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From Shore to Shore: Boat Builders and Boat Yards of Westchester and Long Island

Exhibition at Port Jefferson Village Center to open Summer 2013

On July 1, Long Island Traditions will open “From Shore to Shore: Boat Builders of Westchester and Long Island” a major exhibition at the Port Jefferson Village Center on the traditional occupational and recreational culture of boat builders and boatyards in the region.  In collaboration with ArtsWestchester and with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities and Suffolk County, this exhibition is the culmination of two years of planning and field research on the current and historical art of boat building by folklorists Nancy Solomon, the executive director of Long Island Traditions, and Tom Van Buren, staff folklorist at ArtsWestchester.  The exhibition runs through September 2.  The Port Jefferson Village Center is located at 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson.

For centuries, residents of New York have built watercraft and waterfront facilities to transport people and goods locally, nationally and internationally.  For the settlers of this area, boating was a way of life.  It provided employment, recreation, and transportation.  Dutch and English settlers crossed the Atlantic Ocean to settle in New Amsterdam, travelling up the Hudson River, along Long Island Sound and Long Island’s south shore. Wooden ships and boats dominated the country’s transportation system until the mid 1800s when railroads took on a larger role in transportation.  Coastal towns employed shipwrights, marine carpenters, boat captains and other trades people for generations.  Boatyards today still house numerous structures ranging from large barns to machine shops, some dating from the 1800s.

Contemporary boat builders continue many of the traditions established in previous generations, with notable changes including the use of fiberglass and newer technologies and tools.  Yet we know little about their work and their workplaces.  From Shore to Shore explores the worlds of over 20 boat builders and 10 historic boatyards where boats and ships are built or maintained today.  Boat builders include professionals, amateurs and volunteers, all dedicated to preserving the craft of earlier generations.  Featured boat builders and boatyards include Howard Pickerell of Southampton, Paul Ketcham of Amityville, the Scopinich family of Freeport and East Quogue, Alan Steiger of Bellport, Donn Costanzo of Greenport, the Bayles Boat Shop workers in Port Jefferson, the Harter Brothers of Bellmore, along with Davison’s Boatyard in East Rockaway, the Hanff Boatyard in Greenport, and Knutson’s Boatyard in Huntington.

The exhibition will fill the Port Jefferson Village Center with graphic panels on the history of boat building in the region, profiles of area boatyards and master craftsmen, boat builders’ tools, and an audio visual installation featuring interviews with master builders, restorers and historic yard owners.  On July 16 and 30 and August 20th at 7pm there will be public programs with boat builders, boatyard owners and waterfront preservation specialists.  On August 3-4 there will be a traditional boat display featuring several of the featured boat builders.  The programs are free. We invite all to come and explore the world of boat building, and help us preserve these places and practices for future generations.



For further information on the exhibition and public programs visit or telephone (516) 767-8803.
Images courtesy Long Island Traditions.

For more on Port Jefferson click here

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