Buildings past and present take center stage

New book puts Patchogue on display


The Bay Village complex occupies the space now, but in the 1880s, the Smithport Hotel was located there on South Ocean Avenue.

It became a lively, year-round vacation establishment, accommodating up to 40 guests. Owned by Ruth Newey Smith, the daughter of Capt. Samuel Smith who’d had it constructed, the hotel stood until it fell into decline, then was condemned and demolished in 2006. The Smithport, along with the nearby White House Hotel, are featured in Steve Lucas’s new book, Arcadia Publishing’s “Past and Present” series, “Patchogue,” as is a photo of Bay Village, which took their places.

The lure of buildings’ historical architecture, transitions, or those whose facades have remained the same throughout the years, call to Lucas whenever he walks down a street.

“I always do that, wonder about a building or house, whether I’m on vacation or not,” said Lucas, Greater Patchogue Historical Society’s treasurer. “The New York Daily News used to have a ‘Then and Now’ section. I loved it. And I was 9 years old at the time when I began reading it.”

It was, he said, the impetus for the book.

Lucas sat before a large photo of five happy guys from the Bicycle Racing Committee of the American Wheelmen, who biked out from Brooklyn in 1899, then returned. (No wimps; it was 50 miles each way. If you haven’t been to the GPHS Museum in the lower level of the Carnegie Library, you are missing a fun, nostalgic treat. People had a great time back then.)

“I couldn’t include that one,” he said, looking over his shoulder, “because there’s no such group now. But I could do others.”

So how did he break down the book, especially with the historical society’s cache of 500 photos?

“The publishers gave me a guideline,” he said. “I had to produce a minimum of five chapters and each one had to have a theme.” What developed were scenes from Main Street, North and South Ocean avenues, By the Rivers and the Bay, Around the Various Lakes and Here and There. “I came up with the chapter titles based on photos that fit the chapter.”

Surprises did emerge. Lucas drove to each building, based on the photo’s address, to document any changes. Some houses that were still standing included two on Rider and Bay avenues.

“Some of the residents even came out of their houses when I took my photos, would ask what I was doing, and then launched into conversations, some an hour long,” he said.

It took Lucas slightly over a year to produce the book. The photos are stored in the GPHS headquarters, but at times there were issues getting in the building because of COVID lockdowns that couldn’t be helped. So it took about four months longer.

(Ask Lucas about his basement; it’s a personal museum of neatly catalogued history books, stamps, old toys and military insignia, where he spends his spare time. “My wife wants me to start selling stuff,” he laughed.)

Lucas has credited Patchogue Village historian Hans Henke, who’s written four “Images of America” Arcadia books on Patchogue, Arcadia’s longest-running series. Henke’s gorgeous books give histories of the old buildings; Lucas’s chronicles then and now.


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