Past Exhibitions

Winter in Oysterponds

To many people Oysterponds comes into its own in winter. In the early days the hardships of the season were shared with the obvious pleasures that winter brought. The sleighs and sleds, the iceboats and ice skates – are all documented in photographs that show good times despite the rigors and burdens of the season. When the fields were frozen and the shores were icy, there was more time for the leisure activities of winter sports.

One of the highlights of winter in Oysterponds has traditionally been iceboating. An old label for a winter sports exhibition describes it well:

It is iceboating that really makes the blood run faster….When the bay begins to freeze the excitement and anticipation begins and with each successive cold day it builds. The enthusiasts pray for extended cold spells so the ice will freeze hard enough and thick enough to support the weight of the boat, its mast, sails, runners and the rider.

Days like those are getting harder and harder to come by. This selection of photographs, paintings, and a model of an iceboat wonderfully illustrate why the sport is so well loved in this part of the world.

Exhibit Items

A child’s sleigh is on view as well as a photograph and a drawing showing sleighs as the basic form of winter transportation. Old ice skates complement charming photographs of people enjoying themselves on frozen ponds. A colorful painted sled is one of several in the collection. A photograph taken by William H. Vail well depicts just how cold the winters could be a century ago. The piles of ice floes along the shore seem extraordinary to us, but there are even stories of automobiles being driven across the frozen waters from Greenport to Shelter Island. One business that thrived only in winter was ice cutting at East Marion Lake. A series of photographs show men at work cutting the ice which would be stored in the ice houses at the lake’s edge for use in warm weather. Foot warmers and bed warmers and a muff show a few methods of staying warm in a cold season.

Artists and photographers eagerly captured both the fun and the drama of winter in Oysterponds, as can be seen in the selection of items on view. However it was not all fun. Roy Latham, New York State’s most important naturalist of the last century and lifelong Orient farmer, wrote a letter to his sister during the great Pandemic of 1918 which reached Orient in February of 1920. He writes of the many people who had died, and says that “the great snowstorm made it worse the doctors could not get down for two days….it took two whole days to dig out the road….we are snowed in and haven’t been out in nearly a week….This is the most terrible time Orient ever knew.”

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