Early July Invasion Popup Museum Marks Preservation and Restoration of Historic Carrington Tract

Frank Carrington and his fabled Fire Island property. (Courtesy of Fire Island Pines Preservation Society)

By Lucie Lagodich

“I think telling that story now is more important than ever, and we can’t understand where we are now if we don’t understand what happened in the past. I think we have a rich history there of civil rights, of sense of freedom, we have a story with art, the struggles and triumphs,” Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Alexcy Romero said. “We had to struggle through the AIDS epidemic and ashes being spread in that area, a lot of the civil rights stories at that site too, so there’s a lot to share.”

The Carrington House, found on the property, is where Truman Capote wrote the novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The House witnessed Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Harper Lee, along with many other actors, playwrights and artists.

“My hope, and the hope of Frank Carrington who owned it, was that it would become a museum of both communities where people could visit from both communities,” Fire Island Pines Historical Society President Robert “Bobby” Bonanno said.

Set to open the week of July 2, The Invasion Popup Museum will be the first program held on-site. This program will be a temporary installment put together by Bonanno and contributing organizations.

“There’s a certain audience that’s been waiting for this and then there’s a certain audience that has no clue. So, there’s our mission right there. We’re going to address an older contingent of people about this and then we’re going to mentor young people about it,” Bonanno said.

The tradition of The Invasion began in 1976 when a drag queen came over from Cherry Grove to the Fire Island Pines, according to Bonanno. The owner of the area at the time turned her away, so a group of drag queens formed a small invasion of the Pines in a water taxi, where they ended up being welcomed.

“So, every July 4, a ferry of drag queens invades the Pines. A lot of young people, all they know is, oh, it’s all drag queens, it’s a party,” Bonanno explained. “It’s really about someone saying no, and someone not accepting no and that is the world we live in today.”

With the recent generational turnover in the Pines over the last two years, young homeowners are transforming homes into businesses such as Airbnb’s, Bonanno explained. By restoring the Carrington Tract, the history of the area will be preserved for the younger generation and future ones.

“The fact that it is a community, and it needs to retain that, makes things like this even more important because [the younger generation] need to know that a lot of things happened before they got here. It’s what made this community what it is, and it’s allowing them the freedoms that they have today when they come there,” Bonanno said.

The first renovations to be completed, and the site of the museum, is the first floor of the guesthouse, according to Romero. Working with the State Historic Preservation Office to maintain historic integrity, Romero hopes to have the site completely restored by next year.

Furthermore, Romero is looking to establish a Friends group with local nonprofits and the surrounding communities to ensure the space is used as a place of learning with successive programs.

“This is my vision now, this is still conceptual and hopefully it can happen, but to enter into a Friends agreement…to help manage and provide oversight of that site,” Romero said. “To develop those programs working with local communities – Cherry Grove and the Pines – as well as beyond. It could be museum exhibits, it could be conversations with artists and their exhibitory and gallery space, a space for people to use and learn from.”

Romero hopes to connect Cherry Grove and the Pines with a boardwalk through the area, which will increase accessibility. The goal is to bring opportunity for as many people as possible to learn about the legacy of Frank Carrington and the spirit of the art community.

“It’s a place where history happened. It’s gay history. In these times where people are trying to erase our rights and our history, it becomes even more important to celebrate it, to know it, to preserve it,” Bonanno said.

The Carrington Cottage Grand Opening will take place on Saturday, July 2, from 12-4 p.m. Pop-up Museum hours will continue Sunday, July 3, from 12-4 p.m.; Saturday, July 8, from 12-3 p.m.; and Sunday, July 10, from 12-4 p.m. Reservations can be made at Pineshistory.org