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New book covers history, mystery and change along Manhasset Bay

The Port Washington Public Library has put out a new book detailing the history of arts and maritime traditions along the Manhasset Bay, including dozens of never-before-published photos of the hamlet’s past. The book came out earlier this month and will be followed by the release of a phone app allowing users to explore local landmarks on a walking and boating tour. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Vanessa Nastro knew right away she had found the cover for her book when she saw the black-and-white photo of two men standing near what is now Sunset Park with the backdrop of Manhasset Bay and a section of Shore Road in the distance.

With two boaters preparing for a sail, the local businesses in the background and two men enjoying the view, the photo conveyed the impression of life on the bay, said Nastro, archivist of the Port Washington Public Library.

The cover photo was one of dozens of images that were never published before — until the recent publication of "Along Manhasset Bay," the library said. The new book, compiled by Nastro and the library, was released earlier this month by Arcadia Publishing.

Nastro and her team came across the cover photo when they went through a collection donated in 2014 by the estate of William Navin. Other than the time frame of when it was taken — prior to 1900 — little was known about the photo or the men in it.

But that mystery may not last forever.

"You never know, someone in town might see the book and see the image and know something about it," said Nastro, 38. "Many times, with these local archives, that’s how things happen."

Other than depicting life of the past, photos in the book tell the story of a community transition, from rural to suburban.

The development along the bay was captured in images including an advertisement provided by James Flemings. The Manorhaven resident, 85, was cleaning out a closet during an office move in the 1960s when he stumbled across the real estate brochure that developers mailed out to prospective buyers.

The family home Flemings still lives in has a history itself.

The bungalow was built in 1935 by the Copp Brothers Realty Co., which developed much of the area in Manorhaven, once known as Orchard Beach, according to the book and Flemings.

Flemings said that when he was 12, in 1947, his father, James H. Flemings, bought the cottage. Flemings has since turned it into what his grandchildren call "Grandpa’s nautical museum" with old photos, news clippings and maritime artifacts.

The former marina dock master, North Hempstead Town bay constable and Navy veteran has lived a life never far away from the water.

"That’s the story of my whole life, which has been on the Manhasset Bay," said Flemings, who, for years in the 1970s, lived on a boat with his family.

Readers of the book can see a 1970 photo of Flemings’ insulated houseboat "Home Sea Home" near Riviera Marina, a restaurant and marina where he worked as a general manager.

"I just loved it. My family loved it because we were the only ones doing it at the time," he said, recalling ice-skating right outside his houseboat in the winter. "It was just a peaceful place to be."

Keith Klang, the library’s director who grew up and lives in Port Washington, had no idea that the bay used to freeze over.

"It’s too bad that it doesn’t freeze over anymore because I really would have liked to see that in person," he said. "But you get a nice window into what that all looked like in the book."

About the book

  • It includes 166 photos, dozens of which were never published before.
  • Royalties will be donated to the library’s Local History Center.
  • The book release is to be followed by a walking tour phone app scheduled to be launched in December.
  • The book was dedicated to Virginia "Ginger" Marshall Martus, a longtime library volunteer whose estate gave the library a grant that would help fund the development of the phone app.

Source: The Port Washington Public Library

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