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Artist Lake Historical Marker

By Joe Werkmeister, Newsday

Apr 1, 2023

On Saturday, March 4th  a few dozen people were at the lake to learn the history of a renowned American painter named Alonzo Chappel, who lived there from 1870 to 1887.

On Saturday, March 4th  a few dozen people were at the lake to learn the history of a renowned American painter named Alonzo Chappel, who lived there from 1870 to 1887.

The Middle Island Civic Association, in partnership with the Longwood Society for Historic Preservation, Longwood Public Library and others, unveiled a historical marker at the lake to commemorate the artist and name that has stood for more than 150 years.

“The whole idea was to explain why it’s named Artist Lake and the relationship to Chappel,” said Gail Lynch-Bailey, the president of the civic association.

Alonzo Chappel lived at Artist Lake from 1870 to 1887. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The distinctive blue and yellow marker, funded through the William C. Pomeroy Foundation, prominently displays the Artist Lake name and notes Chappel as a “painter of American history.”

Lynch-Bailey and Suzanne Johnson, a former Longwood Library director, led the two-year effort to erect the marker.

Chappel, a naturally gifted artist who received little formal training, was frequently commissioned to provide illustrations for historical books. Some of his most prominent works include a painting of George Washington’s farewell to his officers, as well as a painting of the Battle of Long Island.

The Longwood Public Library features a Chappel collection, which helped verify the historical facts to secure the marker, according to Melanie Cardone-Leathers, the local history librarian.

The library has about 15 books that feature Chappel’s work, and an original painting in its collection, she said. Some of those works were on display at the library Saturday.

A work by Chappel depicts the Revolutionary War-era Battle of Long Island. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/Album / Alamy Stock Photo

Engravings of Chappel’s paintings would be put into books to accompany the text, Cardone-Leathers said.

“Chappel is our main local artist,” she said. “He was prolific.”

Johnson explained how the lake previously had been known as Glover’s Pond, Corwin’s Pond, as well as Blooming Lake, before Artist Lake stuck.

Chappel, who was born in New York City in 1828 and had lived in Brooklyn, had a home built on the lake in Middle Island with his second wife. Other family members and artists soon followed. Chappel moved his personal library to the “house on the hill,” as it came to be known, and he “happily painted” lakeside, Johnson said.

She estimated Chappel had done hundreds of paintings in his lifetime, although the brown oil paper he used in many works didn’t last beyond 30 to 35 years.

During the Civil War, Chappel produced paintings quicker, with fewer details, more as “news reporting,” Johnson said during her presentation. 

One of his final paintings completed in Middle Island in 1878 was later used on the cover of a World War II publication called “News From Home,” Johnson said. The painting depicted a nostalgic Revolutionary War scene.

Many of Chappel’s paintings are owned by the Chicago History Museum, which purchased them from a private collector, Johnson said.

Chappel died on Dec. 4, 1887, and is buried at Union Cemetery in Middle Island, just a short distance from the lake where his legacy will now be preserved.

Washington's Farewell

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