Preserving local history: Sayville Historical Society preps for new season


Standing in one corner was an ancient, upright black vacuum cleaner that looked like a transmogrification of Darth Vader.

“I believe it was one of the first electric vacuum cleaners,” said Roy Fedelem, president of the Sayville Historical Society. “That’s why we haven’t thrown it out.”

On April 29, members of the Sayville Historical Society were hard at work removing almost all the items from the big attic over the annex building at the Edwards Homestead at 39 Edwards Street. The items will be temporarily stored on the ground floor of the annex while the attic is prepared for a long-overdue insulation project.

Board member Linda Conron, a serious conservator of artifacts, spearheaded the project. “The collection needs to have better temperature regulation for its preservation,” she said.
Foam insulation will be sprayed into crevices and along the walls and ceiling where it is needed. It will not only help regulate temperature during summer and winter months, but will also help to keep out pests and provide some waterproofing. Fortunately, the items stored in the annex were not especially delicate. All historic garments are kept carefully on hangers in the caretakers’ house next door.

Many hands made light work. Hauling items bucket-brigade style down the rickety ladder were board members Peg Piffard, Linda and Joe Conron, Bob Immoor and Fedelem. Another hard worker, Charlie Piffard, had to leave when he when he was wounded by a clam rake.

In addition to the vacuum cleaner, there was a century’s worth of furniture, newspapers from the 1800s, copies of The Suffolk County News from the 1950s, a painted wig stand, a child’s dress form, a hay rake, various unknown implements, lamps, heavy old wooden filing cabinets… the list goes on and on.

Like everywhere else during the COVID pandemic, the historical society had to cancel its presentations and activities.

“Things seem more encouraging now,” said Fedelem. “The trend is that the virus numbers are dropping. We had a group of Cub Scouts here a few weeks ago who toured the homestead in small groups. We want to bring back some of our most popular programs. We hope to see more visitors than ever before.”

Over the years, several popular events took place at the homestead. One year, a team of archaeologists excavated a square area on the west side of the house. Both children and adults love the always-popular Farm Day with its petting zoo. Native American Day takes place around Thanksgiving, where a presenter comes with artifacts and Native American artwork, plus interesting stories of the tribes that lived here. Perhaps the favorite event is the beautiful Christmas Open House with refreshments, a model train, carolers, and members of St. John’s Lutheran Church bell choir, who provide their magical music.

Joe Conron points out areas of the annex attic that will be insulated.
Joe Conron points out areas of the annex attic that will be insulated.

Additionally, every month the historical society arranges a display with a particular theme at the Sayville Library. Artifacts and ephemera are on display. Before COVID, the historical society sponsored guest speakers at the library who talked about their books and gave interesting presentations on a variety of topics. For now, library presentations are virtual, but we are hoping that will change soon.

The Edwards Homestead was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2010. Its history is rich. There are many stories and anecdotes about the Edwards family dating back to 1761, when John Edwards and his wife, Sarah, built a home on the northwest corner of Foster Avenue and Edwards Street. Local names such as Greene, Terry, Beintema, Hulse, Nicoll and many others seem to be intertwined in the society’s records. Maybe your family name is preserved there.

If you are a bit of a history buff, consider joining the Sayville Historical Society, or come to an event. Look on Facebook for updates and watch this publication. The intrepid members of the society continue to find ways to see that our local history is preserved and passed on to future generations.

Some of the items found in the annex attic.
Some of the items found in the annex attic.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment