by Mary Donnelly | Downtown Bay Shore is in the midst of a renaissance, one that has attracted enterprising restaurateurs and gleaming new apartments to the Main Street corridor. But if you ask Barry Dlouhy, Bay Shore is “so much more than the newest restaurants opening on Main Street.”
Dloughy, a retired English teacher, is the president of the Bay Shore Historical Society, an all-volunteer non-for-profit organization with about 300 members.
Most of the society’s meetings at Bay Shore-Brightwaters Public Library feature educational programming that offers members a glimpse into the days when Main Street teemed with horse-drawn carriages and Ford Model Ts.
Much of Bay Shore’s rich history is found within its homes, namely the properties that have been entered on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The latest area property to be added is the John Mollenhauer House on Awixa Avenue, just a short walk from Main Street’s bustling nightlife. The house was built in 1893.
Thursday night’s Historical Society meeting featured a presentation by Manhattan architect Christopher Jend, who showcased the fruits of his research into pioneering architect E.G.W. Deitrich.
Deitrich designed the Mollenhauer house, as well as four other homes on Awixa Avenue. All but one still stand today.
Jend and Dloughy’s meeting was somewhat serendipitous. Jend, himself a resident of Awixa Avenue, contacted the Bay Shore Historical Society to research the history of his own home.
Jend discovered that Deitrich, who moved to Brooklyn in 1886 after completing a successful apprenticeship in Pittsburgh, designed his and his neighbors’ homes.
This spiraled into a personal Odyssey of Deitrich’s life and work.
Bay Shore was a popular resort town in the late 1800s, attracting wealthy Manhattan businessmen and philanthropists such as John Mollenhauer and William H. Wray.
Both men procured Deitrich, who had previously designed a number of public buildings and residences in Pittsburg, upstate New York, and Scranton, Pa., according to Jend.
“Once [Deitrich] went out on his own, he had complete freedom to do what he wanted,” said Jend, pointing out the hallmark of the asymmetrical exteriors and floor plans that are common in older homes.
If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ve likely noticed that the family would often “walk through” after dinner, meaning that men would enjoy a whisky and cigar in the library as the ladies socialized in another room.
Deitrich’s Bay Shore homes were organized in a similar fashion, Jend said. The floor plans of this period offered ample opportunities for husbands and wives to entertain their guests separately.
This was Jend’s second presentation to the Historical Society. The first, given in April, provided a brief history of the Mollenhauer and Sullivan families and the general history of Penataquit Point.
“He’s a dynamic guy,” said Dlouhy, who cites Jend’s passion for research and personal connection to the community as a reason why Dlouhy welcomed Jend’s second educational program.
The Historical Society’s next meeting is on Oct. 20, when author Elaine Kissling Whitehouse of Sayville discusses her Hart’s Tavern at the library at 7:30 p.m.
The following meeting, on Nov. 17, will feature a presentation by author and professional storyteller Janet Demerest on her Women in Long Island Legends: the Trollop, the Witch, and the Brokenhearted. That’s also at 7:30 p.m.
All are welcome to attend the historical society meetings.
Membership in the Bay Shore Historical Society, headquartered at 22 Maple Avenue, costs $8 annually ($5 for seniors and $2 for students).
Top Photo: Four E.G.W. Deitrich-designed homes on Awixa Avenue in Bay Shore. The John Mollenhauer House is pictured at bottom right. (Bay Shore Historical Society)