On a trip to Philadelphia in 1975, Sea Cliff resident Henry Holman visited Graff House, at 7th and Market streets. At the time, the stately red-brick home where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in June 1776 was being rebuilt.
Demolition debris was scattered around the site. Holman spotted a brick, pocketed it and returned to Sea Cliff with it. Every Fourth of July, the Sea Cliff Civic Association displays Holman’s brick as part of the village’s Independence Day celebration.
“I don’t know if it has as much meaning to everyone, but for some people it’s almost a relic that they want to touch,” said Ann DiPietro, president of the Sea Cliff Civic Association. “Each year we hold a birthday party to celebrate the birth of a nation and hold a reading of the Declaration of Independence.”
On July 4, people gathered on Sea Cliff’s village green wearing all shades of red, white and blue. They waved American flags, wore starry necklaces and cooled themselves with paper fans. Children blew bubbles and sported star-shaped sunglasses while weaving in and out of the crowd, lost in play. At the base of the flagpole stood a framed copy of the Declaration.
Boy Scouts presented the colors as the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem. Then the Girl Scouts joined together to sing “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by Kristen Ellis-Henderson, of Antigone Rising, on guitar. They added their own riff on the song, singing instead, “crown thy good with sisterhood from sea to shining sea.”
Sea Cliff’s youngest residents shared stories of America’s freedom fighters, descendants of the signers of the Declaration. Ann’s husband, Dan DiPietro, then reminded the crowd that although the Declaration was an “imperfect document crafted by imperfect men, it blazed a path for America to journey towards a more perfect nation.”
Ann added, “Today we should remember the stories of the patriots who never gave up, who dreamed the impossible dream.”
Glen Cove resident Joe Stroppel, 16, kept with this concept by singing “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha.” Afterward, Sea Cliff resident John Canning read the entirety of the document as spectators hollered and cheered.
A symphony of voices and noisemakers echoed throughout the village green as the celebration ended. “This epitomizes what a village is all about and how it glorifies our independence,” Mayor Edward Lieberman said, “and reminds us of our everyday duty to be diligent and vigilant in our freedom.”