Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wading River - Long Island

The big pond on North Country Road

Since my sister mentioned she is spending all of her time in Venice, and I know that springtime is the most beautiful season to be there, plus Sunday was wrapped by a mist so familiar (and so unhealthy!) I got a bit into a Venice-mood - which brought to my mind some of the things Long Island and Venice have in common.
Did you know that Venice is also fish-shaped?

Little digression.

On Sunday I ended up (literally, I was just trying to get out of the way) visiting Wading River.
Until few weeks ago, this place meant for me not more than the Wildwood State Park and the trailer park you'd see driving to there.
I thought of Wading River more or less as an abandoned place.
Truth is that the Park is great - even though, after the last nor'easter, erosion damaged a lot of its beach, so the concession stand on the deck overlooking the shore was (at least until last week) not accessible and it seemed to me nobody was going to take care of the problem. (Costs' cut?Unconcern?).

But, after more than a play-date at the Wading River beach's playground, I know there is more than the park.
On Sunday, in coincidence with a little craft-fair around the Duck Pond, I took the kids to this little hamlet and since the streets were closed to traffic I had my chance to have a quiet walk.
In particular, I decided to visit the Olivers Hill Cemetery - see, the mist was bringing some creepy thoughts.
I had been driving by it a couple of times and didn't want to believe the inscription saying "1696".
But then, I realized there were other signs mentioning that Wading River belonged to the town of Southold for some time, in the XVII and XVIII century.

Old tombstones at Olivers Hill Cemetery

So, together with Cutchogue and Greenport, Wading River was also settled by puritan families*. (You know I have an issue with religion, so some day I am going to write how this influences and shapes the spirit of a place).
The fact that this hamlet is indeed so old doesn't mean it is abandoned: there are a number of spots that remind me of those towns with no present and no future, but on Sunday I actually had the impression its community is very lively.

My usual destination is anyway very quiet and relaxed, as if it had been forgotten but by some wild child.
The beach (with the playground my kids love) is located on Creek Road (I love these old pictures), just few feet away from the creek that makes this place so appealing; although walking eastbound you might have the chance to cover more length, walking westbound you will come across its estuary.
And of course you'd view the ignominy that's the Shoreham power plant.
(And probably think "what the hell is this huge, colorless metal chunk doing there?")

The creek, with its meandering shape and its tidal moods is nevertheless attractive: if you take a look at it on a map, it will tell you "come". At least this is what it told me (and I am not hearing voices!).

As for the history of Wading River in more recent times, it is related with that of the nearby Camp Upton, the army's camp where soldiers were being trained for WWI and WWII - back then it was a compulsory conscription -a nd that became the site of the Brookhaven National Lab, where Ralph works and where we used to live during the first six weeks of our stay.
Sometimes I eat in the bunker-like cafeteria, just to mention one of the few oddities.

After the war, when the Camp didn't have any reason to exist anymore, and BNL was officially born (1947), some of the returning soldiers began creating a larger community in Wading River.

*Religion and the founding of the American Republic
is an interesting overview on the topic.


matthew houskeeper said...

The way I have always understood it, the eastern half of LI was settled by Puritans from CT and RI.

Mari said...

...the way i understood it, is that they first settled the eastern end, then moved west-ward (Stony Brook was settled in 1655 by Puritans from Southold and immediately afterward by Anglicans moving from new York east-ward).
But it wasn't clear to me that there were obvious religious contrasts among English and New-Englander.
And also among Puritans who could be separatists or not.

Leslie said...

I just happened on your blog. My mother was born and raised in Wading River, and her family for many many generations before her. I have not been in more than 20 years and this entry and images just hit home for me. They lived just down the street from this cemetery in fact. Thanks for refreshing my memory...

Mari said...

Thanks for your comment Leslie!I am glad you liked this post. These places mean a lot to me and it's nice to know someone happen to read about them. Bests.