Presidents on Long Island: Who hung out where?
Next door to New York City and historically a playground for the powerful, Long Island has always been a magnet for the men we celebrate on Presidents Day.
Long Island is "a natural vacation place for presidents, and it's also very important politically," says Meena Bose, director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University, where the George W. Bush presidential conference will be held next year.
In the past, leaders of the free world have dined at our inns and even fished for trout in our streams. Here are local places and events with connections to chief executives from the very first to the man currently in the White House.
When George Washington traveled through Long Island in 1790, local lore notes that he sat at a table at Amityville's Ketcham Inn, and in a chair at Platt's Tavern in Huntington. The plain wooden table is now on display at Conklin House in Huntington (see it 1-4 p.m. Fridays and Sundays). The "locally made . . . nice little splay back chair with a cane seat," which Washington sat in for a "tolerably good lunch," rests inside Huntington's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building, says town historian Robert C. Hughes. As a historical bonus, Teddy Roosevelt sat in the same chair in 1903, the 250th anniversary of the town's founding (1-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 631-351-3244).
Born in New Jersey and raised in upstate New York, Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms, from 1885-1889, and again from 1893 to 1897. From the 1870s on, Cleveland was a member of the South Side Sportsmen's Club, now part of the 3,473-acre Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale.
"All during his presidency he always came for fishing, and he was a very well-known and -liked member" of the club, says park manager Gil Bergen. Visitors can walk through rooms set up like they were in Cleveland's day, and a short distance away flow the trout streams where Cleveland and other notable contemporaries liked to cast a line. The next guided tour is 1-3 p.m. March 2 and costs $4 adults and $3 ages 3-17; reservations are not necessary (631-581-1072, nysparks.com/parks).
Tours of President Theodore Roosevelt's home at the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in Oyster Bay are unavailable while the house is undergoing a renovation. However, the visitor center and bookstore, and the Roosevelt Museum in nearby Old Orchard are all open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and the grounds are open daily, sunrise to sunset (516- 922-4788, nps.gov/sahi).
Tweed's, a lesser known Rooseveltian repository in Riverhead, serves bison burgers with a side of T.R. nostalgia.
"I have the last buffalo shot by Teddy Roosevelt on Cannonball Creek in the Dakota Territories in 1882," says restaurateur Edwin Fishel Tuccio, referring to the big trophy head that overlooks part of the dining room.
Also on dining room display, says Tuccio, a history buff who wears a very Teddy-style mustache: a medal from T.R.'s Cuban campaign during the Spanish-American War and a photo of the president visiting the Riverhead County Fair (631-208-3151, tweedsrestaurant.com.
WHEN | WHERE Movie screenings at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with program featuring Wil Haygood, author of "The Butler: A Witness to History," 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Hofstra University's Student Center Theater, Hempstead
Hofstra has long been a local magnet for presidential visits. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and most recently Barack Obama have visited campus for everything from fundraisers and stump speeches to presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Part of Black History Month, the presentation of "The Butler" stars Forest Whitaker playing a character based upon the life of Eugene Allen, who worked for a number of the aforementioned presidents.