In 1775, a humble weaver from Huntington allowed the revolution-minded county militia to stow supplies in his tiny home as they mustered on the adjacent Village Green. Now, more than two centuries later, the modest home still known as "the Arsenal" has received a much-needed face-lift.
A nearly $180,000 restoration, using state and town money, has expanded the museum, enabling curators to add a period bedroom, a "buttery" (a type of kitchen pantry where butter was made), weaving equipment and a neat column of revolutionary-era-style muskets.
While the house spent only a few years in a military capacity, it is the only known Colonial-era arsenal left on Long Island. Today, it also serves as headquarters of the reactivated Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia, a re-enactment group.
The restorative work, which also included replacing the cedar-shingle roof and adding a ramp at the rear, began last year and was completed in the fall, town historian Robert Hughes said. It was dedicated on Sunday.
Despite the name, the arsenal is more of a workingman's home than a military outpost, Hughes said, although there was a time when it served as both.
Job Sammis, a weaver who lived in the house during the revolutionary era, agreed to let the militia store gunpowder, kettles, tents and other supplies there. In 1776, as the Battle of Long Island loomed, militia members swarmed to the arsenal to grab extra ammunition. While ultimately the war was won, that battle was lost.
The building on Park Avenue briefly quartered British soldiers during the occupation of Huntington, and later housed a succession of families until the town purchased it in the run-up to the nation's bicentennial.
Rex Metcalf, chairman of the town's historic preservation commission, lives across the street and is keeper of the 6-inch-long skeleton key that fits the front door's equally giant antique lock. "Your pocket house key was more of a chore than it is today," he noted.
This most recent restoration, which Metcalf deemed a success, didn't yield secret caches of ancient items -- unlike a kitchen renovation in 1930, when a previous owner discovered 12 Revolutionary War muskets that Sammis had stashed under the floorboards.
The muskets are long gone, having been traded by the enterprising owner for a case of beer, Metcalf said.
Metcalf, who was responsible for restarting Huntington's militia, said he didn't think it odd that the military moniker stuck to a building that was used as a home much longer than it was used otherwise.
"That was the point in time when that building connected with history," he said. "National history, and world history."
The Huntington Arsenal