Written By Ross Lumpkin
Bearing witness to the demise of the Baxter House was disheartening, a decade-long decline culminating in a suspicious fire made more poignant by the fact that it was protected as a historic landmark by the Village of Baxter Estates.
As a trustee at the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society that maintains three landmarks, Sands-Willets House, Dodge Homestead and the Sands Barn, I have become painfully aware of the time and money it takes to care for these buildings properly. With little public support from government to shoulder the expense of restoring landmarks, the fate of our cultural heritage often falls on historical societies, such as ours or private citizens.
I set out to conceive of a program that would enable individuals or private groups to honor the historic value of people, places and buildings without incurring significant expense, starting with a few negatives, it would not be about preservation, it would not be a legal designation, involving federal, state, or local governments, and it would not place restrictions on what property owners could do on their property. The goal is simply to bring our local history to the attention of the community. In the poetic words of Abraham Lincoln, to “awaken the mystic chords of memory.” In my own not so poetic words, “to stimulate conversations among friends and neighbors about our common heritage.”
Think of our plaques as good looking conversation starters that are suitable for exterior or interior display. They are oval with a dark green background, etched in bronze gold-tone metal with a protective clear coat. Prices vary based on size and are the same as what we would pay our supplier.
Ted and Judy Goldsmith, owners of the Plandome Mills Residence, were the first to be awarded a Historic Designation plaque. Ted Goldsmith believes, “the plaque will add value to our property without imposing restrictions on a potential buyer. When the time comes, it will help attract the kind of preservation-minded buyer that we hope to find.”
The Samuel Dodge House on the corner of Sandy Hollow Road and Harbor Road is almost 300 years old and is the former home of Suzie Brunner, our first post mistress, who carried the mail from here and back to Great Neck. Any small business that has survived for 40 years deserves recognition.
Three family owned and operated businesses that have been awarded plagues include: S. F. Falconer Florist, the Port Washington Tennis Academy, and Dr. Sanford Katims Optometry.
A walk on Valley Road was once enlivened by a display of modern sculpture in front of Jerry Shore’s studio at No. 19. Fortunately, several of his works are still on public display in Port. His motto was “Sculpture for the People.” Our spiritual heritage is remembered by plaques at St. Peter of Alcantara Roman Catholic Church and the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. There are so many buildings, places, and people in Port that we need to memorialize—this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To apply for your own plaque, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.cowneck.org/historic-recognition-program.
Ross Lumpkin is a trustee at the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society