Around the Island

Shelter Island Historical Sunday at Union Chapel on July 7

David Lichtenstein, Ph.D.

Union Chapel in the Grove welcomes David Lichtenstein, Ph.D., and members of the Shelter Island Historical Society on Sunday, July 7 at 10:30 am. Dr. Lichtenstein will speak about “A Treasure Hidden in Plain Sight,” the history of the Japanese-style bridge in South Ferry Hills. Members of the Historical Society will participate in the service as readers and ushers.

Dr. Lichtenstein is the president of South Ferry Hills Association and calls the bridge, built over a man-made lagoon near Smith Cove, “A graceful, beautiful structure, a rare monument to a singular time in the Island’s history.” At the turn of the 20th century, Francis Smith, known as the “Borax King,” was a miner and construction magnate. He commissioned Ernest Ransome, an architect and engineer, to design and build the lagoon, its bridge and mechanical sea gates on the estate known as Presdeleau, which covered the area now known as South Ferry Hills and much of Mashomack Preserve. 

How this structure came into being, its rare and important engineering features and the efforts to list the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places will be the subject of his presentation.

The historical research of Edward and Patricia Shillingburg leading to their monograph, “Frank Smith, the Borax King, on Shelter Island” (2003),  was an essential step in understanding this historic site. 

In 2016, Robert Bayley and Katy Braiewa, the grandson and great-granddaughter of Francis Smith and Evelyn Kate Ellis, heard from Shelter Island Historical Society’s Executive Director Nanette Lawrenson of the incipient efforts to restore the bridge. They offered their support and that of their family foundation toward having the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This was accomplished in 2018. The Smith-Ransome Japanese Bridge Conservancy was formed, and work was begun to study the bridge in terms of the engineering and aesthetic needs appropriate for its historic preservation.

A psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City, Dr. Lichtenstein is on the faculty of New York University and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Ten years ago, after having spent many years summering on the Island on their sailboat, Blue, Dr. Lichtenstein and his wife, Jill Moser, an artist, built a house in South Ferry Hills adjacent to Mashomack Preserve. As a member and then an officer of the Homeowners Association, he became aware of the Japanese Bridge and began to study its origins and significance. 

Baritone Thomas Milton will return to the Union Chapel to sing two arias from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” accompanied by Chapel Organist Linda Betjeman. Mr. Milton is a resident of Shelter Island and cantor at Our Lady of the Isle. He was featured soloist at Union Chapel and the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church and has performed throughout the East End, singing with the Perlman Music Program, Shelter Island Community Chorus, the Choral Society of the Hamptons and the Peconic Bay Masterworks Choir.