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West Meadow Beach - TravelStorys

North Shore Maritime Back Story

Location Trip Time Travel Type
New York 1 hour

West Meadow Beach

Narrator Kevin Rogan: Welcome to the North Shore Back Story tour, where you can hear stories about local traditions. Here at West Meadow Beach you will learn about the 100 bungalows that once stood here. The cottages were first built in the 1920s until the 1950s. After many efforts to preserve the cottages, they were removed in 2004 under a state law. Marge Miller was the owner of cottage #38. All the cottage owners were interviewed by Long Island Traditions in the mid-1990s. Marge Miller: Well, the man that then had the land was received I, as I understand it had six lots, which he was going to build on and sell the houses because of course, he couldn't sell a lot. You know, you had to have a lease from the town. And I guess then after a few were built and more people decided, well, they would like it. But you did have to be a resident. But the original beach plan was at every fifth house would be a vacant lot for a firebreak. Well, that disappeared when it became popular at the beach.   They decided that the cottage was what they wanted for the summers. And they built in I'm pretty sure it was 1928 buildings I think it was 28. And the house, the road ended at our cottage. It was not much of a road but it ended at our cottage. Cottages that had been built there earlier were more like for duck hunting, fishing and things like that.   Narrator Kevin Rogan: The cottages were designed so that they would stay cool in the summer. Here is how Marge explains it. Marge Miller: And it was kind of rustic and pretty, because the partitions were wide paneling, which had been rubbed with a gray green of sort of kind of in it. It made a soft cottagey Look, you know friendly.   Narrator Kevin Rogan: Building and maintaining the cottage was a never-ending series of chores. Vincent and Kathy LaRosa, owners of cottage #23 knew this from experience. LaRosa: When we were repairing the roof of the house, we went to Lopers lumber yard. In Port Jefferson because the roofer said that he couldn't put the nails through the roof. It was so strong we needed special nails. So we walked into the hardware store there, when we bought it. Now we've been here I think about 35 years. Hmm. And we just happen to come across Mr. Loper and we told him what the problem was. Oh, he said “you'll never get through that roof. I built that house for Mr. Rupert. And he wanted extra special roofing and he put very thick wood on the roof. What was it in particular pine put yellow pine, you never can drive a nail through it, this house is solid.”   Narrator Kevin Rogan: The beach has changed over many years, as storms and hurricanes have struck the beach. Vincent LaRosa remembers the jetties being constructed to combat the effects of storm erosion. Vincent LaRosa: After that hurricane of ‘38 I was a young boy but I remember that they came in they, they put these jetties out, they built the jetties here, because the water was just a few feet from the front of this porch and they put a jetty out here.   Narrator Kevin Rogan: Having a cottage at West Meadow Beach was delightful for numerous generations. Listen to John Pokorny, owner of cottage #58 and Hope Kenyon Kalish, owner of cottage #2 describe their clambakes. John Pokorny: Every summer, one of the things we had was a big clam bake. A lot of open space here in fact, so much so that we were able to have a clambake right in the sand by digging a pit and then starting a fire over the top of those rocks and then getting lobsters and clams and chicken and potatoes and put everything in there and cover the whole thing up. And then while I was cooking we would have clams on the half shell or baked clams.   Hope Kenyon Kalish: We had great big, great big pots, you know, that we put on the open fire. Yeah. And we would spend the afternoon digging the clams and bringing everything in fresh. And then we have steamers in one pot, hardshell clams open and serving our cocktail sauce. We knew how to open clams and how to kind of make a meal like this, because it was kind of a mainstay of the beach. Now this is what everybody did. Usually on the weekends, you had a small clambake for your family. You always had fishing. And we’d steam the clams on the open fire and then we'd have lobsters in a pot boiling, like corn and you know salad or sliced tomatoes and vegetables where there was a vegetable truck that used to drive down to the beach years ago. Narrator Kevin Rogan: Bob Walcott, owner of cottage #85 and Olive Shea, whose family owned a cottage in earlier years, as teenagers, enjoyed swimming, tubing and other activities.     Bob Walcott: Getting stones or flat rocks that are common on the beach and counting how many times that they skip on the water right and you know, children do that most anyplace when there's water but we did that. But another kind of skimming was on a board at low tide when the water is almost completely gone and there are sandbars, but you know, a little bit of water, an inch of water or a half inch of water in between some of the sandbars. What you can do is take a flat board, kind of push it on the water and then go running after a jump on it and it just kind of skips right along the edge of water and it gives you a nice ride.   Narrator Kevin Rogan: Olive Shea and other cottage owners also remember seeing porpoises. Olive Shea: And you know, they leap and plunge and they're in the whale family. And that's why they call it Porpoise Channel on the entrance into Stony Brook harbor. And then don’t ask me when, all of a sudden, they all disappeared. But you could just sit on your screened in front porch where we slept. My sister and I slept right on the front porch, and just watch them. Oh, that was magic.   Narrator Kevin Rogan: In 1996 New York State enacted a law that called for the end of the cottages. Over 96 cottages were destroyed in 2004 by the Town of Brookhaven, despite their listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Folklorist Nancy Solomon conducted over 30 recorded interviews in an effort to preserve the cottages. You can listen to them at the Long Island Studies Institute at Hofstra University or by contacting Long Island Traditions. Ready for more stories? Continue on our North Shore Back Story tour, curated by Nancy Solomon and produced by Long Island Traditions. This project is funded by the New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert Gardiner Foundation.

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