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Almost There But Not Quite: Building Starts, Funds Needed

Marie Claire Pittis asked Oyster Bay Historical Society Director Thomas Kuehhas, “Did you ever think you’d see this day? You’ve been working toward this for about 10 years, practically since you first came here.” She was talking about the groundbreaking for the Angela P. Koenig Research and Collections Center on Tuesday, Dec. 15, held in the colonial garden of the Earle-Wightman House at 20 Summit Street.

Rosalinda Morgan added, “It started with a fundraiser run by Doris Amos.” She organized a visit to an outdoor model train exhibit in Brookville with a luncheon at the Piping Rock Club following.

“The Grace Brunch was even before that,” said Mr. Kuehhas. The John Grace family hosted a brunch at their estate in Oyster Bay Cove. Guests enjoyed a brunch catered by Barbara Sheridan of Look Who’s Cooking and enjoyed the ambiance of the house and the lawns looking out on the Long Island Sound.

“It’s 10 years in September 2010; and nine years in September 2009,” said Mr. Kuehhas.

“There were a lot of different and unusual events. You should do another Italian-American event. It was so successful. Or maybe an Irish-American event,” said Ms. Pittis.

“I was thinking of an Irish-American event but the Italians stick together as generations go along. The Irish tend to be scattered. The Italians have more of a family tradition – you had to be at their Sunday luncheon,” said Mr. Kuehhas who has put a lot of energy and thought into his series of themed exhibits.

OBHS 2nd Vice President Barry Curtis Spies said of the construction project, “It took a long time and we still don’t have the money but we’re putting up the building anyway. It’s been going on since before I was born. [The need for a dedicated archival building for the OBHS collections.] But we have the money needed to get it up and not finished on the inside. Once people see it’s going up, they will come up with the additional dollars.”

That was when Dr. Susan Peterson Neuhaus showed up wearing her white hard hat and carrying a shovel. She said, “The invitation (to the groundbreaking) said bring your hard hat and shovel. I’m ready!”

“It’s the only workforce we can afford,” said Mr. Kuehhas.

He reminded the group of OBHS past presidents, officers, and members of the board of directors of the need of having a fire proof building with heating and air conditioning to preserve their documents.

The new Angela P. Koenig Collections and Research Center will be located in a spot in the back of the Colonial garden at the Earle Wightman House and entered from the parking lot behind the house. (The garden is tended by members of the North Shore Garden Club, a Garden Club of America chapter.)

A patch of grass had been removed to reveal the rich brown earth that will be dug up. Mr. Kuehhas held up a rendering of the new research center done by John Collins, architectural historian. Architect Louis Baldino completed the technical architectural drawings for the building based on Mr. Collins’ concept for the non-combustible masonry and steel building. They estimate that in about seven months the outside of the building will be done.

OBHS President Maureen Monck said, “We’re almost there, but not quite. We still have to raise some money for the interior of the building.”

The group posed to record the historic moment when the work was begun on the site. The work was to have begun in earnest on Monday, Dec. 21 – staking out the work, but a snowstorm on Sunday, Dec. 20 cancelled the work.

Baldino Construction

The work of putting up the building will be done by Baldino Construction. Owner Philip Baldino has been working in Oyster Bay since 1967. He built the Bay Woodcraft building on Pine Hollow Road and did the renovation and addition to the Oyster Bay Animal Hospital of Dr. Surinder Wadyal. Most of their current work is in the Brookville area on the North Shore.

“I helped to build the Italian-American Club building and three houses on Park Avenue,” added the elder Baldino.

Mario Baldino joined his dad’s firm two years ago. He and Louis worked in the firm in summers through high school and college. Their sister Giovanna works in the office. Their younger sister Donna works in Wall Street. Carmela Baldino is their mom.

The family is proud of their ties to Oyster Bay. Their great-grandfather worked on the Farraco building, the stone cottage on Pine Hollow Road. He and the family came to Oyster Bay from Molinara, Italy, south of Naples.

“Our grandfather was the first to come here, he sent for his son, our father. We’re the first generation to grow up in Oyster Bay,” said Mario. The Baldino children attended Oyster Bay High School. “I went to the Fox School. I still remember Mrs. Flanders. I graduated in 1990,” said Mario. Louis graduated in 1985.

OBHS football fans will remember Mario Baldino for his spectacular play during a championship game played at Hofstra. The opposing team had downed the ball and about five tall football players circled the ball resting on the field, as they cheered their victory. Mario Baldino spotting the unclaimed ball, reached into the circle and grasped the football and ran to the end zone making the winning touchdown for Oyster Bay. [It was an unforgettable moment.]

Mario went on to attend Hofstra University.

Louis Baldino is the architect for the Octagon Hotel in Oyster Bay. The family is helping preserve the hamlet of Oyster Bay.