Reflecting on the past, Great Neck Historical Society looks to the future

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17 Beverly Road around 100 years ago versus today. The home's current owners were recently honored by the Great Neck Historical Society. (Photos courtesy of the Great Neck Historical Society)

The Great Neck Historical Society reflected on its programs and the past at an annual meeting last Wednesday night, discussing its current projects and awarding heritage recognition plaques.

Among the programs were presentations on the histories of the Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Motor Parkway, various lighthouses, three opera singers from Great Neck and the 100-year history of the Great Neck Parks District.

“You’re living in an area and I think it’s important to understand how that area came to be,” Alice Kasten, the society’s president, said in an interview.

She also said that considerable progress has been made on the Stepping Stones Lighthouse. She said that the Town of North Hempstead allocated thousands of dollars in its 2017-21 capital plan toward restoration and has contracted with a company to investigate the underwater foundation.

The historical society’s landscape architect also visited the lighthouse a few weeks ago. Kasten said the group is awaiting his final report, but that he seems optimistic.

Currently the lighthouse is without a dock, which is necessary for restoration efforts. Dock plans have been approved by various organizations, Kasten said, and they simply await approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

“It seems very slow and pokey, but things are actually happening,” Kasten said.

She also noted that there has not been too much progress in restoring the Saddle Rock Grist Mill, which was built in 1700 and helped develop the economy of Great Neck. Its last restoration was in the 1990s.

“When you have something sitting in the water like that and exposed to the elements, it needs loving care,” Kasten said.

The historical society also gave its third Outstanding Restoration Award to Yael Freeman and Avi Reshtick, the owners of 17 Beverly Road, Kensington.

“They paid really closed attention to detail. They were not aware of the architects or lots of details of the house, but they did a lot of research into what a lot of houses of that age looked like,” Kasten said.

“The exterior is nearly identical to its 1915 splendor, and the owners respected the original character and spirit of the house in the interior,” said Joan Wheeler, chair of the society’s Historical Recognition Program.

The Great Neck Historical Society also presented plaques to the owners of two homes. The home at 43 Maple Drive in Great Neck Estates was recognized “for its historic significance in the community,” according to the society. The group also honored 21 Lincoln Road, once home to American writer and comedian Groucho Marx.

In an interview, however, Kasten also expressed concern over three other homes that had received historical recognition plaques.

“Three of the homes that have been plaqued in the past are on the market right now and we’re really hoping that the people who buy these homes love the history of the homes, love the home, [and] aren’t going to knock it down,” Kasten said.

Kasten said the next step for the historical society is securing sponsors for a 5K race on Oct. 22. The run aims to raise money for the Steppingstone Lighthouse restoration. It will begin and end at Steppingstone Park.

In general, Kasten said she wants to expand relations with the schools, keep giving historical talks and focus on preserving the lighthouse.

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