On Aug. 30, via Facebook, Raynham Hall, a museum that explores Oyster Bay’s history back to the Revolutionary War through the lens of a family called the Townsends, announced that construction at its visitor center is officially completed.
“The Visitors’ Center, located next to the historic house at 30 West Main Street, is where you can purchase tour tickets and see the museum shop,” the post stated. “You can also learn more about the fascinating history of the Townsend family, who played a crucial role in the American Revolution as members of George Washington’s Culper Ring of spies.”
The Raynham Hall Visitors’ Center first opened its doors to the public in June of 2021, with work still needing to be done. The last revisions were adding a fence around the property and completing the siding on the exterior of the building of the roof, as well as some painting.
“We can say at this point that the Visitors’ Center is truly complete,” said Harriet Gerard Clark, the executive director at Raynham Hall.
Clark explained that what is now the Visitors’ Center was built in 1915 on a property that belonged to the Townsend family, who lived in Raynham Hall, at a time when they were selling their property.
“This house was built in 1915 as a poultry market,” Gerard Clark explained. “It was called the Lincoln Poultry Market, probably owned by people called Lincoln. And it was filled with a shop downstairs and an apartment upstairs for people who owned the poultry market. And then over time it was sold to various owners such that when the town acquired it for our use, it was two apartments downstairs and one apartment upstairs.”
She said that a desire for obtaining a Visitors’ Center goes all the way back to 1974, when a letter was sent to the Town of Oyster Bay from The Friends of Raynham Hall asking the town to buy the 1915 Lincoln Market Building, then priced at $48,000.
“I think that was more or less when they started to think it would be a good idea to have a Visitors’ Center next door to the museum,” Gerard Clark said.
Today, the downstairs portion had to be opened up to have a Visitors’ Center for the public, as well as a museum store, an ADA accessible bathroom and a kitchen for catering purposes. Upstairs, offices were built. Before getting the Visitors’ Center, the offices were located inside what was Raynham Hall’s Irish servants’ quarters. But, Gerard Clark explained, visitors wanted to be able to see inside the quarters and learn about who the servants were.
There are also plans to move the collection storage over from the museum attic to the Visitors’ Center’s third floor so that what were the rooms belonging to the sons of the Townsend Family can be open to the public.
Throughout the construction project, there was a bank of French doors installed on the side of the building so that it could be opened up to the garden, as well as a porch in the style of the 1870s. A center beam was installed to increase the building’s stability, and the facade was restored to its 1915 appearance.
“From small vinyl windows we went to large glass shopfront windows with a door leading to the upstairs and a door leading to the enclosed shop,” Gerard Clark said. “We put in a new staircase to the third floor where the collection storage is.”
A new gable was installed on the third floor, the back of the house was extended and an elevator was added.
“In terms of the downstairs Visitors’ Center, we installed an exhibition that introduces the visitor to the story of the Townsend family and what Oyster Bay would have been like, focusing on the era of the American Revolution,” Gerard Clark said.
According to Raynham Hall’s website, the project was made possible by the vision and generosity of the Town of Oyster Bay, the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, the Peggy N. and Roger G. Gerry Charitable Trust, the Marge Sullivan Fund, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, and many other generous donors.
Upcoming events at Raynham Hall:
Sept. 17 from 12 to 4 p.m.:
History lovers will interact with members of the Order of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia’s encampment and learn about 18th-century crafts such as weaving and cooking. Musket firings, historic games, and more will engage people of all ages. Guided tours will begin at 3:00 pm. Festivities are free and open to the public.
Sept. 17 from 12:45 to 2:30 p.m.:
The History Twins present two programs
The History Twins, Carla Lynne Hall & Jim Keyes, offer up two of their history programs.
“Liss: Slave, Servant, Spy” is a fictionalized account that tells the story of Liss, an enslaved woman who may have also been a Revolutionary War spy. Start time is 1 p.m.. “Colonial Crossroads” is a musical presentation that demonstrates the intersection of African and European music. Start time is 2 p.m.
Both programs are free, open to the public, and appropriate for all ages.
Sept. 17 from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.:
Author David M. Griffin book talk: Chronicles of British Occupation of Long Island.
Long Island was occupied under the brutal yolk of the British army and navy from 1776-1783. The scars, trials, and experiences of the occupation would not soon be forgotten… Author David M. Griffin presents harrowing narratives of life during the British occupation of Long Island and the struggle for freedom during the Revolutionary War. This event is free and open to the public.
Sept. 30 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.:
Rescheduled: Paint Your Own Historical Miniature
Explore, play, and engage with history as you paint your own historical miniature! Guided by a longtime collector and painter of historical figurines, join in for an exciting and educational workshop and embark on a unique journey through history as you learn about making and collecting miniatures. All materials will be provided. This program is best for beginners 12 years and up who are interested in developing a new hobby. $15 museum members, $20 general public.
Oct. 28, time TBD.
Oyster Bay Ghost Walk, Halloween Parade and Dance Party
Raynham Hall Museum presents Oyster Bay’s Annual Halloween Parade. Dress up in costume and bring your little ghosts and goblins (two and four legged varieties welcome) for a ghost parade through town. Please bring lanterns and noisemakers! Specific parade route to be determined, but route begins at 61 E Main St. and ends at 30 W Main St. Ghostly entertainment, music, food and drink for purchase, and more!
—Event information provided by Raynham Hall