Since the Babylon Town Historical Society began holding meetings in the 1929 Tudor-style house in Van Bourgondien Park in 2011, its leaders have viewed the building as the perfect place for a museum, an ode to the decades when the Van Bourgondien family called it home.
Now, they’re making headway in turning the house into a functional museum and are seeking grants to fund repairs and antiques to fill the rooms.
Working with a $5,000 annual grant from the county, the historical society is applying for more grants to pay for repairs, including painting the interior and exterior, repairing panes of glass in the original windows and repairing sections of the slate roof, said Stephen Quigley, the group's vice president.
Cornelius John Van Bourgondien came from Holland, bought 36 acres of land on Albin Avenue in West Babylon and established a greenhouse business growing flowers in 1939. He ran it with his family until it relocated to Peconic in the early 1970s.
Town historian Mary Cascone said the house is designated by the Suffolk County Historic Trust, and “to the best of the ability, it’s kept according to historic standards.”
Cascone said the house tells the story of the Van Bourgondiens but also represents other past horticulturalists.
“The idea is that no matter what story is told from that house . . . you have also those other families that were like them from the 20th Century that grew flowers,” Cascone said. “And how all that pretty much disappeared or moved elsewhere.”
The family house on the property, now the county-owned and town-maintained Van Bourgondien Park, has been a meeting place for groups like the historical society.
Cascone said that beginning in 2011, a West Babylon teacher collected various household items and furniture from the eras the Van Bourgondien family lived in the house. Many of the items were stored at the South Bay Elementary School in West Babylon and were destroyed in a 2010 fire. Some items remained in the house, but now, historical society president Terry Sabatino and Quigley are seeking antiques from the public.
“One room will be decorated in items from the 1930s, one from the 1940s” ending in the early 1970s, Quigley said. “Nothing modern, nothing new.”
They’re looking for period pieces, like a kitchen table they have that has linoleum on top, 2- to 3-inch aluminum trim and classic vinyl and polished aluminum seats.
“It might have been in my parents’ house in the 1950s,” Quigley said.
Sabatino said they’re getting quotes from contractors but know “it’s going to be expensive because it’s historical.”
Just to repair the original front door is more than $5,000, she said.
Recently a local Eagle Scout, with the assistance of tradesmen, constructed a wheelchair ramp for the building, removing an old one that “was falling apart” Sabatino said.
She said she is hopeful that revitalizing the house will appeal to the public.
“Our nature is just, ‘Let’s take down these old buildings, let’s not preserve the history,’ ” Sabatino said. Instead of that, “Let’s tell the kids and young people about the history.”
A HOUSE WITH HISTORY
1929 The Tudor-style house was built.
1939 CJ Van Bourgondien established the greenhouse business in his name.
1972 The West Babylon greenhouse business closed and moved to Peconic.
2011 The Babylon Town Historical Society began meeting in the house, planning to revitalize it.