May 2, 2012
“Important ‘East End’ Sign Acquired by Southold Historical Society”
SOUTHOLD, NY. Trade signs made and used on Long Island are not an easy thing to find in this day and age, and so when Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director of the Southold Historical Society, saw this sign many years ago he made a mental note of it. “I wanted to keep track of this important artifact in the hopes that we might one day be able to acquire it for our permanent collection,” stated Fleming.
Last month, the Society did just that. The sign in question, measuring 3 x 4 feet, was created during the late 19th century as an advertisement for visitors to ‘The East End’ of Long Island. “Not only is it important as a rare, surviving locally made trade sign, it is the only and perhaps the very first to call this part of Long Island ‘The East End,’ ” continued Fleming. Re-discovered in a barn in Orient over twenty years ago, the sign was owned privately until its acquisition by the Society.
The sign was made for the firm of Reeve & Bartlett, which started as a real estate company in Greenport during the early 1880s and would eventually grow into one of the largest title companies in New York. Their early work was selling pieces of land and homes to local residents as well as visitors to the area. They hired Greenport sign maker and decorator, George Nelson Flack (1858-1943), to make the sign to advertise their business to the public. Flack hand carved each letter in shallow relief before applying paint to give the sign an even greater presence to those seeing it.
Though worn from years of use, the sign still is quite readable, and includes the lines: “THE EAST END – Choicest Part of Long Island – OCEAN, SOUND, AND BAY – Fertile Farms and Villa Sites – FOR SALE BY – REEVE & BARTLETT – GREENPORT, L. I.” The sign’s originally hanging location was unknown until the Society discovered a late 19th century photograph of the Greenport docks taken by Frank Hartley, a local photographer, in its archive. In the image a wall of advertising signs are shown hanging on the side of a building in Greenport, and the Society’s sign is shown hanging among them.
“Our Collections Manager, Amy K. Folk, just happened across the photo while looking for something else,” stated Fleming, “ she came running down the office stairs all excited saying ‘look what I found!,’ ” he continued. The excitement was shared by other members of staff. “Rarely do you ever acquire something and then run across an image of it showing you exactly where it came from,” stated Fleming.
The sign’s originally hanging location, near Preston’s and the piers that took visitors by ferry to the massive Manhasset House and Prospect House hotels on Shelter Island, was a perfect spot to get maximum exposure to the public. During the summer months the location would have been incredibly busy, allowing Reeve & Bartlett to potentially attract many new customers to their business.
The sign now hangs proudly in the Society’s offices on Main Road in Southold, where it can be viewed by members of the public, Monday through Friday, 9am-3pm. For further information on this release or other Society activities, please contact the Society at (631) 765-5500 or view our website at www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org