954.

Mr. Blocklyn gave members a copy of his report listing the many workshops, exhibits and lectures the OBHS has offered to the public this past year – and which have occurred monthly.

He thanked the “prestigious” events committee members Jacqueline Blocklyn and Ms. Menchise for preparing superb refreshments for the fete. That included lavender biscuits with honey butter, and fruit kebabs that featured a red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple fruit selection on each skewer.

Cherokee Bunn and Dwayne Beach, friends of Denise Evans, were there providing music for the reception. “They are donating their time, but they do have an open violin case,” Mr. Blocklyn hinted.

Mr. Blocklyn also introduced Kiera Harrison, their summer docent, who is working toward her BA degree in political science. She will be working with Ms. Menchise with both the museum and visitor services that are needed during the summer.

He also thanked Elizabeth Roosevelt who was a trustee and now is the gift shop manager in charge of all the lovely things they have for sale including handmade items.

Coming Next

On July 15, an exhibit now on view in Brattleboro, VT from the National Park Service will be at the Koenig Center. It is called Witness Trees, and will be done in association with Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (SHNHS). The work in the exhibit was created by students from the Rhode Island School of Design using wood from trees from the National Park Service. The students create art works and furniture out of trees that needed to be taken down at NPS historic sites.     

In the fall, the OBHS will be hosting a Theodore Roosevelt Association exhibit, “TR in ’12” on Theodore Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. The exhibit opened on June 15 and runs through Sept. 9, at the NPS TR Birthplace Site at at 28 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park in Manhattan and will be at the Koenig Center in the fall. Items in the exhibit include the eyeglass case that saved TR’s life from the assassination attempt, the pistol that did the deed, and the bullet-holed shirt he wore that day. While bleeding, TR gave an impromptu speech. His notes had a hole in them, and he gave his famous quote, “it takes more than that to stop a Bull Moose!”

Next spring an exhibit called “How I Love Sagamore Hill” will be on view. It is a collaboration between the OHBS and SHNHS. The photographer, Xiomáro (who is addressed as “CO”) is currently the 2012 Visiting Artist at the Weir Farm National History Site. He took photographs of Sagamore Hill after everything was removed from the house as it was being readied for its restoration. Those pictures, of the empty rooms, will be on exhibit in the spring. They include close-up photographs of the incredible woodwork motifs in the house that illustrate the rich details in the building.

Mr. Xiomáro is currently exhibiting at Weir Farm National Historic Site at the Burlingham House Visitor Center in Wilton, Connecticut. The exhibit is called “Weir Was Here: Secret Rooms, Doors and Windows.”

Membership Discount

Mr. Blocklyn announced a special discount for new members living in the 11771 zip code. They will pay $20 dues, as opposed to $35 for those outside the hamlet’s postal code.

For the annual meeting, the Koenig Center was decorated with quilts from their collection and ceramics from their recent show. It all made for a charming interior. One of the recent projects of the OBHS is a brochure on the quilts in its collection.

The afternoon ended as guests returned to the garden to enjoy the music, great food and the beautiful weather.  “It really is a wonderful occasion.” said Ethel Woolverton.