Nestled quietly in Coecles Harbor lies an Island that is one of Shelter Island’s hidden historical treasures.
Taylor’s Island (technically called a tombolo because you can walk to it at low tide) is now in the spotlight. This past Friday, local Shelter Island artists presented their work in Town Hall.
Painters included are Laura Nelsen and Maria Razza, who each have a separate Taylor’s Island inspired work represented.
According to the Taylor’s Island Preservation and Management Committee, Cedar Island, as it was originally called, was purchased by Francis Marion Smith in 1899. His Pacific Coast Borax Company — marketed as “20 Mule Team Borax” — was the industry leader for decades. Around 1900 he built a small fishing log cabin that he and his family and friends enjoyed until the 1930s, when it was purchased by S. Gregory Taylor.
Mr. Taylor summered at Taylor’s Island until his death in 1948. He is buried on the northeast side of the island. Mr. Taylor had no children and his will left the use of the Island to his nephew, Stephen Stephano, with the title passing to the Town of Shelter Island for “the use and enjoyment of the general public” upon the death of Mr. Stephano.
Andrew Arkin came upon Taylor’s Island while flying over Coecles Harbor in a seaplane. Through a realtor, Greg Price, Mr. Arkin contacted Mr. Taylor’s nephew, Stephan Stephano, who had the lifetime use of the Island. Mr. Arkin was able to lease the Island in exchange for the maintenance and restoration of the cabin.
In 1997, Mr. Stephano passed away, and a year later the Town of Shelter Island received title to the island as stipulated in Mr. Taylor’s will.
Between 1998 and December 2005 there were two separate plans presented to the town to demolish the cabin, but this never came to pass due to a fierce local outcry.
Councilwoman Christine Lewis proposed forming the Taylor’s Island Preservation and Management Committee with the support of Councilmen Ed Brown and Neal Raymond, along with Supervisor Alfred J. Kilb, Jr.
In 2006, two committee members, with the pro bono help of Edward Shillingburg, created the Taylor’s Island Foundation. This all volunteer group assists the town with fundraising for the restoration, preservation, historic documentation, public use and stewardship of the Smith-Taylor Cabin. In 2007 the cabin was listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historical Places.
Event organizer P.A.T. Hunt, who co-chairs the town’s Taylor’s Island Committee, said that Taylor’s Island still helps bring together many different kinds of people together under one roof.
If you couldn’t make it to the opening, you can see the exhibit during regular business hours at Town Hall: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, and Saturdays in July and August, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you’re interested in volunteering or scheduling a guided tour of the cabin, please contact the Taylor’s Island Foundation at (631) 749-1603, or visit taylorsisland.org.