Every May during the 1900s, New York City residents returned to Bellport by the trainload to spend their summer at hotels along the bay, cottages, or boarding homes. White picket fences lined Bellport Lane, sailboats were moored at the Bellport docks, and the ferry transported beachgoers to Fire Island.
For three months out of the year, Bellport came alive.
And to celebrate the pleasures of yesterday and today, the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society is showcasing an exhibit called “Bellport: Summer 1900” to kick off the summer.
Housed in the Ralph Brown building on the Post-Howell House property, the exhibit shows the summer style and social life of the iconic seaside resort at the turn of the 20th century.
“Bellport has always been a summer destination,” said the society’s president, Anna Lou Fletcher. “People have always been sailing, golfing, playing tennis and enjoying the Great South Bay. It was an incredibly fancy place to be with grand hotels along the bay and sailing and golf competitions.”
The exhibit, created by guest curator, cultural historian and designer Tricia Foley, of Yaphank, debuts Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays until July 27.
The exhibit includes “Wish You Were Here!” a collection of old postcards, and also photos depicting the sailing culture in Bellport, grand hotels like Wyandotte and Bay House along the waterfront and tea parties with Bellport women rallying for women’s right to vote.
In July, there was a Fourth of July parade along Bellport Lane and fireworks at the dock. Near the harbor, there was harvesting of clams and salt hay, an important commodity on the South Shore. Bellport’s setting also attracted artists who painted its landscape, sand dunes and everyday life.
Fletcher, 68, of East Moriches, said the photos and clothing help show the changing role of women in society. Women wore white dresses while cycling, playing tennis and during other activities.
“The clothing was designed to allow for more freedom,” Fletcher said. “It was a time of social change.”
Bellport has also always been known as a sailing community, which the exhibit documents.
“Everyone who lived here who was wealthy had a sailing yacht,” Fletcher said. “We were and always will be a beautiful seaside resort.”
The exhibit also kicks off the summer lecture series which discusses much of the material showcased in the exhibit. Topics include “Wish You Were Here: The Golden Age of Picture Postcards,” a talk from postcard collector Jeff Weinstein; and “Trowels & Tomorrow: Garden Stewardship, with Tovah Martin, a garden writer and editorial producer of the PBS gardening series “Cultivating Life,” talking about horticultural preservation.
Tickets for the lecture series are $50 for the series and $15 per talk. Admission to the “Bellport: Summer 1900” exhibit costs $5.