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Lindenhurst's museum in search of new home

The Old Village Hall Museum in Lindenhurst, run

The Old Village Hall Museum in Lindenhurst, run by the Lindenhurst Historical Society, is facing relocation due to an expansion of the neighboring firehouse. (Aug. 29, 2012) Credit: Daniel Brennan

It is Lindenhurst Village's best-kept secret, hidden in plain sight. And it's looking for a new home.

Located smack center in the village's downtown, shyly tucked between a firehouse and a florist, the 27-foot-wide building draws hardly a passing glance from most. But Old Village Hall Museum has been a wall-to-wall treasure trove of local history on Wellwood Avenue for more than 50 years.

Now a planned expansion of the firehouse next door means the museum must relocate.

"I'm not happy," said Johanna Sandy, 86, director of the museum. "I wish we could just stay here."

Village Mayor Thomas Brennan agrees, saying the museum "represents our history."

"We really don't want to move it but we don't have an alternative," he said.

Constructed in 1914, the building has served as village hall, a courthouse and a police station. In 1958, the museum, which is run by the village historical society, was opened.

The museum gets, at most, two dozen visitors a week, Sandy said, who often are surprised at the relics they find. For the price of signing the loose-leaf pages of the guest book, visitors can take a walk through Lindenhurst's 142-year history.

There's furniture from long-gone hotels that used to bustle with vacationers from New York City; buttons and embroidered handkerchiefs made in now-shuttered factories; and a late 19th-century penny-farthing bike from a local bicycle club. On one wall hangs a photo of famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who spent a summer in Lindenhurst in 1922 while doing traveling shooting exhibitions.

And then, of course, there's the baseball.

Signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, it is one of the museum's most prized possessions. It is a memento of a 1930 exhibition game played between an All-Star team that featured the two Yankees and "Addie Klein's Lindenhurst Club," according to a yellowed poster that sits near the ball.

Sandy said she would hate to lose the museum's centralized site. Officials are eyeing two relocation spots: near the village's restored railroad depot on South 3rd Street and across Wellwood at the site of an unused building owned by the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Former historical society head Anna Jaeger said the museum could use the extra space of the diocese building. "We're busting at the seams," she said.

The village has received an estimate of $60,000 to move the building. Officials are seeking an estimate on the diocese property. With the firehouse reconstruction estimated to cost $5.1 million and the village committing to a $6 million bond, Brennan said there is a $900,000 "window" for other expenses, including relocating the museum.

Construction on the firehouse will start next summer at the earliest, he said, so the museum doesn't need to take out the packing tape just yet.

Historical society president Marian Santoli said the relocation may prove to be fortunate. "I'm excited because I think change is an opportunity," she said. "I think we can create a stir for the museum."

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