Back when our kids were fairly small, my wife started a terrific tradition while looking for things to do in the otherwise lazy summertime: Library Field Trips.
She began to seek out various libraries in our county of Suffolk on Long Island and they would pack up some things for snacks and/or lunch, pick a town and just browse the library there. As a life-long book and library fiend, I am aghast that such a thing never occurred to me, except maybe for larger libraries such as the New York Public Library in Manhattan.
The kids have loved it – an opportunity to find new books they’ve never seen before along with at least the small sense of adventure one feels when visiting a new place. We’ve found some wonderful libraries, and also found that even though they’re all in the same county system, the facilities – and rules – can vary greatly. We’ve toyed with the idea of creating a dedicated blog for these trips, and now I regret not creating one a few years back. (Especially now that our son is 12 and less inclined to find the adventure. *sadface*)
Today I believe we have found my favorite Long Island library: The Setauket’s Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, opened in 1892 in memory of Miss Clark, who was the niece of millionaire confectioner Thomas Hodgkins.
The library has been greatly (and beautifully) expanded several times since that first day, when the annual membership charge was a whopping 10¢ per year. The magazine area is housed in the original structure, constructed of arches and old wood that creaks comfortably beneath one’s feet.
As my wife and son perused other areas of the library, my daughter Lily and I sat in this wonderful spot. I could easily imagine people running up to the overlarge entrance door in older times, shaking off the snow, pulling a volume from a shelf and sitting in the nook beside the fireplace and golden bottle-glass adorned windows.
Lily read quietly as I imagined these ancient goings on, and spoke only once to say “It is so peaceful here!” *Sigh.*
As an added bonus to the library itself is that the area is of historical significance and has some beautiful churches and cemeteries to explore nearby. Walking out through the library’s nice plantings we then crossed the village green to learn that the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket was fought here.
For those who are viewers of the show Turn: Washington’s Spies on AMC, you might recognize the location name. (I have requested the first season from my own library, so please don’t tell me who wins!)
The area still has a nice rural feel to it, and it is easy to imagine carriages and soldiers milling about while crossing the triangle-shaped green on our trek over to the Setauket Presbyterian Church. As usual, the headstones in the cemetery called to us and we wandered through for the better part of an hour.
We noted a few Revolutionary war soldiers as we walked through, and more than a few DAR markers. Then we stumbled upon one raised memorial that appeared to be built over the original headstone and had coins and stones scattered across its face.
The plaque on the top of the memorial informed us it was for Abraham Woodhull, “Friend and confidant of George Washington, head of Long Island Secret Service during the Revolution, and operated under the Alias of Samuel Culper, Sr.”
Overall, an excellent field trip day, I must say.