Work begins on future museum

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The Quogue Historical Society is one step closer to having a permanent home for its museum after construction work began in earnest on the former Mary Payne Home Store in the village.

In preparation for future renovations, Ernest and Curt Davis, the co-owners of Davis Brothers Engineering Corporation, broke ground at 114 Jessup Avenue in early March. Workers lifted the 128-year-old house from its foundation and moved it back about 100 feet. Work must now begin on a new foundation and basement before Davis Brothers, which has offices in Westhampton and Blue Point, lowers the house back onto its new permanent footprint on the same property.

The home will eventually serve as the Quogue Historical Society Museum.

The future village showplace and archive center is centrally located, sitting across the street from the Quogue Village Police Department. The house is situated just north of the village pond and gazebo, on the east side of Jessup Avenue.

“From a big picture point of view, I just thought this was the perfect location for the museum,” Quogue Mayor George Motz said during a recent interview. “Having the house so close to the Village Green and waterfall will really look terrific.”

Mayor Motz has championed the purchase of the property over the last few years and the sale officially closed in January. He was also instrumental in working with the Town of Southampton to secure $445,000 in Community Preservation Fund money to buy the third of an acre lot and home from previous owners Noah Walley and Kristina Wollschlaeger. Mr. Walley and Ms. Wollschlaeger also own an adjacent property.

Quogue Village Ordinance Inspector Christopher Osborne has been another key player in the process. He has been a very hands-on project manager, overseeing the work done on-site and lining up contractors to donate their time and materials for the project.

So far, the Quogue Policeman’s Benevolent Association and Quogue Association have donated $10,000 apiece toward construction, renovation and beautification costs. The village also came up with $50,000 in this year’s budget for the project.

Other contributions for the building include wainscotting and old lamp fixtures from the old village theater and leftover bathroom tiles from Village Hall renovations. Mayor Motz mentioned that several local contractors have donated their time and equipment to complete the work.

Joan Scanlon, the village historian and co-director of the Quogue Historical Society, praised Mayor Motz for his work in “cleverly getting the CPF money for the project.” She also reported that she and other Historical Society members are grateful to Mr. Osborne and appreciative of all the hard work and materials that have been donated to make the project possible.

Ms. Scanlon reported that the house measures about 1,000 square feet and contains one large main room, two smaller side rooms and a back room that she believes originally served as a kitchen. She said a basement and bathroom will be added to the house to make it museum-ready.

Various village artifacts and documents of historical significance will be on display in the museum once it opens next year, according to Pi Gardiner, a co-director of the Quogue Historical Society. She anticipates that the house will serve as a gallery and storage facility for articles such as furniture, photographs, letters and journals already in the possession of her organization.

One document that is sure to be included for display is the museum property’s original deed, which Mr. Osborne found in the house before it was moved. The deed is dated October 18, 1879 and transferred the property from Silas E. Jessup to John R. Harris.

Once the renovations on the house are complete, Mayor Motz said the village will lease the property to the Quogue Historical Society for a nominal monthly fee, plus the cost of utilities. The mayor estimated that structural exterior work and shingling should be finished by Memorial Day.

According to Ms. Scanlon, a tentative grand opening date for the museum is May 2009, though most of the exterior renovations should be finished before the Quogue Fire Department’s annual open house in August. She noted that holding the grand opening next May would be fitting as John Ogden purchased the land that is now the Village of Quogue 350 years ago—on May 12, 1659.

At this time, the Historical Society’s extensive archives—which include the most extensive records of the Hurricane of 1938 and artifacts that date back to the 17th century—are currently being housed at Village Hall and the School House Museum at the Quogue Library. Ms. Scanlon explained that some historical items will remain on display at the School House Museum after the new museum opens next year.

“This house gives the Historical Society a much more prominent position in the Village of Quogue,” Ms. Gardiner said of the future museum. “It will raise the awareness of our Quogue heritage and history, so these treasures can be properly preserved for generations.”

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