A Gillette House celebration

Posted 5/18/23

A plaque near the entrance to the Gil- lette House in Sayville describes its for- mer owner, Ida Gillette, aka “The Grand Old Lady of Sayville,” as a suffragist, benefactor, civic leader, and …

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A Gillette House celebration


A plaque near the entrance to the Gil- lette House in Sayville describes its for- mer owner, Ida Gillette, aka “The Grand Old Lady of Sayville,” as a suffragist, benefactor, civic leader, and business- woman. Since Ida Gillette bequeathed her home for community use in 1938, it has served as the meeting place for numerous Sayville area service organi- zations. On May 15, Ida Gillette’s stately residence was the scene of a ribbon-cut- ting ceremony to commemorate the com- pletion of a long-overdue refurbishment, funded by Islip Town. Hosted by the Sayville Village Improvement Society, many representatives of local service organizations as well as officials from Islip Town participated in the festivities. The Gillette House is one of the spe- cial interests that SVIS supports with a standing committee.

Islip Town supervisor Angie Carpen- ter did the honors. She said, “I am so excited and proud to have this official ribbon cutting at the Gillette House! This house is a community treasure. There is no other place as indicative of a commu- nity. Once the roof was done, I toured the house and noted all its defects. Our parks department employees have embraced all the facilities.”

Parks commissioner Tom Owens replied, “We are blessed to have a very encouraging town board to facilitate this renovation.”

Carpenter responded, “Thank you. I want to assure you that we will stay under the tax cap!”

Carpenter and SVIS president Barba- ra Fitzpatrick cut the ribbon, and then guests entered the freshly painted house with its new green door. Maurice Kemp played classical music on the piano, setting the scene of elegance in the parlor, now painted pale gold with bright-white trim. The flooring is new, and so is the lighting, giving the room a sense of refreshed elegance.

After Carpenter’s remarks, representatives from all the groups that use the house for meetings and other functions spoke briefly about their organizations. In addition to the Sayville Village Improvement Society, groups that utilize the Gillette House for meetings and other purposes are BAFFA (Bay Area Friends of the Fine Arts), the Chestene Coverdale Food Pantry, The Common Ground, Wet Paints, and Sayville Garden Club.

Gillette House history

Ida Francesca Gillette was the eldest daughter of Charles Zebulon Gillette, a Civil War veteran, mari- ner, town supervisor, and Sayville postmaster. Gillette married Phoebe Edwards, the great-granddaughter of John Edwards, one of Sayville’s original settlers. Born on Nov. 20, 1851, in a house that still stands about 100 yards south of the Gillette House, Ida was the first of

the couple’s three children.

At age 62, Ida Gillette inherited the family fortune

and wasted no time putting her wealth to work for her neighbors. The list of her contributions is remarkable. She became one of Sayville Library’s first trustees, serving on the board from 1914 to 1922. She energized the Sayville Village Improvement Society (SVIS), serv- ing as its president for many years. It was SVIS that for $5,000 purchased the shorefront property that became the Sayville Beach. In 1916, she became one of the original members of the Sayville Garden Club, donating her own money for the care and maintenance of Sayville’s once beautiful rows of elm and tulip trees. Ida enlarged and improved the house her father had built—Gillette House—planting rows of pine trees on the grounds, many of which still stand today. She funded the removal of two residences to open up space for Gillette Park, now called the Common Ground, at Rotary Park.

In 1921, she gave the land across the street from St. Ann’s Church in Sayville to the Church Charity Foundation for the establishment of the orphanage that became known as the Cottages. Like her father, she maintained an avid interest in political affairs. She was a women’s suffragist who lobbied strongly in favor of women being granted the right to vote, which came with ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, and testament she bequeathed Sparrow Park together with funding to support its upkeep to Islip Town.

In her last will and testament and according to her parents’ wishes, Ida Gillette left Gillette House and its property to the Church Charity Foundation for use as a “home for aged and needy persons to be known as the Gillette Home.”

The Gillette House and grounds were created in stages, beginning after Capt. Charles Gillette’s return home from the Civil War in the summer of 1862. In addition to his Civil War duty, Capt. Gillette served as the Sayville postmaster and for two terms as Islip Town supervisor. Gillette’s daughter, Ida, by 1915 the sole survivor of the immediate family, embarked on a remarkable legacy of giving and service to her com- munity.


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