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Huntington’s historic Trade School building restored, reopened

Renovating the 1905 building for use as the Huntington Historical Society’s archives was launched two decades ago by philanthropist Doris Buffett, the sister of financier Warren Buffett.

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, left, executive director of the Huntington

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, left, executive director of the Huntington Historical Society, with Lucie Blohm, trustees board president, and Rob Dickson, assistant director of the society. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The $1.5 million restoration and expansion of the Huntington Historical Society’s Trade School building on Main Street is complete, officials said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration to say thank you to donors who made the project possible was held Nov. 21, two years after construction started.

Restoring the 1905 building was conceived almost 20 years ago when the society’s volunteers were asked by philanthropist Doris Buffett, the sister of financier Warren Buffett, what they needed most. The cited the need for additional archive space.

Since that time, volunteers raised enough money for the project through a $400,000 matching grant from the state, a challenge matching grant of $162,000 from Doris Buffett, grants from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation and the Gerry Charitable Trust, and private donations.

The new addition will provide more climate-controlled space to preserve the society’s extensive archival collection that includes a letter penned by Walt Whitman, hand-drawn maps from the 1830s, and thousands of photographs that chronicle Huntington’s history.

“Through the hard work of the society’s volunteers and the generous support of so many donors from across the country, we are pleased that the project has now been completed,” said Lucie Blohm, president of the Historical Society board of trustees.

The restoration was designed by Huntington-based Hoffman Grayson Architects.

The Trade School building opened as a sewing school for girls and a place where boys learned caning, or chair-seat weaving. The Historical Society has been based in the building since 1982. The building reopened to the public this summer.

The structure had to be vacated during the renovation, so the society offices were moved to the Conklin House on High Street. The archives and staff temporarily moved to a building that was formally the South Huntington Library on Depot Road in Huntington Station.

“This was a long time in planning and a long time in construction,” said Toby Kissam, a Huntington Historical society board member and former president. “We’re happy to be home in our newly renovated and expanded facility.”

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