Drowned Meadow House takes a look at potential museum distinction

The Village of Port Jefferson is looking to turn Drowned Meadow House into a museum.

Located on the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, the small gray-colored structure is a piece of Port Jefferson history that many believe deserves recognition.

“This building is a surviving structure from the Revolutionary War, and we think it’s absolutely fabulous,” Georgette Grier-Key, historian and project consultant, said at the Jan. 18 board meeting. . “But we also cannot deny the fact that the historic landscape and cultural resources of the village are very unique and rare.”

Grier-Key then spoke about the history of the Roe family, as well as other Roe structures and places in the village that had a significant impact on American history, particularly the American Revolution.

The Revolutionary War-era Roe House, now known as the Drowned Meadow House, was built around 1760. Phillips Roe, a member of the Culper Spy Ring, was known to have lived there.

During the virtual presentation, the historian explained the plan to make the house an official museum, as well as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit certification.

“The reason museums matter is because they are incorporated under the Education Act,” she said. “So we’re an extension of the education system, we have that charge, and that allows us to do things very differently.”

Mayor Margot Garant noted that the chalet is the twin building of the current chamber of commerce building. Brothers Nathaniel and Phillips Roe owned the properties in the 18th century.

With the help of the village historian, the late Robert Sisler, both structures were saved as they were known to be special. Eventually, in 2013, a letter was found confirming that the brothers were in fact part of the Culper Spy Ring – a local network of spies active during the Revolutionary War organized by Major Benjamin Tallmadge and General George Washington during the British occupation of New York. City.

“This letter, known as the ‘Letter of Significance,’ comments on the Roe brothers, and how the spy ring’s intelligence comes directly from them,” Garant said. “The letter confirms the village’s history and puts us at the forefront of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring.”

Grier-Key added that people have come from all over the world to view these letters.

“As we continue to move the building forward in a self-sustaining fashion and prove that it can manage like a museum, we foresee a strong educational future,” Grier-Key said.

She added that over the years the local community and at large have accepted the building and love it. Collections have also been compiled of what Phillips Roe’s life would have been like during this time, thanks to dozens of donations of various valuable artifacts.

Showcases of what the clothes looked like, courtesy of the late Nan Guzzetta and her collection, would be another exhibit the museum would host.

Mark Sternberg, another local historian working on the project, revealed that numerous documents and other evidence that the brothers were instrumental in the spy ring and the war were uncovered as recently as this summer and would do part of the first exhibit at the museum.

“We continue to uncover material to put the structure in the middle of George Washington’s spy ring,” said historian Chris Ryon. “Now everyone knows Port Jefferson as a shipbuilding community, but it’s more than that – it’s a nation building community.”

Grier-Key added that the plan to achieve museum distinction for the chalet is an ongoing five-year plan.

“2026 is a very important year for us and for our country, that we have the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution,” she said, adding that the museum could help bring business to Down Port by doing shopping and eating after a visit.

The presentation was read to the village council to initiate a plan to help gain museum designation, as it must go to the New York State Board of Regents to obtain a charter and become a museum.

Although the cottage hasn’t been vacant all this time and has been transformed over the festive season as it turns into Santa’s workshop as part of the Dickens Festival, the building is set to be dedicated to year-round exhibitions. archives and interactive learning programs.

And the next step is for Grier-Key to send in a proposal to start the charter process.

“As the Village of Port Jefferson continues to modernize, to be able to conserve – and not just conserve but celebrate our history and bring it to the fore,” said Administrator Rebecca Kassay. “It’s one that we really don’t want to let change, only in the sense that we invite this great team and invite more people to learn and engage in the origin of this village in reference to the revolutionary period .”