Taylor's Island Cabin at Dawn

Taylor's Island

The Town of Shelter Island Era

Celebrated August 14, 2010 at the Taylor's Island Kettle Clambake

Nancy, Cassandra, Sebastian, and Zak Bliss, Grandchildren of Leonard Bliss, Sr. Shelter Island Town Supervisor, 1976 - 1979

Our Grandfather, Len Bliss, Sr., was Supervisor of Shelter Island in the 1970s, and he offered the resolution that the Town accept the generous gift of Taylor's Island from S. Gregory Taylor. Among his many qualities, Grandpa was also a Bayman and loved boats, fishing, and Shelter Island. Above everything, he loved the people of Shelter Island, and was a great believer in securing public space for all to enjoy. Years later, we are so happy to have this tranquil spot to visit. If he were here today, he would take great pleasure in reflecting on the transformation that has taken place - especially after eating his fair share of the clambake!!

Rollie Clark, Shelter Island Town Councilman, 1984 - May 28, 1987

In a conversation with P.A.T. Hunt on Saturday, August 7, 2010, Rollie mentioned that people on Shelter Island gave property to churches but they didn't give property to the Town, not until Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor was the first person, as far as he knew, to give that kind of gift to the Town.

Gerry Siller, Shelter Island Town Supervisor, 1998 - 2001

When P.A.T. Hunt first asked me to write down my involvement with Taylor's Island, I was a little hesitant to put my thoughts on paper. I remembered my involvement as being a little too antagonistic to some of the more influential people on Shelter Island. After procrastinating until the very last minute, I decided to go to the library and read the old Shelter Island Reporters, to refresh my memory.

It's always amazing how much you forget. When the issue of the Town taking over Taylor's Island, as per Mr. Taylor's will, came on the agenda, my initial reaction was that it would be a huge liability and the Town might be getting into more then it could handle. The Town Board at the time, Glenn Waddington, Paul Mobius, Jim Messer, Sharon Kast and I wanted to look at all the options. They included leaving the Island alone and let nature take it's course; leveling the building, removing the bulkhead and help nature take it's course; restore the building and bulkhead and make the Island available to residents, and looking into the possibility of selling the Island and using the proceeds to buy some more suitable parkland. I was quoted at the time as saying I felt the island was an “attractive nuisance” and “I would sell it in a heartbeat.”

I was always aware of Taylor's Island, mostly as a landmark in Coecles Harbor. I had never been out to it until the Town officially accepted it. It was at this time that local people started explaining to me what an important part of Shelter Island Taylor's Island was. The Nature Conservancy offered to be the stewards of the Island and the Town Board had to decide how it (the island) could best serve the Town while also honoring Mr. Taylor's wishes.

Thanks to some strong support from Glenn Waddington and Alfred Kilb, who was Highway Superintendent at the time, I was able to convince the Town Board that Taylor's Island was one of Shelter Island's treasures and it was our responsibility to do everything in our power to preserve it. After some heated discussions with all parties involved, the Town Board was unanimous in its support of the Island. Alfred had the Highway Dept. crew clean up the Island and secure the building to make it both safe and usable for the Town residents.

I've only been back to Taylor's Island once since I left office, but just looking at it as I drive on the Causeway and knowing that people enjoy being able to visit there, makes me feel very thankful that I was part of a Town Board that did the right thing for all the people of Shelter Island, not just a select few.

Hoot Sherman, Shelter Island Town Supervisor, 1993 - 1998

In 1998 when Shelter Island took possession of Taylor's Island, the Town Board was extremely sensitive to the fact that we were slowly losing our Island heritage and that Taylor's Island represented an historic and significant part of Shelter Island that should be preserved.

Despite numerous obstacles and hurdles, the Taylor's Island Committee and the Foundation have remained dedicated and determined to restoring the Island and Cabin, which had been neglected for many decades. Now it is transformed to a safe and usable historic structure that is a credit to all who value our history and strive to insure that this history is available for future generations.

When the Town passed Shelter Island's Comprehensive Plan, one of its most important principles was to maintain a sense of place and, in doing so, our heritage. Thanks to the perseverance and efforts of the Taylor's Island Committee and the Foundation, this historic landmark will now be a significant part of that vision.

Alfred J. Kilb, Jr., Shelter Island Town Councilman, 1986 - 1993 Shelter Island Town Supervisor, 2006 - 2008

Taylor's Island in Coecles Harbor to this young boy was freedom, mystery, adventure and serenity. When the Town of Shelter Island acquired the Island, I felt an obligation to preserve and protect it for now and future generations from deterioration and planned destruction. The feelings I experienced – freedom, mystery, adventure and serenity are still waiting to be discovered by others – young and old.

Paul E. Mobius Jr., Shelter Island Town Councilman, 1996 - 2003

I was on the Town Board from 1996 to 2003 so I was involved in some of the many discussions concerning Taylor's Island during that time, although my memory is vague on some of the details.

There were many proposed scenarios for the future of Taylor's Island, some of which even included that the Town not accept the gift. There was concern that it would take too much taxpayer funds to restore and maintain the property.

The Town Board did, however, accept the property so it was necessary to plan for the future of the Island. Again, there was much discussion about what to do with the building, the bulkhead and the small dock, all of which were sorely in need of a lot of restoration and maintenance. There were also discussions about how the property would be used by the Public. My foremost concern at the time was that the wishes of the donor be carried out explicitly and Mr. Taylor's will did say “For the use and enjoyment of the people of Shelter Island.”

The Board then entered into conversations with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) to enlist their help in the planning and in the funding. I believe that in 2001 there was a Memorandum of Understanding between the Town Board and TNC that outlined a plan that included restoring the building, the bulkheads, and the dock. The Nature Conservancy, in consideration of their advice on environmental issues and their assistance in funding and maintenance, would have access to the property for their educational programs and research.

At some point, however, (probably when possible costs were determined) it was suggested that the building be demolished rather that restored. This suggestion, naturally, encouraged a huge outcry from many Shelter Islanders that wanted the building preserved. The result was that a dedicated group of Islanders formed a preservation and management committee, as well as a foundation for funding, and another Shelter Island historical site has been saved.

Arthur R. Williams, Shelter Island Town Supervisor, 2002 - 2005

…toward the end of my tenure as Supervisor, my attention briefly turned to the condition of the bulkhead and building on the Island after Mark Ketcham had surveyed the facilities and raised concerns regarding its safety and soundness to be used by the public.

I certainly understood the historical and logistical significance of the property as a resource to the Town's people, but clearly misread how many long standing Islanders would respond to any threat or consideration of altering or replacing the Cabin. I suppose that it was my blundering suggestion at a Town Board meeting to erect a more modern and simple public facility, silhouetting the original structure, that stirred you and your Committee into action, for which I am delighted and grateful.

I wish the Foundation continued success with its upcoming Kettle Clambake and that you achieve your ultimate vision for restoring the Island as a “place to enjoy”.

Neal W. Raymond, Shelter Island Town Councilman, November 18, 2005 - 2008

Taylor's Island is a gem that was almost lost to our Town, if not for the hard work of a group of dedicated volunteers who gave their time and talents to restore it to the glowing gem that it now is. Their efforts will allow Taylor's Island to be enjoyed by many visitors now and in the future.

Ed Brown, Shelter Island Town Councilman, 2001 - present

Inside Coecles Harbor remains Taylor's Island, one of the jewels of Shelter Island. Thanks to the foresight and energy of this highly motivated Committee and Foundation, along with their avid supporters, the character of this landmark will remain intact.

N. Christine Lewis, Shelter Island Town Councilwoman, 2002 - present

In the jewel box that is Shelter Island, full of treasures large and small, little Taylor's Island with its rich history, has been polished to a bright glow by the loving hands of those citizens who have worked to preserve it.

Peter S. Reich, Shelter Island Town Councilman, 2004 - present

Shortly after I was elected to the Town Board in 2004, I made a trip out to Taylor's Island. I probably was last out there in the late 80's. I was shocked to see what disrepair the building and bulkhead were in. Windows were broken and the deck was rotten and unsafe to walk on. I was concerned not only that this attractive nuisance was a huge liability to the Town, but also a maintenance nightmare. It took the radical plan of demolishing the building to get residents to come forward with a desire to preserve the structure. The Foundation was formed and the hard working volunteers put a plan in place and, in a few short years, transformed a huge liability to the “Gem of the Island”!

Jim Dougherty, Shelter Island Town Supervisor, 2008 - present

It is always inspirational and a source of great personal pleasure whenever I visit Taylor's Island. The volunteers have done a wonderful job restoring this historic and beautiful spot for all of us and future generations to enjoy.

Glenn Waddington, Shelter Island Town Councilman, 1994 - 2001, 2008 - present

I was very fortunate to have served Shelter Island as a Councilman from 1994-2001 as this allowed me a front row seat to the wonderful story of the preservation of the Island and the stabilization of the cabin. At the time there was some discussion of either selling the property or just allowing it to fall to the attacks of Mother Nature's destructive forces.

It was heartening to see a tremendous number of residents, Town wide, come forward and call for the preservation of the Island. In the best example of Shelter Island volunteerism, people committed to stabilizing the property. One of my fondest memories was when we convened a special Town Board meeting on Taylor's Island to come to an agreement with the Nature Conservancy on a management plan. People flocked to the Island by boat and kayak. In my opinion it was a great example of what makes Shelter Island so unique. It showed me that we appreciate our history and will go to great lengths to honor and preserve it.

These comments were collected for display at the Kettle Clambake at Taylor's Island on August 14th, 2010