The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Thrives in Stony Brook

1972 Honda & 1975 Ducati
The 1972 Honda & 1975 Ducati on display at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization. Photo Credit: Barbara Anne Kirshner

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization center opened its doors November 13, 2002, at its current location, an impressive white colonial style building with black shutters, anchoring Stony Brook Village. Named after the philanthropist whose vision shaped the quaint Three Village area composed of Setauket, Stony Brook and the incorporated village of Old Field, this organization strives to present educational as well as entertaining exhibits and programs that Melville himself would have been proud of.

Gloria Rocchio, President of the Organization, shared that Ward Melville contributed to the educational landscape of the Three Village Area by donating some 600 acres of land and money to New York State to move the state university from Oyster Bay to Stony Brook. In neighboring Setauket, Melville developed land for the high school named after him and he served as a member of the school board.

His educational pursuits continue to thrive through the work of this organization bearing his name. As explained by Jenna Loverro, director of the center, “We try to touch on every age bracket from children to senior citizens.” Loverro provided a guided tour of the current exhibit The Love Affair with Motorcycles Continues.

Why an exhibit on motorcycles?
In 2012, we did America’s Love Affair with the Automobile, then in 2013 we followed up with Long Island’s Auto Racing Heritage. We received many suggestions for doing motorcycles. Our first motorcycle exhibit was last summer with 34 bikes. This year, we are showing 50 different bikes that were not displayed last year. This exhibit will run until September 7, 2015.

What can you tell me about some of these bikes?
This 1912 Indian TT Racer has an interesting history. Mike Wolf from the History Channel’s “American Pickers” purchased this bike then sold it to a gentleman on Long Island who in turn allowed us to display it.

Do you have more Indian Company bikes?
As a matter of fact, we have a 100 year span of Indian bikes. We have a 1903 and here’s the 1953 Indian bike. The company went bankrupt after that year. Another company picked it up and we have the 2003 Custom Scout.

1912 Indian Bike
The 1912 Indian Bike on display at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization Center. Photo Credit: Barbara Anne Kirshner

Do you have any bikes that might have appeared in films?
Yes, this is a replica of the 1955 Easy Rider bike that Dennis Hopper rode in the movie. It’s a Panhead Billy Bike Replica.

What other unusual bikes do you have here?
We have two from the 20th Century Cycles Shop located in Oyster Bay; the 1972 Honda CB 500 Four and the 1975 Ducati 750 Sport.  This 1977 Kawaski KZ 400 runs on Canola Oil. A 27 year old created the engine. It’s an experimental biodiesel bike.

What can you tell me about this copper bike?
Copper Mike made those. The rear fender and fender struts are made of copper. The artist, David Uhl, was inspired by the Steampunk Bike and created this painting “Steampunk Seduction”. We have five prints of Uhl’s in the exhibit.

We stepped back into the lobby area.

What is this sculpture all about?
This is a fascinating 2005 bronze by sculptor Jeff Decker. It illustrates the independence of women in the early 20th Century. It was inspired by David Ulh’s 1999 painting from a photograph that appeared in the May issue of The Enthusiast magazine’s European edition.

What is the next event for children?
Next September we have the LEGO building contest. Children build their own creation that is on display then judged awarding cash prizes in various age categories

Do you have theatrical programs?
Yes, we have two theatrical high tea performances each year; one in the spring and again during the holidays. It’s a portrayal of an iconic 1950’s or 1960’s star presented in a talk show setting. During the holidays in 2014 we did Judy Garland then this past spring we did Elizabeth Taylor. The programs are comprised of songs, sketches and comedy routines. We get very high attendance for them.  For children, we have Hot Cocoa and Marshmallow during the winter. We invite local authors to read their books and do activities with the children.

What do you see for future events?
We will continue to bring a wealth of varied programs to the public. We listen, when there are suggestions, we try to produce them. That’s what happened with the motorcycle exhibit. It was our most highly received summer exhibit to date so we brought it back this year.

Ward Melville Heritage Organization
Ward Melville Heritage Organization Center. Photo Credit: Barbara Anne Kirshner

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