The HMS Sylph with the HMS Maidstone close behind by B. J. Phillips
The H.M.S. Sylph was constructed in Bermuda in 1812, but was not the first ship to have the name Sylph. Although rated an '18' (based on the number of cannons aboard a traditional sloop-of-war) she was actually armed with sixteen 24-pounder carronades, two long 12-pounders and two 12-pound carronades.
During the months of June and July 1814 the Sylph was extensively active in the interruption of commerce and the capture or destruction of merchant vessels on Long Island Sound. On May 11th the Sylph captured the merchant sloop Grace and took her cargo of iron and dismantled her for fuel. On the 18th the Sylph along with the Frigate H.M.S. Maidstone fired upon a Swedish vessel prior to joining the remainder of the British squadron in blockading the Sound. The blockade, in addition to the Sylph and Maidstone, included the H.M.S. Bulwark and Nimrod. On May 25th the Sylph and Maidstone were engaged in a battle with about a dozen small gunboats under the command of Commodore Lewis. After a three hour battle the American gunboats succeeded in their task of allowing a large contingent of small merchant packets and coasters to pass unmolested past the British warships. At the conclusion of the battle two 74 gun British ships arrived on site and the American forces retreated towards Guilford. The Sylph continued throughout June to make trouble on the Sound. She joined the Maidstone and Belvidera, another frigate, along with the La Hogue, one of the 74 gun ships that had arrived in the Sound in attacking more and more vessels.
In early June the Sloop Nancy was located along near Northville, Long Island when the British arrived, attempting to land marines to destroy the vessel. They were beaten off by the local militia under Capt. John Terry who shot at the marines from the bluffs. Soon after the Sylph arrived and bombarded the cliffs with cannon fire. She was joined by another ship, likely the Maidstone, and together they attempted to drive off the American militia and take the ship, but in the end were unable to capture the Nancy.
The HMS Sylph from a Model—Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England
On June 23, 1814 an early submarine, called the "torpedoe boat" was forced ashore near Horton Point, Southold after her line was cut in an effort to save a man who went overboard. The boat arrived on shore and over the course of the next few days her crew tried to get her off the beach. In the meantime, word was received by the Sylph and Maidstone of the boats arrival and they set course for her. On Sunday, June 26th, 1814 the Sylph and Maidstone arrived off of Horton Point and launched several small barges (or skiffs) with armed men intent on destroying the "torpedoe boat." Several members of the Sag Harbor militia who were present fired upon the British, who took at least four men either killed or wounded. The militia was forced to retreat and the British succeeded in landing on the Beach and burning the "torpedoe boat." The boat was one of the earliest forms of submarine to be engaged in naval battles.
A challenge to our regulars! Do you recognize this room? Do you know the furniture?
Although the room has changed some over the years, this is indeed the parlor of the Ann Currie-Bell house. Today, the chair and settee have beige upholstery. Now does it look familiar?
Notice the stained glass window on the west wall. We had thought a couple of years ago about reproducing the window that appears in the photo, but alas it was too much money! Perhaps one day?
September 4, 2020
Have you ever driven down the North Road and wondered what it looked like before it was widened? Or where the original road was?
This 1965 photograph in our collection answers both questions. Looking east, the two lane paved road is what later became the west bound lanes of today’s four lane divided highway.
The red barn on the right side of the photo still stands, but the old Wickham house that once stood in front of it was moved to the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council before the road was widened. Also interesting to note is that the road was not Route 48 at that time. It was called Route 27!
August 28, 2020
When was the last time any of us got together for a beach picnic like this!
This photo, circa 1935, depicts a picnic feast at the beach up in Peconic Inlet. Joseph Hallock is on the left in the chair with a fedora; Tom Currie-Bell is next to him; and Ann Currie-Bell is just in front of them with the stocking cap. Also, pictured are Genevieve Albertson, Ethel Dickerson and Adelaide Hill. This looks like a wonderful day out - with dessert on the menu!
August 21, 2020
This photo depicts Main Road Southold, circa 1890. Note how quiet the corner of Youngs Avenue and Main Road is! The Southold Hotel is in the foreground. Next door is the Henry W. Prince family house, and just west of that is his brick store that the Historical Society currently occupies.
August 14, 2020
Irving Ramsey Wiles (1861-1948) was one of the most important American Impressionists and portrait painters of his day. Art was in his DNA; his father, Lemuel Maynard Wiles, was also a widely acclaimed and exhibited artist.
Wiles was born in Utica, New York. He first came to the North Fork at the invitation of Edward August Bell, who was instrumental in starting what was to become the Peconic School, a loosely associated group of important painters who fell in love with our area’s bays, creeks, and Sound-front, our harbors and fields and woodlands. Like the many painters who followed the original group, Wiles was enchanted by the North Fork’s ever-changing light, as it sweeps from Sound to Bay.
His life as an artist began as a student of William Merritt Chase, with whom Wiles began to study when he was a boy of twelve. At New York City’s Art Students League, he studied with such important artists as Thomas Dewing. Later, he studied in Paris with none other the Carolus-Duran, the teacher and mentor of John Singer Sargent.
Starting in 1895, along with his father, Wiles began a summer painting school in Peconic. The Old Mill at Goldsmith Inlet was a favorite spot for the Wiles and their students to paint.
After staying in varying hamlets on the North Fork, Wiles bought a 10-acre bay-front stretch along Indian Neck, where he built a cottage and several studio buildings. There, he and his father continued to paint and to teach. He also taught at the Art Students League and the National Academy, of which he was an important member.
He painted society portraits, portraits of important politicians and of major performing artists. But it is for his beautiful, contemplative landscapes, domestic scenes and maritime paintings, especially of scallop boats, that Wiles is best remembered today.
Wiles had one enormous and tragic flaw: When it came to money, he was hopelessly profligate. He died penniless, supported by his daughter, the artist Gladys Lee Wiles, in Peconic, in 1948.
August 7, 2020
Yes, the color of the photo is actually blue! This is a cynotype of one of the three fire departments that once protected Southold hamlet from fire. The Protection Engine Company’s fire station stood on Beckwith Avenue. The second floor of the building was a meeting room
The fire company moved out in 1937, when the three fire departments consolidated together to form the Southold Fire Department and their new brick building across from Maple Lane was completed. The Beckwith station still stands minus its tower on the corner of Beckwith and Travelers Street.
July 31, 2020
Here is a photograph of the Southold Town School District #7 (Peconic) School bus from 1937.
Pictures of workhorse vehicles such as this school bus are rare. If anyone remembers the Southold Town School bus, please let us know what color it was.
July 24, 2020
Caroline Bell (1874-1970) known as “Dolly,” was a North Fork hunter/gatherer. She hunted beautiful outdoor vistas to paint and gathered a like-minded group of students and artists to accompany her on her adventures.
Born into a renowned family of studio photographers, Bell’s family moved around a lot and lived mostly in hotels. Childhood summers were often spent in Mattituck. After her mother died in 1907, Bell moved to Mattituck, where she eventually built a home and studio.
Initially self-taught, she studied painting with Edward August Bell and Whitney Hubbard. Later, she became associated with painters in Rockport and Gloucester in Massachusetts, studying with Emile Gruppe and Anthony Thieme.
As a teacher, Bell never charged for lessons, living on family money and sales from her work. She would determine a North Fork spot to paint, and then place each student at what she felt was an ideal vantage point. She exhibited widely on Long Island, in New England and in New York City, and was a member of many prominent art associations.
Caroline Bell was strongly drawn painting to boats and boatmen, and it is for these works that she is most remembered. She traveled widely, but always returned home to her beloved Mattituck.
July 17, 2020
Not many remember this fairytale looking house when it originally sat at the end of Maple Lane in Southold. Nicknamed Wormwood Hall, it was called Rosemary by the William Joost family that owned the house.
When the family began summering here from Brooklyn in 1895, they purchased the S.B. Terry property, subdivided, and sold most of the land to the Bliss family. The section they kept had a small cottage which they enlarged and turned into the fairytale building you see here in 1908. The home was later floated by barge to Bayshore Road in Greenport where it remains today.
July 10, 2020
This photograph depicts the East Marion-Orient Causeway, in 1961, before the seawall was built.
In the foreground the waves have cut away enough of the land that the utility pole is in danger of collapse. Lester Albertson, the Town Supervisor at the time, requested the concerning area be photographed. The barrier and wall were installed along most of the length of the causeway to hold back the erosion.
July 6, 2020
Thomas Currie-Bell (1873-1946) was the husband of Southold Historical Society’s benefactor and founder, Ann Currie-Bell. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and studied there at the Royal Scottish Academy and in London at the Royal Academy of Art, where he specialized in portraiture.
He met Ann Hallock in France in 1928. He was there painting, and she was traveling with her parents. The following year, he came to Southold, and they were married. He built a studio filled with windows and skylights on Hallock family property at Paradise Point. As both a painter and a magazine illustrator, he met with considerable success and exhibited widely, both in Europe and throughout the U.S. Ann and Tom wintered in Florida, where his work was included in many art exhibits. His passion was racing his boat, the “Bluebell,” leading to his local nickname, “the Skipper.” Ann and Tom Currie-Bell had no children. But she was deeply committed to the history of Southold. She was both visionary and generous, leaving her charming Victorian home, its contents, and its adjacent property to create and endow the Southold Historical Society. The house and its property, along with Tom’s paintings in our collection, are her important and enduring legacy in our town.
July 4, 2020
The United States flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777 and was used until 1795 when Kentucky and Vermont became states. This flag was found by the Latson family in their grandparent's Southold home and donated to the Society in 2009.
June 26, 2020
People love souvenirs and stores love to sell them to visitors! We are not too sure of how popular this item might have been used as a souvenir in 1900. But, this very pretty glass bathtub has printed along its side, "Souvenir of Southold, LI NY". It may have been used as a holder for items like toothpicks or matches.
June 19, 2020
Steam-motor sailor, Saratoga
by Antonio Jacobsen
This handsome painting that hangs in the Horton Point Lighthouse shows an odd hybrid ship that was built during the turn of the century. Half sailing ship and half steam ship, the Saratoga was built in 1907 in Philadelphia. The ship had a steam screw propulsion system, whose engine had an estimated 5000 horsepower. It was 413 feet long and 50 feet wide. The ship’s gross tonnage was 6,391 pounds. The ship was an immigrant ship and ran between Havana, Cuba, and Ellis Island in New York. She had a crew of 138 sailors.
June 15, 2020
Joseph Beckwith Hartranft (1890-1982), affectionately known as “Uncle Joe,” was a familiar fixture in and around Southold. He was the son of Joseph Hartranft, the area’s beloved country doctor, and the grandson of sea captain Sherburne Beckwith. Their house, the Beckwith-Stevens house, still stands at the corner of Main Street and Beckwith Avenue.
After he retired as a paint company executive in the 1940’s, he set up a studio in town, where he painted prolifically. It is estimated that he made some 2000 works in an impressionist style, both in town and all over the North Fork.
June 11, 2020
This odd stick is the Little-Wonder Vacuum Cleaner made by the Beck Manufacturing Company of New York and West Haven Connecticut. This was one of the many new labor saving devices that came onto the market around 1900. To make it work, you had to grasp the wooden handle at the top and pump it in and out of the tube to create the suction to vacuum. This vacuum came from the Willsway house on Hobart Street in Southold. We feel exhausted at the thought of anyone even trying to clean with the Little-Wonder.
June 8, 2020
Henry Prellwitz (1865-1940) was the son of Prussian immigrants who kept a cigar store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He attended City College and then the Art Students League, where he studied with such important artists as Thomas Dewing and Robert Reid.
He traveled widely throughout Europe, spending time at Monet’s Giverny with a host of other visiting artists. After moving to Peconic with his wife, the artist Edith Mitchill Prellwitz in 1911, Henry Prellwitz painted in a variety of styles, including impressionism and tonalism. He painted landscapes and seascapes, and was especially drawn to the winding roads and byways of the North Fork. Like Edith, he was the endlessly dazzled by the play of sunlight and moonlight on the bay that stretched before their home, High House. His works are in major museums and collections. As Treasurer of the National Academy, he saved it from insolvency when, a few months prior to the Crash of October 1929, he converted their assets to gold. Ronald Pisano, who was the first scholar to recognize “The Peconic School,” noted that Henry and Edith Prellwitz were “one of the best-kept secrets in art history.”
June 4, 2020
This unassuming punch bowl which has been displayed in the Thomas Moore/Samuel Landon house for many years has a very interesting note attached to its record.
According to the donors, the bowl is a Lowestoft Chinese bowl from the 1700s. It was used by Captain James Fanning and some members of Wickham family during the American Revolution to drink a toast after giving their allegiance to the King.
Can the story be proven… sadly no, but the story and to some extent the bowl does represent the divided loyalties that existed in Southold during the war.
May 28, 2020
Traveling salesmen sold blue panes of glass to the rural population as a cure-all for diseases, broken legs, tuberculosis, and any malaise you might dream up. The sun filtered through the colored glass to the patient on the bed and supposedly killed all germs and stopped infection! This pane which has been installed in the master bedroom at the Ann Currie Bell house was used by Mrs. David Austin Horton, Bay View, Southold.
May 26, 2020
Edith Mitchill Prellwitz (1864-1944) wasn’t playing hard-to-get when she refused Henry Prellwitz’s entreaties to marry her. She had studied at the Art Student’s League in New York City with such luminaries such as William Merrit Chase, and at the Academie Julien in Paris. A woman of her time, she felt she could not fulfill the roles of both wife and of artist—and artist came first. She wrote, “I will not be a dabbler. I cannot and care not to marry. I would rather die than live long in this humdrum way.”
But persistence was Henry’s long suite and he eventually persuaded her to marry him, promising always to honor her as an artist.
In 1911, driving east, they spotted an old farmhouse that was due for demolition. They had it taken apart, barged and rebuilt on Indian Neck in Peconic, near the summer homes of their good friends, artists Irving Wiles and Edward August Bell. “High House” sits on a cliff overlooking the vast expanse of Peconic Bay. Henry built twin “His and Hers” studios adjacent to the main house, and always kept his promise.
Edith, who was one of the most important American painters of her time, holds the honor of being the first woman ever to be chosen as a member of the National Academy. She founded the Woman’s Art Club, which later became the National Association of Women Artists. Both Edith and Henry Prellwitz painted in a variety of media and created works with varied subject matter, landscapes, seascapes, marine paintings and allegories. Their works hang in major collections including the Metropolitan Museum. Their great-grandaughter, artist Wendy Prellwitz, lives in High House and paints in their studios.
May 21, 2020
This is a photo of the Albertson livery in Southold with Corey Albertson, Harry Howell, and Clinton Carrole holding two horses in front of the barn. Writing on the back of the photo identifies the barn as the Corey Barn (now gone). The barn originally stood on the east side of Youngs Avenue at the intersection of Youngs Avenue and Travelers Street.
May 18, 2020
Whitney Myron Hubbard (1875-1965) was a familiar sight in and around Greenport. From the time his father moved the family from Connecticut to the Village, he left only to attend Wesleyan University and later, classes at New York City’s Art Students’ League. After teaching school in Greenport for several years, Hubbard declared himself an artist, and became an incredibly prolific one. The Village and its surrounding fields and woods, shorelines and harbors, were his world. He painted in watercolor, oils, tempera and drew with pastels and experimented in a range of styles, including Pointillism, Impressionism and realism. Sailboats, fishing boats and schooners were favorite subjects, as were portraits of his beloved wife, Ruth, often painted in their beautiful English-style garden.
Money was never plentiful in the Hubbard household. Hubbard taught outdoor classes, charging a mere $3.00 a class. Many of his pictures are small in format, because he often was unable to buy canvases or canvas boards, and resorted to painting on cigar or candy boxes. He sometimes bartered his paintings, or sold them for a pittance. Ruth supplemented their income by giving voice and piano lessons. During his long lifetime, his works were exhibited widely. They are included in collections all over the country and in libraries, historical societies, museums and private collections throughout Long Island. Southold Historical Society owns many of his works.
May 14, 2020
Can you help us identify where this photo was taken?
The description we have of the photo “the Elwood Garage area, looking west.” Two sets of gas pumps, Sinclair and Socony, are identifiable in the photo as well as Elwood Garage. Across the street is Fischer's garage.
We would love to expand the description. Please share what you know and remember. Perhaps you might even have another photo of the garage you’d like to share?
May 7, 2020
“Whiskey in the Jar”
If you read the box carefully you will see that this bottle of whiskey was for medicinal use only! That’s because during Prohibition, if your doctor determined that bending the elbow was necessary for your health, you could get a prescription for whiskey!
The government limited the number of prescriptions for this ‘cure’ that a doctor could write and carefully oversaw the production of medicinal whiskey. The punch line in old movies as a person takes a drink and says, “it’s for my health” had a different meaning for people during the Prohibition.
April 30, 2020
An odd item in the collection of Southold Historical Society is this fraternal ribbon for the Foresters of America. The red, white, and blue striped ribbon has a brass metal frame and pin, holding a round multicolored medallion with the symbol of the F. of A. This was a typical ribbon given to members when they joined or attended conferences of the organization. The pin has a red satin underlying ribbon with "Court Yennicock, NO. 495, F. of A., Southold, N. Y."
The organization can be traced to a British club whose mission was to care for the sick. The American version of the group became independent from the UK Foresters in 1874. In the United States, the group was one of the leading fraternal benefit societies. At its height in 1906, the membership tipped just over a quarter of a million.
While Court Yennicock, F. of A. no longer exists in Southold, the larger parent group still operates out of Toronto, Canada.
April 23, 2020
Southold Historical Society discussed the changes in agriculture and the prominence of vineyards, question arose about what we collect? When does something become historic? What about contemporary artifacts? How do we decided what is significant?
Southold Historical Society decided that vineyards and wineries are very much a part of our contemporary history and artifacts related to them are worthy of collecting. But what artifacts can we collect from the vineyard farming and wineries? Unfortunately, much of the equipment used to cultivate grapes and make wine is enormous. As we found out with our antique farm tool collection, we simple do not have enough room to store large items.
What we can collect are small artifacts, like vintage bottles of wine. This is an autographed bottle from the first year of Hargrave Vineyard.
April 17, 2020
Like maps, aerial photos can be intriguing. As time goes by and development inevitably takes place, it is fascinating to look at old photos for landmarks and see the changes that have occurred. Years ago, the late Donald Tuthill, flew overhead in his airplane and used his camera to capture this view of the largely undeveloped land. The photo is of the intersection of Boisseau Avenue and the North Road, which at the time was known as Route 27. While the view may look different now, those who have lived in and visited our area for many years can still see this landscape in their mind's eye.
April 9, 2020
When we began writing a description for this photo, the idea was to compare the small size of this IGA grocery store to the significantly larger sizes of grocery stores today. In this photo, you can see there are just three aisles for shoppers to browse. Signs in the windows that advertise fryers for 27 cents a pound and Campbell's soup for 10 cents a can!
April 2, 2020
The building dates back to pre-1858. Southold Historical Society is proud to be stewards of the Bayview School house.
Do you recognize this farm building? With the front door enlarged – it can be hard to identify the Bayview School house in this photo. The school was closed in 1926. Like so many other buildings in the town, instead of being demolished, it was reused. In this case, the structure became a machine shop on the Dickerson family farm. In 1990, the family gave the building to the town as a monument for the 350th anniversary. It was moved to the Historical Society in 1990 and is now used to teach the educational history of Southold.
March 27, 2020
It is always amazing how far items from Southold wander across the country. Take for example this pennant. It was made between 1900 -1920. This type of flag was sold or given to high school students as a school spirit item. It’s not an item that you would expect to wander too far from the area.
We received a call from a gentleman who told us that he bought an auction lot and found the pennant included in the box. When he sent the pennant to us, we found that he was from Brownsburg, Indiana!