Postcard upends history of Walt Whitman Birthplace site in South Huntington

A postcard from the past that turned up at a flea market is redefining what local historians know about the birthplace of Long Island's most famous poet. (2/10/14)

SOUTH HUNTINGTON - A postcard from the past that turned up at a flea market is redefining what local historians know about the birthplace of Long Island's most famous poet

The Walt Whitman Birthplace historic site in South Huntington used to have three buildings, but according to an old newspaper article, the property's smaller, third kitchen building burned down in 1910.

Fast forward more than 100 years to when Cynthia Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Museum in South Huntington, stumbled upon a postcard that featured a picture of Whitman's childhood home at a Great Neck flea market.

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The picture was postmarked 1908, but the kitchen building was already gone, two years before it supposedly burnt down. "It meant that the newspaper article that indicated that part of the structure that burned was untrue," Shor says.

The revelation is changing the way Shor and other historians are looking at the property's historic timeline. The postcard has given them a range of dates, possibly between 1904 and 1908, when the kitchen where Whitman spent his early years was lost.

The information in texts and literature about the Whitman property will now have to be revised to reflect the find. "We'll have to instruct our tour guides to be up to date and factual with that information," says Shor.

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