Vintage Shelter Island map is now a jigsaw puzzle

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

Jim Levine is a puzzle man. Jigsaw puzzles, that is.

The summer Island resident is not only a fan of solving puzzles, recently he also created one himself.

Mr. Levine’s new 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle debuted over Labor Day weekend at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Farmers Market, and is currently sold at the Historical Society’s Havens Store, with a portion of sales benefiting the organization.

“I figured there were enough people here who do puzzles,” said Mr. Levine, who reported that first day sales were encouraging. “People got the concept and just loved it.”

The Historical Society is an appropriate venue for this particular puzzle, given the fact it depicts history itself — a vintage map of Shelter Island, circa 1905.

“I think a map lends itself to jigsaw puzzles, with the lines and the words,” Mr. Levine said in a recent phone interview. “The one that I found was a good period map that shows property ownership.”

Mr. Levine explained that he came across the map in the collection of the New York Public Library, which, he noted, is gracious enough to offer their images free of copyright.

“That’s a path I didn’t want to go down,” he admitted.

When asked to describe some of the ways in which the 1905 map depicted on the puzzle differs from the roads and properties we know today, Mr. Levine explained that while the Island’s overall shape remains the same, South Ferry has since been relocated.

“Mashomack was split into chunks of smaller land,” he said, “and Sylvester Manor was enormous.”

“I’ve been coming to the Island my whole life in summer,” Mr. Levine continued. “There are street names and people’s names that are familiar. Then you look back at the map and see names like ‘Dickerson’ from Dickerson’s Creek and ‘Wade,’ from Wade’s Beach and you get a sense of the property they once owned.”

This puzzle may have a decidedly local theme, but Mr. Levine went halfway around the world to produce the 500 copies that arrived on the Island a few weeks ago.

“I went on [the website] Ali Baba and I typed in ‘jigsaw puzzle manufacturer,’” Mr. Levine explained. “Within a day or two, I had 10 emails from different companies. I communicated with a number of them and developed a relationship with this guy from Turkey.”

The finished 1,000 piece product is 48” x 68” cm — that’s roughly 20” x 28.” For the record, Mr. Levine has completed the puzzle himself. He said it took a couple of days and the help of a few friends.

“We cheated a little,” confessed Mr. Levine who assembled a sample puzzle that the manufacturer sent prior to production. “He hadn’t mixed the pieces up really well. There were some squares of 20 pieces.”

“Because there are a lot words and lines, it’s not impossible,” he said. “But it’s not easy.”

When asked why he decided specifically on a 1,000 piece puzzle, Mr. Levine explained that he was looking to appeal to true puzzle aficionados with his product.

“When you get below 750 or 1,000 pieces, it’s not really what puzzle people think of as a challenging puzzle,” he said. “I wanted a legit puzzle.

“It’s a high quality puzzle. This is going to sit on a bridge table for a week or more, depending on your addiction level,” added Mr. Levine, who feels his puzzle is ideal for people who love Shelter Island or those looking for a nice house gift when staying at an Islander’s residence.

“When you’re on Shelter Island and it’s raining, you need something to do,” he said.

The Shelter Island map puzzle sells for $25 and can be purchased at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Havens Store, 16 South Ferry Road. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (631) 749-0025 for more information.