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Huntington’s education history showcased at Town Hall

Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, left, and town archivist

Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, left, and town archivist Antonia Mattheou look through items from a 1951 time capsule that is part of a new exhibit at Huntington Town Hall on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

A time capsule buried by students in 1951. A worn wooden school desk from the early 1900s. The faded, 222-year-old document that secured the first-ever state funding for education in the Town of Huntington.

Huntington officials are showcasing the history of formal education in the town in a new exhibit featuring photographs, documents and school supplies from the past two centuries.

“The history of our schools is so intricately tied to the history of our communities,” said Tracy Pfaff, director of the Northport Historical Society, one of the exhibit’s contributors. “It is in the schoolhouses that the foundation is laid for citizens and what they later contribute to society.

“The school desk featured in the exhibit, for example — isn’t it amazing to think of all the children who sat there, learned there, and what they went on to accomplish?”

The treasures come from nearly every school district within town limits. The exhibit is on display throughout all three floors of Town Hall, at 100 Main St., through year’s end.

“Huntington really has a rich history as far as education,” said Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, who spearheaded the exhibition. “I urge parents to come down with their children during the summer months.”

The story of education in Huntington dates to 1657, with the town’s first record of a teacher being hired to formally educate local children, according to town archives.

Town Hall is part of the story itself: The building was once used as a high school and middle school, and sits on the site where Huntington’s very first school, The Huntington Academy, was erected in 1793.

Soon afterward, the town began receiving state funding for schools, as documented in an April 9, 1795, resolution by the State Legislature promising Huntington 136 pounds and 14 shillings (roughly the equivalent of $16,268 in today’s dollars) for public education — one of many documents on display in the exhibit.

Pfaff, of the historical society, said the exhibit offers tangible connections to Huntington’s educational history.

“Preserving school artifacts is not only important as a direct tie to this history, but they also offer a wonderful sense of nostalgia in a way that many other historical artifacts cannot,” Pfaff said. “Not everyone can relate to a Civil War-era weapon, but a schoolbook, a class photo — these items trigger memories in all of us.”

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