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Preserving Oyster Bay History

Raynham Hall Museum opened a new exhibit, “Wish You Were Here: Images of and around Oyster Bay from 1927, 1958 and 1969.” If you have lived in Oyster Bay during any of those years, you will recognize many of the locations.

Raynham Hall Museum has been working to share its many collected/donated items with the public. The current exhibit is of images selected from three binders of photographs in their collection. According to the exhibit brochure, the first binder contained contact sheets and photographic negatives from 1927. Some of the glassine envelopes were inscribed with the name “Ludlam.” Mostly streetscapes, one of the films was of the person now assumed to be the photographer because he is holding a shutter-release cord in his hand. At the present time, his name is unknown, although presumed to be Ludlam.

The Ludlams

The Ludlam family was made up of longtime merchants in Oyster Bay. During his long and productive life, Albert S. “Al” Ludlam Sr. represented the family locally. He died at the age of 82, on January 3, 2008. He was a resident of Syosset at that time. He was the husband of Florence, father of Albert S. Ludlam Jr., his wife, Ginna, and their daughters, Meghan and Melissa.

“Al” was a member of VFW Memorial Post 8033, American Legion Quentin Roosevelt Post 4 and Mason’s Matinecock Lodge 806, as well as a tireless volunteer to many charitable organizations, including what is now known as the Boys & Girls Club of OB-EN and the Celia Flower Food Pantry.

Attending the exhibit opening was Cate Ludlam of Glen Cove, Albert Ludlam of Oyster Bay’s niece; he was her father, Charles’, brother.

Cate (Catherine) Ludlam is the president of the Prospect Cemetery Association of Jamaica Village, Queens, and has been involved with its restoration since 1989. It is the oldest cemetery in Queens. Their website states, “The earliest record of the cemetery dates from November 1668, when townsman John Wascot was hired to enclose the ‘burring pias’ [burning pyres], then 10 rods square, with a fence, 5 rails high.  The cemetery was established, therefore, shortly before 1668.”

Since at that time Nassau County was part of Queens County, there are many local family names on the gravestones. Ludlam said you can see Ludlams, Remsens, Boerums, Van Wykes, Van Nostrands and Lefferts, as well as Valentines, Smiths, Baylis and Bailey family graves in their 4.5-acre site. There were loyalists and patriots buried there, she added.

“At the time, Jamaica was a hotbed of loyalists,” said Ludlam.

Preachers and soldiers, slaves and masters, farmers and merchants, all lie at rest there.

History Preserved

The second binder of photographs was commissioned by the Friends of Raynham Hall under the leadership of then-director Dorothy Horton McGee, who served as chairman of the Town of Oyster Bay Historic Preservation Commission for a quarter of a century. Taken by photographer Emily Keyes Beit, they are of buildings, half of which have been demolished.

 A display at Raynham Hall shows the fate of eight of those houses.

The third binder of the group contained contact sheets with a broad focus but no clue about the photographer.

As part of the exhibit, the museum shows you eight building sites photographed by Emily Beit and what they have been replaced with.

The Wicker-Jackson House

A good example of what has happened to the streetscape in Oyster Bay is the Wicker-Jackson House, circa 1840, that was located at 254 South Street, until 1970 when the property was sold to Hallock Chevrolet. The house was demolished and the car dealership and gas station were built on the site. Today, Mariner’s Walk, built by Island Properties in 2008, is there now.

The house was the office of cardiologist Myron R. Jackson and pediatrician Mildred Wicker Jackson, starting in 1924. After his death, his wife returned to her birthplace in Hemlock, N.Y. Dr. George Harer took over the business and earned the love and respect of the community.

Bright Future

A bright note to the discussion of preservation is that the Friends of Raynham Hall Museum (FORHM) are currently renovating the house at 30 West Main Street, next to the Raynham Hall Victorian Garden, the 1915 Lincoln Market building that is being restored. Together the two properties will create a new campus for the Townsend property.

The exhibit runs now through December 31. There is a limited run of prints by Joy Ovieda available for purchase for $150 to benefit Raynham Hall Museum. Please call 922-6808 for information. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. From Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekends, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The FORHM thanked the following supporters: Astoria Federal Savings, John Hammond, Chuck Kelton, Hunt and Betsy Lawrence, Joseph Lucas, Robert B. MacKay, Joy Ovieda, the Oyster Bay Historical Society, Joseph Michael Thomas and the Town of Oyster Bay.