Each week, reporter and history-lover Mariana Dominguez visits a historical location on the South Shore. This week she decided to meet with members of the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet.
This week I met with Susan Hantz-West and Nancy Libert of the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet. Initiated in Libert’s dining room in 1991 and then later chartered in 1992, HSIH was an offshoot of the Old South Islip Civic Association (OSICA).
Libert said that in the early 1990s, she and two other members of OSICA created presentations about aspects of Islip Hamlet. After the presentations, there was great interest in learning more about the history of the area and creating a historical society.
“The demand was great,” Libert said of the idea of creating a historical society.
Today, the society has around 200 members, with Hantz-West noting that is how many households are involved with the society, and some households could have multiple members of the society.
The biggest fundraiser for HSIH was always the annual Holiday House Tour, which went on for 26 years but has not happened since COVID hit. The tours were very popular in the community and provided the society with much-needed funds.
“We could make anywhere from $10,000 to $13,000 on that,” Hantz-West noted.
Since COVID, though, the society started up a popular Oakwood Cemetery tour with guides dressed up in traditional clothing and telling stories about the residents of yesteryear. Around 280 people attended the tours and they were very well-received. In 2022, the society plans to restart their garden walks, which they did in previous years. The garden walks are a way for people to learn history with others, but because they are outside, people will hopefully feel more comfortable.
The society holds four general meetings that are free and open to the public that feature guest speakers and presentations. For example, on Sept. 9 the society hosted John Hanc, who did a presentation on his book “Jones Beach: An Illustrated History.”
Some of the work the group has done in the past 30 years includes saving a house from the late-1800s owned by the Wheeler family from being torn down and turned into a parking lot, as well as placing 30 markers within the border of Islip Hamlet to identify historic areas. The markers and the history of their locations can be viewed with an interactive map on the society’s website, isliphamlethistory.org. Before the closure of Brookwood Hall due to the pandemic, the society had a yearly exhibit at the location showcasing photos and artifacts. In addition to all of this, the society gives out a yearly scholarship to a student from Islip who does the best historical research paper.
Both Libert and Hantz-West said the society is a great group to join because of its vibrance, energy and youth. They are proud of the society’s ability to attract young people to attend events and hold positions on the executive board.
“One of the more dramatic things for me [is] seeing it go from six, seven, eight people around a dining room table to what it is today,” Libert said of the society’s growth over the years.
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