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Window On History

Rayhnam Hall Museum keeps improving. This week you will be able to see nine accurately restored windows replacing ones in the front of the nationally accredited house museum at 20 West Main Street. During this summer you will see the house at 30 West Main Street, next to the Raynham Hall Victorian Garden, the 1915 Lincoln Market building, being restored. Together, the two properties will create a new campus for the Townsend property.

Raynham Hall Museum is involved in a restoration project for the Town of Oyster Bay Landmark building, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places. John Collins, historical architect, said using grant money from the Gerry Charitable Trust, the Main Street Association and donations from the board of trustees, they were able to do the work.

Harriet Gerard Clark, Raynham Hall Museum director, said on April 11, “The windows go in on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. It is a great way to announce the kick-off of the restoration project.”

She explained, “The ones there were from the 20th century, but these are restoration models that John Collins found. The windowsills were rotting and needed replacing so rather than restoring them they will be restored by using original glass and millwork.”

The museum has sent out a mailing with full details of the project to get the funding process started, she added.

Collins said during the summer the front of the Lincoln Market building will be restored. There will also be an elevator installed [buildings have to conform to American Disabilities Law] and roof work done. The ceiling of the Raynham Hall dining room is part of that restoration. Currently flakes of plaster rain softly down on the dining room when people walk in the current exhibit room on the second floor.

“It is an ambitious program but it is just wonderful to do,” said Collins. He credited Harriet Clark and Patricia Sands, who chaired the development committee, as well as Kay Hutchins Sate, board president.

Town Helps Preservation

The Town of Oyster Bay recently purchased the Lincoln Market building, fulfilling a long-standing wish of the Friends of Raynham Hall (FORH) to expand their mission by restoring the house and enhancing  their campus with an education center. It is the FORH’s job to fund and do the restoration needed. The original Townsend property encompassed many acres and extended down to the bay where the early Townsends kept their merchant tall ships.

Reconfiguring the museum will mean they can allow public access to the Townsend slaves’ quarters, the quarters for the Victorian era servants, and the children’s quarters.

The Lincoln Market building will house the offices, gift store and education programs for adults and school children. Currently 5,000 school children visit the museum as part of their fourth grade history programs.

The plans call for a capital campaign amount of $1,735,500. When the work is complete the museum will better be able to tell the multiple stories of four generations of the Townsend family and how they interacted with the hamlet and the country. Robert Townsend was a member of the George Washington Spy Ring on Long Island. Maurice Townsend, the last of his line to live in the house, was a local firefighter. Currently Claire Bellerjeau is planning to publish her research story of one of the black slaves who lived in Raynham Hall. It will bring more local history to life. There is still the story of the Townsends and their merchant ships to be revealed.

The mission of RHM is to enable visitors to the nearly three-hundred-year-old Townsend family home in Oyster Bay to experience what it meant to be prominent merchants and heroic patriots and to become engaged in the worlds of espionage, domestic life and the decorative arts.

As of February 2013, the total foundation and government grants received to date total $875,000; the total board capital campaign contributions made or pledged totals $108,600; which totals $983,600. That leaves $751,900 to be raised. Donations will be appreciated and (Phase I of the project has been completed at a cost of $675,000.)

The work includes a three-year archaeological study of the RH grounds to see if there is any material that can be added to the story of the house and property.

For more information on how you can help, please call 922-6808. Donations can be sent to the museum at 20 West Main Street, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.