Around the Island

Island postcard mystery solved


 One of our favorite amateur Island historians, Tom Speeches, came through again with his description of the 1909 postcard sent by Brian Caputo of Commack. Mr. Caputo said he “collects vintage postcards from Shelter Island because it’s my favorite place.”

Mr. Speeches had this to say about the mystery postcard:

“I do believe this grand home is that of Frank Smith, known as the “Borax King,” an American miner and business magnate. The Smiths came to Shelter Island in 1892 to build a summer estate. The home was a 1700s colonial, on possibly what is now Merkel Lane, off of Clark Place, what is now called South Ferry Hills. The home belonged to the Cartwright family; the Smiths purchased the property consisting of 42 acres for $8,000. He named the property “Presdeleau” and made extensive renovations over the years.

“The family wintered in Oakland Park, California and summered on Shelter Island. Sadly, the house was so damaged in the Hurricane of 1938 that it was torn down.

“The only vestige of the property is a beautiful Japanese-style arched bridge that spanned the inlet, which I believe still stands today.

“… I have seen other pictures of this lovely home … it was quite grand for its day and location.”

Mr. Speeches credits his love of Island lore to his family. “My family has lived here for many generations and I have a keen interest in our rich history. I am still fascinated and intrigued by the Island and am always learning something new from reading or listening to our elders. Sadly, these people are slowly dying off, so anything we can glean from them, is to me, very important.”