At Quaquanantuck was hoping that some astute reader would notice that last week’s musings about cataclysmic cyclonic storms were posted on September 21, the 79th anniversary of the terrorizing of our shores by the Hurricane of 1938.
Much has been printed and many stories and oral histories (one of the best compiled by the late Quogue Village Historian Pat Shuttleworth) have been handed down about this terrible storm that took a completely unprepared Long Island totally by surprise. The distilled version, from Wikipedia, tells us that, across New England, “it is estimated that the hurricane killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed more than 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at US$306 million,” which amount translates to $4.7 billion in 2017 dollars.
As Hurricane Maria, which essentially destroyed Puerto Rico, thankfully passes by to our east, it’s important to note that the $4.7 billion figure is an adjustment for normal inflation, and not an estimate of what similar property losses would total if the same storm were to make landfall on Long Island today, where prices for houses and real estate have gone through the stratosphere.
Consider the fact that a single house on the beach in Southampton can now list for anywhere from $10 or $15 million up to $100 million or more. Then realize that the total value of 20 houses on the beach in Westhampton in 1938 likely wouldn’t add up to $3 million, and probably a lot less. Now try to imagine what property losses from a similar storm would add up to today. Scary, right?
Meanwhile, there is an opportunity on Saturday, September 30, to act locally to help out victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding. Join other volunteers from our community at Beach United Methodist Church at 41 Mill Rd. in Westhampton Beach who will be assembling 100 Health Kits for survivors of recent natural disasters starting at 10:30 a.m.
The health kits will include a washcloth, small towel, soap, toothbrush, and other sundries that are so significant for people who have lost literally everything. Contact the church for more information; 631-288-1158, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to the ’38 storm. The Wikipedia entry continues: “Damaged trees and buildings were still seen in the affected areas as late as 1951.” There are some buildings in Westhampton Beach where you can still see the tide line from the storm surge some 7 or 8 feet above the floor, indoors. “It remains the most powerful and deadliest hurricane in recorded New England history,” Wikipedia notes, “eclipsed in landfall intensity perhaps only by the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635.”
With apologies to Vachel Lindsay:
The beach is the east wind’s cookie; she eats it day by day . . .
Of course, thinking of the Hurricane of 1938 and the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 (some five years before English settlers arrived at Conscience Point) makes for a perfect transition to this weekend’s talk at the Quogue Historical Society about the Life Saving service and Life Saving stations.
Talk on Life-Saving Service Scheduled at Quogue Historical Society
On Saturday, September 30, Quogue Historical Society Curator and Southampton Town Historian Julie Greene will give an illustrated talk, “Down on the Beach: Quogue’s Life-Saving Service, 1849-1937,” at 4 p.m. at QHS headquarters at the Pond House on Jessup Avenue.
Much of the long history of shipwrecks off Quogue is now shrouded in the coastal fogs and haze of time. What we know is that toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, as more wrecks were recorded, so were the rescues. In 1872, the federal government funded the construction of the first life saving station in Quogue to house the crew of local able-bodied men as well as life-saving equipment, and a second was built in 1912. Both of these original life-saving stations are still standing in Quogue today.
Courtesy of this column’s favorite archivist, Pi Gardiner, At Quaquanantuck can offer this bit of background: In the 18th century, with shipwrecks and strandings not uncommon, each community dotting Long Island’s south shore built small barns in the dunes to house rescue boats and life-saving apparatus. Starting in 1848, Congress funded these strictly volunteer stations, paying for the station and its equipment, but relying on the local community to provide unpaid crews when needed.
Within a few years, local communities began demanding a government-funded life saving service with regular shore patrols, and in 1871, the fledgling Life Saving Service was formed under the aegis of the U.S. Treasury Department. In 1878, the U.S. Life Saving Service was officially organized as a separate agency of the Treasury Department. By then, Life Saving Stations dotted the entire Eastern seaboard approximately 5 miles apart and, 20 years later, linked by telephone.
Saturday’s talk will cover tragic shipwrecks, including the beaching and breaking up of the three-masted schooner Nahum Chapin (whose anchor sits in front of the library) off Hallock’s Beach (now the Surf Club) in January 1897 with all hands lost; the heroic deeds of life-savers; and the stations that gave them shelter.
Light refreshments will be offered at a reception following the talk. Past, current, and prospective volunteers for the QHS are invited to come to the Pond House for this event so that the Society’s board can thank them for their dedicated support of the effort to preserve Quogue’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.
QHS Holiday House Tour Set for Saturday, December 9
Meanwhile, history buffs and supporters of the Quogue Historical Society are urged to save the date of Saturday, December 9, for the annual QHS Holiday House Tour from 2 to 6 p.m.
This year’s tour includes five Quogue houses festively decorated for the holiday season. The tour is followed by a cocktail party from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets, which go on sale in November, are $60 for the tour, $50 for the party; $100 for the tour and party; and $125 for patrons.
New Exhibition Opens at Library Art Gallery
“Jim Gemake: Art from the Discarded Object” is the title of the October exhibition at the Quogue Library Art Gallery, running from October 3 to 25.
Brooklyn-born Jim Gemake is a self-taught mixed media artist who lives and works in Water Mill. He uses found or discarded objects to achieve the elements of color, shape and texture that are key to his work.
Christy Murray and Judy McDermott are chairs of this show.
Guided Forest Walk October 7 at Quogue Wildlife Refuge
On Saturday, October 7, starting at 1:30 p.m., a Quogue Wildlife Refuge educator will lead a nature hike to seek the native flora and fauna that occur within the various habitats of the Refuge. The 3-mile hike will visit the northern part of the Refuge to view the dwarf pines and what is known as “the high spot,” search for buck moths, and explore the pine barrens, a swamp, and a field.
A hat and water bottle are recommended. The hike is free for QWR members, or $10 per person for non-members. To register, call 631-653-4771 or sign up at quoguewildliferefuge.org
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