Barbara Van Liew Collection
Manuscript Collection 367

Collection Description

Research notes, files, books, and a set of the newsletter Preservation Notes, founded by Mrs. Barbara Ferris Van Liew.
Author; architectural historian; preservationist; and Historian of Head of the Harbor, New York.
Donated by Mrs. Barbara Ferris Van Liew, April 2002.
2 cubic feet.

Finding aid created in August 2004 by Kristen J. Nyitray and F.Berenice Baez-Revueltas. Updated and revised in September 2008.

Biographical Information
Series Outline
Container Listing

Biographical Information

"Barbara Van Liew's encyclopedic knowledge of Long Island's historic buildings and her relentless efforts to expand it always impressed those who joined her six-decade crusade to preserve the region's architectural heritage. And her friends and colleagues agree that her death July 13 at 94 leaves a vacuum in the Island 's preservation movement that will be hard to fill. "She was a giant," said Robert MacKay, executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, where Van Liew held many roles through the years. "I can't think of anyone else in the 20th century who did more to advocate historic preservation and open-space preservation on Long Island. She was a terrific example of how an individual can make a difference." Lance Mallamo, executive director of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport and the former historic services director for the county, called her the most important figure in the history of Long Island preservation. "Long Island preservation never had a better friend," he said of Van Liew, a Head of the Harbor resident who kept an inventory of historic structures, helped preserve buildings and create historic districts. "She certainly had the greatest institutional memory of Long Island 's historic buildings of anyone I ever met," Mallamo said. "She knew every building, every roadway and she had all the facts at her fingertips. Whenever I was stumped, I would give her a call and she always had the answer within one minute. She was truly amazing." MacKay remembers fondly how Van Liew - BVL, as she was known to her friends - persevered to get as much information as possible on every old building. "Nothing would stop her in the pursuit of landmark buildings," MacKay said. While conducting a survey of historic properties on the North Shore, "She drove up a reputed mobster's driveway with cameras along the way following her progress. When she drove into the forecourt with an intern sitting next to her, out came an armed guard and she cracks the window and says, 'Yoo hoo, we're just here to look at the architecture.'

"Seeing the big picture MacKay said Van Liew was "one of the first in the region to see historic preservation not only in a narrow term of saving a particular building or site but see the larger picture and realize that historic preservation meant historic districts and scenic byways." Van Liew always was looking for new preservation techniques, he said. "She was also one of the first to espouse easements and restrictive covenants" as tools for preserving historic sites. Van Liew, a descendant of Gov. John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, grew up in Connecticut and became interested in buildings when she took trips with her father, Herbert Henry Ferris, an architect and engineer.

In 1940, she arrived in St. James. Eight years later, she joined the antiquities group when it was founded and organized restoration projects on museum houses as a volunteer, MacKay said. From 1965 to 2001, she served as editor of the group's Preservation Notes. Louise Hall, retired director of the Smithtown Historical Society, said, "She wrote Preservation Notes faithfully and listed any endangered building. She was really a very thorough researcher."

Important and difficult work
Van Liew organized surveys of historic properties all across Long Island and said her most important work was an inventory of the Island's historic and cultural resources for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Her most demanding and longest project, she said, was chairing a committee in the 1950s and early 1960s that saved a row of 18th and early 19th century houses on the north side of Route 25 in Village of The Branch. The 10 buildings had been threatened by a proposed road widening. Van Liew eventually persuaded Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to intervene and kill the project. And in 1964, the village established the Branch Historic District, one of the first on the Island.

According to preservationists, Van Liew had her biggest hands-on impact when she was was appointed in 1970 to two new Suffolk County committees, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Historic Trust, which oversaw the county's historic properties and which she later chaired. She was a strong advocate of preserving Colonial roads such as Sound Avenue in Riverhead and Southold, MacKay said.

Hall said Van Liew helped create a village landmark law in Head of the Harbor, where she remained village historian until her death. She also helped establish two historic districts in St. James on Route 25, the Mills Pond district and the St. James district. "She was responsible for encouraging the county to acquire Deep Wells," Hall said, referring to the historic farm estate in St. James. "That was major." Long Island absolutely would have looked different without her."
Bill Bleyer, Staff Writer (July 31, 2005). Heaven preserve her, LI's guardian of history lives on in the sites she saved. Newsday (Combined Editions), p.G28. 

VAN LIEW--Barbara Ferris. Noted architectural historian, preservationist and author, widow of General Harry R. Van Liew, U.S.M.C.R. and a United Airlines pilot passed away at her home in St. James, Long Island. She is survived by children Helen Louise Frohlich of Landrum, South Carolina, Alfred Buttler Van Liew of Middletown, Rhode Island and Jeffere Ferris Van Liew of St. James, New York, a sister, Mrs. Nils Anderson, Jr. of Southport, Connecticut and brother, Herbert Henry Ferris, Jr. of Alpine, California. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM at St. James Episcopal Church, North Country Road, St. James, Long Island, the 25th of July, 2005. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Smithtown Historical Society, Smithtown, Long Island, New York.
Obituary from The New York Times (July 22, 2005).

Series Outline

Series 1: Architecture
Series 2: Towns and Villages
Series 3: People
Series 4: Preservation Notes
Series 5: Bibliography

Container Listing

Series 1: Architecture

Box 1

Heckscher Museum, Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall of East Hampton. The Architecture of Suffolk County. 1971.

Barns of Long Island (2 folders)
Includes: Taves, Henry Verender. The Barns of Long Island. Thesis (M.S.) - - Columbia University, 1981. (facsimile)

HAER Survey (Historic American Engineering Record), 1974 (2 folders)
Inventory of sites on Long Island; coverage includes Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. (facsimile)

Shopsin, William C., and Grania Bolton Marcus. Saving Large Estates: Conservation, Historic Preservation, Adaptive Re-Use. [Setauket, N.Y.]: Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1977.

Rand McNally and Company. Auto Road Atlas of the United States. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co, 1926. (Long Island section only). (facsimile)

Gable, John A. Long Island, an Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites. [Washington ]: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, 1975. (facsimile)

Long Island Railroad Company. Long Island and Where to Go!!: A Descriptive Work Compiled for the Long Island R.R. Co. for the Use and Benefit of Its Patrons. New York: Lovibond & Jackson, 1877. (facsimile)

Ruther, Frederick. Long Island to-Day; Consisting of Sketches on the Political, Industrial, Topographical and Geological History of Long Island and Long Island Towns and Villages, but More Particularly of General Views Illustrating Long Island Scenes of to-Day. Hicksville, N.Y.: The author, 1909. (facsimile; 2 folders)

Historic American Engineering Record, and Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. Long Island Wind and Tide Mills: An Interim Report of a Study. [Washington, DC?]: Historic American Engineering Record, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1976.

Snow, Jane. "Long Island 's Quiet Side." National Geographic, May 1980.

Welch, Richard F. Memento Mori: The Gravestones of Early Long Island, 1680-1810. Syosset, N.Y.: Friends for Long Island Heritage, 1983. (facsimile)

"Sketches of New York Suburbs" by Vernon Howe Bailey from The New York Sun. (facsimile and clippings; 3 folders)

National Society of the Colonial Dames in the State of New York. Some Colonial and Revolutionary Landmarks: Brooklyn and Long Island, 1636-1800. [S.l.]: Printed under the auspices of the Committee, 1932. (facsimile)

Suffolk County Archaeological Association, Ellice B. Gonzalez, and Edward S. Rutsch. Suffolk County Cultural Resources Inventory. [S.l.]: Suffolk County Archaeological Association, 1978.

Series 2: Towns and Villages

Bayside

Baiting Hollow (includes a facsimile of the History of Baiting Hollow by Rev. R. Warren).

Brooklyn

East Hampton

Huntington (includes: Gould, Zell Morris, and Henrietta M. Klaber. Colonial Huntington, 1653-1800. Huntington, N.Y.: Huntington Historical Society, 1953).

Lynbrook

Mastic (includes: Furman, George C., and Hugh S. Furman. The Manor of St. George: Situated at Smith's Point, Near Mastic Beach. Dedicated As a Public Museum and Park, August, 1955. Brookhaven, N.Y.: s.n.], 1955).

New York City

New York State

Oakdale (includes: William K. Vanderbilt Historical Society. The Old Oakdale History. Oakdale, N.Y.: William K. Vanderbilt Historical Society of Dowling College, 1983).

Peconic (includes: Yeager, Edna Howell. Peconic River Mills and Industries. Riverhead, N.Y.: Suffolk County Historical Society, 1965).

Port Washington (includes: Williams, George L. Lower Main Street: A Waterfront Community. The Landmarks of Cow Neck, v. 2. Port Washington, N.Y.: Landmarks Committee, Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, 1982; and Williams, George L. Historic Mitchell Farms: A Port Washington Walking Guide. The Landmarks of Cow Neck, v. 3. Port Washington, N.Y.: Landmarks Committee, Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, 1985).

Box 2

Roslyn (includes: Roslyn Landmark Society (N.Y.). Roslyn Landmark Society Annual House Tour Guide. [ Roslyn, N.Y. ]: The Society, 1970-1978). (2 folders).

Sayville

Setauket (includes: Tyler, Louise Gay. The Thompson House, Setauket, Long Island. Setauket, N.Y.: Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1961).

Smithtown (includes excerpts from: Molinoff, Katherine. Whitman's Teaching at Smithtown, 1857-1838. Brooklyn: The Comet press, 1942; and Turrell, Loring Watson, and Guy Hanford Turrell. The Natural History of Smithtown; A Monograph on the Zoology & Botany of the Townsship of Smithtown, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. St. James, L.I.: Arts-Craft Press, 1939.) (2 folders).

Southampton

Southold (includes: Prince, Helen Wright. Descendants of Captain John Prince of Southold, New York, and Their Place in Local History. [S.l.]: H.W. Prince, 1983; and Molinoff, Katherine. Walt Whitman at Southold. Brookville, N.Y.: C.W. Post College of Long Island University, 1966). (facsimiles; 2 folders).

St. James (includes: 75 th Anniversary: St. James Lutheran Church, 1923-1998 ).

Wading River (includes: Wading River Tercentenary Committee and Elisabeth S. Lapham. Wading River, 1671-1971. S.l: s.n, 1971).

Watermill

West Islip (includes: Wilcox, Gerald, and Judith Wilcox. First History of West Islip (Secatogue). [ West Islip, N.Y. ]: G. Wilcox, 1976).

Westbury

Series 3: People

Toni Frissell (Antoinette Frisell Bacon): includes newspaper clippings and article from Vogue, June 1973.

Joshua Hempstead (includes facsimile excepts from: Hempstead, Joshua. Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut, Covering a Period of Forty-Seven Years, from September 1711, to November, 1758 Containing Valuable Genealogical Data Relating to Many New London Families, References to the Colonial Wars, to the Shipping and Other Matters of Interest Pertaining to the Town and the Times, with an Account of a Journey Made by the Writer from New London to Maryland. New London, Conn: The New London County Historical Society, 1970).

William Sidney Mount (includes a facsimile of: Mount, William Sidney, and Alfred V. Frankenstein. William Sidney Mount. New York: Abrams, 1975).

Walt Whitman (includes copies from: Dyson, Verne. Whitmanland: West Hills Memories of the Poet & His Ancestors. Brentwood, N.Y.: V. Dyson, 1960).

Series 4: Preservation Notes

Preservation Notes, File Listings
Preservation Notes, Index, Vols. 1-3, 1965-1967
Preservation Notes, March 1965
Preservation Notes, July 1965
Preservation News, October 1965
Preservation News, Vol. II, No. 1, February 1966
Preservation News, Vol. II, No. 2, June 1966
Preservation News, Vol. II, No. 3, October 1966
Preservation Notes, Vol. III, No. 1, February, 1967
Preservation Notes, Vol. III, No. 2, June 1967
Preservation Notes, Vol. III, No. 3, October 1967
Preservation Notes, Vol. IV, No. 1, February, 1968
Preservation Notes, Vol. IV, No. 2, June 1968
Preservation Notes, Vol. IV, No. 3, October 1968
Preservation Notes, Vol. V, No. 1, February, 1969
Preservation Notes, Vol. V, No. 2, June 1969
Preservation Notes, Vol. V, No. 3, October 1969
Preservation Notes, Vol. VI, No. 1, February, 1970
Preservation Notes, Vol. VI, No. 2, July 1970
Preservation Notes, Vol. VI, No. 3, October 1970
Preservation Notes, Index Vols. IV VI, 1968-1970
Preservation Notes, Vol. VII, No. 1, February, 1971
Preservation Notes, Vol. VII, No. 2, June 1971
Preservation Notes, Vol. VII, No. 3, October 1971
Preservation Notes, Vol. VIII, No. 1, February, 1972
Preservation Notes, Vol. VIII, No. 2, June 1972
Preservation Notes, Vol. VIII, No. 3, October 1972
Preservation Notes, Vol. IX, No. 1, March, 1973
Preservation Notes, Vol. IX, No. 2, June 1973
Preservation Notes, Vol. IX, No. 3, October 1973
Preservation Notes, Vol. X, No. 1, February, 1974
Preservation Notes, Vol. X, No. 2, June,1974
Preservation Notes, Vol. X, No. 3, October 1974
Preservation Notes, Vol. X, No. 1, February, 1974
Preservation Notes, Vol. X, No. 2, June 1974
Preservation Notes, Vol. X, No. 3, October 1974
Preservation Notes, Vol. XI, No. 1, February, 1975
Preservation Notes, Vol. XI, No. 2, June 1975
Preservation Notes, Vol. XI, No. 3, October 1975
Preservation Notes, Vol. XII, No. 1, February, 1976
Preservation Notes, Vol. XII, No. 2, June 1976
Preservation Notes, Vol. XII, No. 3, October 1976
Preservation Notes, Vol. XIII, Nos. 1 & 2, June 1977
Preservation Notes, Vol. XIII, No. 3, October 1977
Preservation Notes, Vol. XIV, Nos. 1 & 2, June 1978
Preservation Notes, Vol. XIV, No. 3, October 1978
Preservation Notes, Vol. XV, Nos. 1 & 2, June 1979
Preservation Notes, Vol. XV, No. 3, Fall / Winter 1979
Preservation Notes, Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1980
Preservation Notes, Vol. XVI, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1980
Preservation Notes, Vol. XVII, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1981
Preservation Notes, Vol. XVII, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1981
Preservation Notes, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1982
Preservation Notes, Vol. XIX, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1983
Preservation Notes, Vol. XIX, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1983
Preservation Notes, Vol. XX, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1984
Preservation Notes, Vol. XX, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1984
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1985
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXI, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1985
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXII, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1986
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXII, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1986
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXIII, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1987
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1987
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXIV, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1988
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1988
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1989
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXV, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1989
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1990
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1990
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1991
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1991
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXVIII, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1992
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXIX, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1993
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXX, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1994
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXI, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1995
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXII, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1996
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXIII, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1997
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXIV, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1998
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXV, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 1999
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXVI, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 2000
Preservation Notes, Vol. XXXVII, Nos. 1 & 2, Fall 2001

Series 5: Bibliography

Van Liew, Barbara Ferris. Long Island Domestic Architecture of the Colonial and Federal Periods: An Introductory Study. Setauket: Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1974. (Special Collections NA7325.N72 L668)

Van Liew, Barbara Ferris, and Elizabeth Shepherd. Head-of-the-Harbor: A Journey Through Time. Laurel, NY: Main Road Books, 2005. (Special Collections F129.H382 V33 2005)

Van Liew, Barbara Ferris. 50 Years, Head-of-the-Harbor, Suffolk County, Long Island, 1928-1978. St. James [N.Y.]: Village of Head-of-the Harbor, 1978. (Special Collections F129.S135 V3)

Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities and Barbara Van Liew. Building-Structure Inventory Forms. 1985.

Van Liew, Barbara Ferris. Historic Trust Manual. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Council on Environmental Quality, County of Suffolk, 1975. (Special Collections, Main Stacks, and Government Documents X NA 107.N72 S94 1975)

Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. Barbara Van Liew, Project Director. Town of Southold... Completion Report. Setauket, Long Island: The Society, 1980s.