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Suffolk County Historical Society Kicks Off Year-Long 130th Anniversary Celebration

The Suffolk County Historical Society is celebrating its 130th Anniversary with a year-long celebration, starting Saturday, January 30, at 1 p.m. in Riverhead. Peter Fox Cohalan, the Suffolk County historian, will kick off the festivities with a talk titled “The History of Suffolk County and Its Ten Founding Towns.”

“Peter Cohalan is an excellent, lively speaker,” says Suffolk County Historical Society reference librarian Wendy Annibell. “If you haven’t yet had the chance to hear him speak, I would definitely recommend it.”

Cohalan, following 25 years as a New York State Supreme Court justice and Islip Town supervisor, is able to share his lifelong passion for history through his role as county historian. His talk will last approximately 40 minutes and will be followed by a question-and-answer session and light refreshments.

The Suffolk County Historical Society was founded in 1886, making it the oldest historical society on Long island. It was 130 years ago when representatives from the 10 founding towns of Suffolk County gathered to determine the best way to preserve the county’s history. They feared that without a formal effort the history would soon be forgotten. They decided the society would find its place in Riverhead.

Now operating as a museum, library and archive, the society seeks to protect and interpret the continuing history of the county, as well as provide resources to formal researchers, students and local history enthusiasts. The museum showcases more than 20,000 artifacts of local history. During the 130th anniversary celebration, the museum will be creating several special exhibitions. One exhibition, based on Cohalan’s talk, will feature Suffolk’s 10 founding towns and will be on display within the next few months.

This year will also feature a large display of photographs by Hal Fullerton. Fullerton was a talented photographer, appointed to the Long Island Rail Road in 1897 to promote Long Island as a great place to live, do business and visit. The Suffolk County Historical Society has received a collection of 2,000 of Fullerton’s glass plate negatives, which have been digitally restored by volunteers. One-hundred of the most notable shots will be on display at the Suffolk County Historical Society. “These photos are amazing,” Annibell says. “People will get to see what this area looked like 100 years ago. You couldn’t get a better historical record if you went back in time and took the pictures yourself.”

Winter Watercolor Scenes, featuring artwork by Jeanne Rogers, is on display through February. Works are available for purchase, and 10% of the proceeds will go to the SCHS Capital Improvement Fund for an accessible building. The exhibition Watercolor Artists of the North Fork features two Long Island artists, Bernard Springsteel of Southold and Ralph Fanning of Riverhead. This display will remain up only through the end of January.

Many local authors and historians will give talks this year with the society’s Book & Bottle program. On Thursday, February 11, at 1 p.m., Montauk Point Lighthouse Historian Henry Osmers will present information from his book On Eagle’s Bay: A History of the Montauk Point Lighthouse. On Saturday, February 20, at 1 p.m., MaryLaura Lamont, a park ranger of the William Floyd Estate, will speak about her book, The History of the William Floyd Estate.

Call to reserve your spot at any of these or future events at 631-727-2881. Visit suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org for more information. The Suffolk County Historical Society is located at 300 West Main Street in Riverhead.

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