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Aug 30, 2010 3:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Work resumes on Quogue historical society house

Aug 30, 2010 3:49 PM

Earlier this summer, Quogue officials brushed the dust off a much-anticipated plan to establish a new headquarters for its historical society in the heart of the venerable village.

The economic downturn stalled the project, inevitably pushing back the tentative May 2009 grand opening date, though work has since resumed and the Jessup Avenue structure is now on track to be completed soon, according to Quogue Village Trustee Jeanette Obser.

“We should be able to be finished by the year’s end,” she said in a recent interview.

Two years ago, Quogue Village convinced Southampton Town to spend $445,000 in Community Preservation Fund money to buy the property, which is about a third of an acre and features an old house. The land is located across the street from the Quogue Village Police Department headquarters.

Workers broke ground in March 2008, moving and renovating the existing house into a meeting place for the Quogue Village Historical Society, giving them a location to showcase artifacts from throughout the village’s 351-year history. But the project was derailed after the economy crashed and tradesman were no longer in a position to donate their services, as village officials had originally expected them to do, according to Ms. Obser.

“At that point in time, in 2008, we had a very strong economy,” she said. “We were not in the throes of the downturn out here.”

Due to the dearth in donations, the village had to allocate $345,000 toward the project over the years, including surplus revenues and money from its general budget and parkland trust, Ms. Obser said. At this point, all the money is in place for the project to reach fruition, and some builders have even started donating supplies and services again, she said.

While workers were able to shingle the building and finish the roof last spring and summer, the interior remains a “shell” at this point, Ms. Obser said. After the structure stood dormant throughout the fall and winter, activity picked up earlier this summer, as workers began installing heating, cooling, ventilation and electrical systems, she said.

Donna Sessa, the Quogue Village Historical Society member who is in charge of the new headquarters, said workers will soon install a dumbwaiter, which will allow group members to move artifacts into and out of storage, and may then move on to installing Sheetrock.

“We hope that it will be completed,” Ms. Sessa said. “We need it for the archives to be preserved, and we don’t want another winter to go by without our archives being in the proper spot.”

The effort to restore Quogue Village Beach, which was ravaged by a November nor’easter, in time for summer may have contributed to the historical society project getting put on the “back burner,” Ms. Sessa said. Still, she said, in recent months, the work has again been moved to “front and center” on the to-do list.

“We’re looking forward to this,” she said. “We need it to be able to have our archives under one roof. The village has been very generous and this archive will be protected with climate control and a year-round monitoring system so we’ll know everything is just fine.”

Lee Wadelton, the chairwoman of the Quogue Village Historical Society, said she’s looking forward to finally having a permanent home for her group’s historical documents and photographs, which she said are currently scattered between Village Hall and the Quogue Library.

“We don’t really have a home,” she said. “We’ve always had a little tiny office in the Quogue Library.”

Several years ago, a flood in the basement of the library endangered some of the group’s artifacts, according to Quogue Village Historian Frances Ryan, creating an impetus for a new headquarters—a cause championed by former mayor George Motz, officials said.

Once completed, the headquarters will help round out something of a village center on Jessup Avenue. For instance, Ms. Obser noted that the refurbished building will complement the adjacent village pond. Although the village has not yet decided on a name for the structure, it has been tentatively dubbed the “Pond House,” Ms. Sessa said.

“I’m really excited about it because I’ll be able to tie the pond into the whole of the museum and just really make it into this wonderful setting that the community will have access to,” Ms. Obser said.

Once completed, she said, the museum will feature a public bathroom that will be accessible from the outside and open to those who sit by or walk near the water.

Ms. Wadelton, though, aimed her attention at more practical matters. “At least things will be dry,” she said.

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