I will be heading to Albany this week to present my latest project at the Researching New York Conference. Held at SUNY Albany, I will be part of a panel titled “Contested Ground” with Professor Robert Chiles of the University of Maryland serving as commentator. See my abstract below.
Sand Wars: Nature and Community Formation in a Long Island Port, 1906-1940
“Sand Wars” explores a political, social, and economic battle waged between wealthy suburban landowners and working class gravel miners during the Great Depression. Set in Long Island’s North Shore villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre, both parties developed and applied distinct interpretations of their surrounding environment. Elites envisioned a suburban refuge that aesthetically blended Tudor estates with garden landscapes. By improving fallow fields and woodlands they hoped to create a community centered on outdoor recreation. This leisurescape required adjacent communities to conform. In contrast, gravel miners, with the consent of local government, dredged Port Jefferson harbor and mined coastal bluffs to solidify the area’s industrial potential. Miners experienced nature through work and developed an elaborate working class culture surrounding their occupation. Their workscape clashed with Belle Terre’s leisurescape. Elites portrayed miners as invading hordes annihilating the leisurescape’s beauty and depressing housing values. Miners feared unemployment during the Depression and argued that improvement would reinforce the housing market. Elites utilized political incorporation and individual arrests to halt gravel mining. After their victory they buried the memory of the incident in a shroud of myth and memory