Babylon Village lets historical society keep its home long-term
The Babylon Village Historical and Preservation Society will continue to maintain a museum and conduct society business at the former Babylon library on West Main Street for the next 99 years.
Preservation trustee members made the request to the village board to stay at the location they’ve operated out of since 1974. The board approved the measure at its Dec. 8 meeting. The preservation society occupies the building that opened as the village library in 1911 before the library relocated to a larger space on South Carll Avenue in 1968.
Judy Skillen, the historical society’s vice president, said preserving the history of the village through its artifacts is important to residents and the museum’s 900 paid members.
"We felt it was the best thing for the community as a whole to ensure that they will have this place, where their history, which is a part of each one of us in the village, be preserved, protected and also be displayed," she said.
The museum has remained closed during the coronavirus pandemic, but inside, renovations are underway. School yearbooks, news articles, maps and photographs of the village, which were previously scattered throughout the museum, are now housed in containers and placed in a climatized safe room.
Suffolk County Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), who has directed funding to the society through county grants, said he’s always had an interest in historical societies.
"You don’t know where you’re going if you can’t remember where you came from," said McCaffrey, a former deputy mayor of Lindenhurst and a member of that village’s historical society. "They all have different stories and ways into how they evolved today."
Grants, which are generated from Suffolk County’s tax on hotels and motels, may be hard to come by in the coming year because county revenue is down during the pandemic, McCaffrey said.
Wayne Horsley, a former Suffolk legislator and a current historical society trustee, said he first broached the conversation of the resolution with then-Mayor Ralph Scordino — before he died in October — after encountering difficulty obtaining grants through private foundations.
"They’re not going to give us any dollars because some future mayor down the road could say, ‘Hey, this is a valuable building, we could sell it off or we could use it for other purposes,’ " Horsley recalled telling Scordino, whom historical society trustee members called a supporter of the society and museum. Scordino was not able to pass the resolution, but village trustees did under current Mayor Mary Adams.
"We felt it was a tribute to Ralph," Skillen said.
Adams said the village wants to make sure the museum is "safe for future generations."
The museum is expected to reopen by late spring 2021, Skillen said. The hope is that after the renovation gets completed, there will be open space for local, statewide or out-of-state visiting exhibits.
Village of Babylon Historical and Preservation Society
In 1974, the historical society took over the building and restored it.
In 2015, the building, previously home to the Babylon Library, was named to the National Register of Historic Places.