Construction is scheduled to begin by next week on a new visitor center for Oyster Bay's Raynham Hall Museum, allowing all rooms in the house to be displayed with historical accuracy for the first time.
The adjacent Lincoln Market building is slated to be renovated as a visitor center, with space for school programs, gift shop, offices and collections storage -- functions that have been maintained in the Townsend family homestead.
The $1 million project will allow children's bedrooms and playroom and slaves' and servants' quarters to be redecorated to depict their original use. Museum officials believe the upgrade will help make downtown Oyster Bay more of a tourist attraction.
"We want the house to reflect how the Townsends really used the spaces," museum board president John Collins said of the house, the earliest section of which was built about 1738 for merchant Samuel Townsend.
"We have inventories and survey records" as a guide, he said. In the next few years, walls that were moved over the centuries are to be returned to their original positions. Rooms are to be furnished with proper period antiques after the visitor center opens early next year.
The changes became possible when the Town of Oyster Bay, which owns Raynham Hall, in 2011 purchased for $540,000 the Lincoln Market building and its 0.12-acre lot at 30 W. Main St., fulfilling a 35-year dream of the nonprofit Friends of Raynham Hall.
The town put a new roof on Raynham Hall two years ago, and the museum repaired the exterior of the original Colonial section of the house last year at a cost of $90,000.
The museum still needs to raise half a million dollars, director Harriet Gerard Clark said. The Oyster Bay Main Street Association has given $100,000 toward facade restoration of Raynham Hall and 30 W. Main St., and Aboff's is providing free paint.
Collins said the market building was built about 1915 on land sold by the Townsend family. The market was on the ground floor and an apartment was upstairs. The museum plans to re-create the original market facade and wood-shingle siding and roof. But an attic gable not historically on the house will be added to increase attic collection storage space.
When all construction is completed, Collins said, the museum hopes to do an archaeological dig around the property, which has never been done.
To more accurately depict 20-room Raynham Hall as it was when occupied by the British army in the winter of 1778-1779, the museum hired respected paint analyst Frank Welsh. He determined the interior of the Colonial section of the house originally had been whitewashed, with gray trim and black baseboards. Welsh determined the exterior originally had been off-white, not the yellowish cream color applied in recent years. So, the museum last year repainted the exterior and Colonial rooms, which most recently had been painted different shades of gray, blue or red.
Once the rooms where slaves -- the family had up to a half dozen at a time -- and servants lived are restored, Clark said, the museum will better be able to tell the story of Oyster Bay's most prominent and wealthy family and those who made their comfortable lives possible.
"People are rightly interested in not just the great public rooms of the wealthy, but also the lives of the people who made it all happen," she said. "This will allow them to have that experience."