Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 20 January 2012 00:00
Raynham Hall Museum started the year with a gala Twelfth Night celebration with about 40 members and friends attending. It is the festival that marks the end of Twelve Days of Christmas when you start counting with Dec. 25, and was held Jan. 5.
Raynham Hall Museum Director Harriet Garrard Clark said they chose to celebrate 12th Night because “the Townsends, of Colonial times and Victorian times would have celebrated then, as opposed to Christmas which was thought of as being a sober event as opposed to a holiday. And, we wanted to thank all our members and friends for what they do during the year,” she said.
The current exhibit the Four Alices was up for viewing and will be up through June, she said. The Four Alices are members of the Weekes family: a mother, daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter a story of matrilineal geneology.
She added, “We will have a ‘parenthesis’ exhibit for Valentine’s Day.” It will be of the Raynham Hall Museum collection of Valentines. “Unfortunately, the original First Valentine from Lt. Col. Simcoe to Sally Townsend disappeared early in the 1900s. But we have documentation of it in history books from the 1840s, 1850s, although sadly not the original,” she said. Still it is a first for Oyster Bay!
At Twelfth Night some guests toured the new Raynham Hall Annex at 30 West Main Street which was recently bought by the Town of Oyster Bay for $540,000 which the Friends of Raynham Hall will operate. “It is something that has been in the works for about 35 years. We have a letter in the file from 1976,” said Ms. Clark. “It was then Supervisor John Burke and he was saying yes, he agreed the town should acquire the property for the museum campus and to restore the parts of the house being used for storage and offices for the public to view.”
She said, “There is work that has to be done on the annex.
We have to hold a meeting of the board to plan what needs to happen there - essentially what they want to do. It will be for the collections not currently in the interpreted rooms; as well as the offices and a visitors’ welcome center on the ground floor. The offices don’t need any renovation but the ground floor has two apartments of six to eight rooms - and they are quite small - and we have to open that up to accommodate visiting school groups that are about 50 kids – to welcome them and if they needed to have lunch on the grounds. That sort of thing.
“On the top floor we’ll put the collections. It has to be sheet rocked and then eventually we will look into the restoration of the exterior in keeping with the ambitions of people in town who want things restored to a more authentic look. That means taking off the blue vinyl shingles and restoring it to wooden shingles. I have a post card of the original house and you can see on the left in the photo, what was a meat and poultry supply store: provisioners. It has grey shingles and an awning. and you can see what it probably looked like then in the photo.
“So the façade at least would be restored but it is a decision of the committee which will be composed of whomever on our board is interested.”
Ms. Clark said, “We are happy enough in the offices here, but it will be great for the public to see how the servants lived and the slaves’ quarters and children’s quarters that were originally here.”
Another problem that needs addressing are the small flakes of plaster that filter down into the dining room, as people walk in the upstairs exhibit room. That is the reason why the upstairs exhibit room has not been used for some time. “We have not discovered the reasons for that problem. That is my panic. We have a new building and the old one needs a lot of TLC. It’s just a huge monumental task. We have the new building to renovate but we also have an awful lot of restoration that still needs to be done in the old Raynham Hall building.
“The windowsills are in dire shape,
“We have dry rot and a lot of peeling paint...and it just panics me... whenever I think of it. But with the help of our friends in the next couple of years we should have the whole place back in ship shape.
There are more areas at Raynham Hall that the public will be able to see when the annex is fully occupied. “The servants’ spaces and children’s room will be reinterpreted and open to the public. Currently the servants’ rooms are closed to the public and used for office space. The children’s rooms are currently used for storage. One nursery, a playroom currently used for a meeting room and there are three children’s rooms upstairs...
“Keeping in mind the Townsends had between six and eight children living in the house, and they needed a lot of space for that.
“And the slave quarters too will be opened – with the same order of priority. They too will be open but are currently used for collections storage area. We will be fundraising for that at the gala … and the gala after that and for years to come,” she said.
The current gala takes place on Friday, Feb. 10. “The benefit will be held again at the Creek Club in Locust Valley. The theme is the Roaring Twenties and the invitations have a graphic of the dancing Alice Four from our exhibit on the Four Alices in the Weekes family. We are hoping people will arrive dressed in the color red,” said Ms. Clark.