When Meredith Murray, a volunteer historian at the Westhampton Beach Historical Society was asked to put together a book of pictures depicting Westhampton from its founding in 1650 to the modern day, she made it her goal to catalogue every photograph that the historical society had received over the years in order to create a sequential story that would speak for itself.
The result is “Around Westhampton,” published this year by Arcadia Publishing. The book features 215 photographs of all things Westhampton, from the community’s beginnings as Catchaponack to its contemporary identity. Truth to tell, the hundreds of photos featured in the book are not the only images that Ms. Murray originally intended to include in the living history of Westhampton.
“The publisher rejected so many really good photographs with good stories behind them because it didn’t fit the template of the book,” said Ms. Murray.
Many of the older photographs that Ms. Murray valued most were cut during production of the book. To make use of as many photos as possible, the historical society decided to create an arts exhibition titled “Around Westhampton,” displaying photographs featured in the book as well as some that didn’t make it onto the page. Ms. Murray’s husband, Robert Murray, the president of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society, curated the exhibit
About 50 photographs are currently on view in the Tuthill House Museum in Westhampton Beach and Mr. Murray, who put together the display, believes that these images mirror the book’s capacity for captivating an audience because both offer a constant flow of storytelling throughout the exhibit.
“The unique part of the exhibit is it has a story line starting from Westhampton’s beginnings to present,” said Mr. Murray. “It mirrors our town’s history.”
The oldest photograph in the collection is titled “Beaver Dam Creek.” Taken in the late 1800s, it provides the starting point for the exhibit as well as the book. The photo shows an ice house on the edge of Beaver Dam Creek, which Ms. Murray said was a popular place for Westhampton residents to spend their summer.
“Cook’s Pond used to be the favorite wintertime gathering spot for kids and adults,” said Ms. Murray. “They’d make bonfires near the springs and ice skate on the freshwater pond. Many people had to be rescued after falling through the ice. Since then the town has been more reluctant to open it up to skating.”
The exhibit has had a steady stream of around 30 visitors a week, according to Mr. Murray. Hours at the Tuthill House Museum at 101 Mill Road in Westhampton Beach are Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I think a lot of people viewing it now think they can relate to something—whether it’s a building or a person, a lot of people can relate,” said Virginia Kandell, the head of the museum committee. “Meredith was writing the book and the exhibit just seemed natural.”
According to Ms. Kandell, a photo of Seely’s store at the site currently occupied by the Beach Bakery Café has brought back many memories for Westhampton residents who grew up in the area.
“A lot of people still remember Ms. Seely,” said Ms. Kandell. “A lot of people grew up going into her store.” Seely’s was a stationery store that sold toys and cold beverages in addition to magazines, comic books, candy and cigarettes.
The photos in both the exhibit and the book have come to the Westhampton Beach Historical Society in the form of donations from people in the community who have been around for years, according to Mr. Murray.
“We’ve asked old names in the area to donate what pictures they have,” he said. “History? That’s all going: Everyone wants new modern houses. One day you won’t see this anymore.”