Written by D.F. Karppi Friday, 10 December 2010 00:00
If you are walking along West Main Street, you might notice metal scaffolding at number 20. Raynham Hall Museum is in the process of having its roof repaired. The need for the repair was made clear by a leak that was discovered when part of the ceiling bulged with water and fell into the nursery on the second floor of the Victorian portion of the historic house museum earlier this year.
Luckily, the museum staff had already spotted the ceiling bulge and antique furniture was removed before the plaster fell.
RHM Director Harriet Gerard Clark said, “We just couldn’t wait to begin any longer. This work is part of a multi-year restoration program which will continue with the repair of rotting woodwork on the exterior of the museum and repainting of the house. We are very grateful to the Town of Oyster Bay for its continued support.”
The Town of Oyster Bay owns the building and property and is responsible for its maintenance; the Friends of Raynham Hall Museum are responsible for management and for operating the house as a museum.
She added, “John Collins is the head of the building and grounds committee and he is overseeing the work. He is a great historic preservationist. We are lucky to have him on the board.”
The building is large, it encompasses about 12 interpreted rooms; several offices and storage areas with several sections of pitched roofs. She said, “ The Town has now committed to reimbursing the Friends for most of the expenditure” for the roof, which she estimates will cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.”
The new roof will conform to the high standards of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, which issues national preservation guidelines. The roof will be made of cedar shingles, as was the original, and the shingles had to be custom-made to conform to the required size. But the house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, at the national level of significance, is well worth the effort.
Ms. Clark said, “The roof is part of a multi-year restoration initiative undertaken by the Town and the Friends. The roof should be finished by the end of the year, barring any unforeseen circumstances.”
Additional work is needed on the ceiling over the dining room that still has to be stabilized. When people walk in the exhibit area above the dining room, plaster dust falls down into the room. “Currently it is used only for board meetings. If kids jumped on the floor that would have an impact on the ceiling. That repair is part of the multi-year restoration project.
“John Collins suggested that we pick up the floor/ceiling in a corner of the room just to see what exactly needs to be done.
“We are also commissioning an archeological survey of the garden so we know what outbuildings were on the grounds. The property at one time was much larger than today — it extended all the way down to the bay — so we are not sure where all those buildings were located, but the archeologists may be able to help us figure that out,” added Ms. Clark of the future projects.
Some 5,000 schoolchildren visit Raynham Hall every year as part of their fourth-grade history curriculum, and the museum is also visited by an additional 5,000 people, most of whom are tourists in the area. Ms. Clark added, “In the end of the day, we will have restored a wonderful resource for the children of Oyster Bay.”
The Town of Oyster Bay is also doing repairs on the roof of the Earle-Wightman House at 20 Summit Street, the headquarters of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, which they maintain. The OBHS is planning to open the Angela P. Koenig Research and Collections Center in mid-February, but that move will take some time in which to transfer the archives and collections from the current location to the new center, said Nicole Menchise, librarian/archivist.
OBHS Executive Director Phil Blocklyn said, “Hopefully the roof will be repaired before winter and snow gets into our attic. That is what happened last year during the big snowfall before Christmas. All the snow got into the attic and then began to melt.
“Millicent Pittis, administrative assistant, saw water in the lighting fixture globes. The town responded quickly and shoveled out the snow. The town was very good responding to the emergency and were here in an hour and by the next day they had it all cleaned up.”
Recently they put up the scaffolding for the roof repairs. The town is in charge of contracting for the work.