Raynham Hall Oyster Bay serves as a home museum. It...

Raynham Hall Oyster Bay serves as a home museum. It was once the home of the Townsend family, one of the founding families of Oyster Bay. During the Revolutionary War, the Townsends housed British soldiers, some of which are said to haunt the house. LIPI investigated in 2006 but did not find conclusive evidence. Investigators reported that one bedroom was much colder than all other rooms in the house, and photographs taken at the site had white orbs, but LIPI didn’t consider those findings to be definitive. Credit: Long Island Paranormal Investigators

For Oyster Bay's historic Raynham Hall, it's a time of great opportunities and equally great challenges.

The new opportunities for the former home of the Townsend family on West Main Street came Tuesday when, after years of trying, the Town of Oyster Bay agreed to purchase an adjacent house for Raynham Hall Museum to use for a visitor center, offices and storage.

The challenge is that extensive repair work is needed to halt deterioration in the building, the original part of which dates to 1738. Although a new cedar-shingle roof was installed to stop the leaks that had damaged the plaster in several upstairs rooms, the exterior of the house remains in serious disrepair.

The new roof was completed in June at a cost of $103,000 with the town, which owns Raynham Hall, reimbursing the museum for $100,000 of the work.

But window frames and some wall planking are so rotted that museum director Harriet Gerard Clark is able to poke a finger halfway into them.

"You can see that the window frames are melting from rot," she said. Storm windows are coming apart. The deterioration has allowed water to leak into several upstairs rooms and damage the plaster.

Portions of the foundation require repair and the paint is peeling off the exterior.

"We need a good carpenter for a year," Clark said.

The last exterior rehabilitation was in the early 1980s just after the Friends of Raynham Hall took over operation of the property for the town, so "we're overdue," she said.

The museum estimates it will cost $600,000 to repair the damage, conduct paint analysis, repaint the house and bring the entire property to a state of good repair. The cost would also cover archaeology in the garden before restoration to make it more historically accurate to the Victorian period and more open so it could serve as a public commons for the hamlet.

Moving offices and storage into the adjacent house will allow the museum to redecorate the kitchen, butler's pantry, and servants' and children's rooms to show their function during the Victorian era.

The museum is applying for a $350,000 state Environmental Protection Fund matching grant to help cover the renovation costs. If successful, the museum would then raise additional funds from foundations, and the town would supply labor as part of the match. Paint company owner Michael Aboff has offered to donate paint.

Without the grant "the project will be much slower," Clark said, taking multiple years instead of one year for everything except the archaeology and garden reconstruction.

The exterior rehabilitation will solve a problem that particularly galls Clark -- the color of the paint. "The original color was a subtle mauve and not bubble-gum pink, which is hideous," she said.

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