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How a bridge could have changed Shelter Island: History Center exhibit tells the story of a major issue

Mention the word “bridge” and the average Islander will react with a sharp intake of breath, a slight twitching about the eyes, and possibly an irresistible urge to fisticuffs.

Yet the idea has been floated repeatedly over the years, and the Shelter Island Historical Society has a new exhibit tracing the issue over a time spanning more than a century.

Displayed on the walls of the historic Havens House, nestled in the History Center, the story is depicted along a timeline from 1913 to 1971. Titled “Undevelopments,” the exhibit conjures up a Shelter Island that might have been, had those proposed bridges been erected.

The history unfolds through copies of newspaper stories displayed on the walls, relating the proposals made over the years and the fierce debate they generated over the decades. Maps and plans are vivid illustrations of how developers dreamed of remaking the Island.

Renderings of bridges from the Island to Greenport and from the Island to the South Fork enable the visitor to imagine what today is unimaginable, so secure does a way of life made possible by our two dependable ferries seem to the residents of the Rock.

The exhibit will continue through the end of the year.