The smell of fresh paint lingered about the room slightly bigger than a one-car garage. An old school desk with an indent for an ink well sat in a corner, its only company some bare glass cases. The only sound inside the historic Gould House was a Dutch door that swung with barely a rustle over the new gray carpet.
“It’s time to put lipstick and earrings on this girl,” said Denise Stucchio, as she gathered up folders of old pictures, photocopied letters and Ronkonkoma Review newspaper articles documenting Lake Grove’s history.
Stucchio, 38 and Maria Blaut, 47, both members of the Lake Grove Beautification and Historical Society, are working as detectives and preservationists. As the society’s historian and recording secretary, respectively, they and other members worked over the past year to restore the Gould House into a town legacy that is now home to the society’s new museum.
But now, the society needs to find relics of Lake Grove’s past to put in the museum. The society recently placed an ad in the village newsletter that encouraged residents to donate Lake Grove artifacts and photos.
The Gould House, a wooden-shingled colonial with peeling white paint on Hawkins Avenue, has stood, in some form, since the 19th century. One of the town’s most prominent residents of the last two centuries, Harold W. Gould, owned the property although the exact years of his ownership are unclear.
The only clues are a construction date of 1868 and a photo dated nearly a century later that depicts an aerial view of the house and a line of 1940s cars out front. Even the moniker of “Gould House” is somewhat of a misnomer — there’s no evidence to indicate that it was ever a residence, Stucchio said.
“Lake Grove’s unique history comes from being an incorporated village for the last 40 years,” Stucchio said.
But many mysteries remain.
“Accuracy is a big problem,” Stucchio said.
Sifting through the folklore floating about town and word-of-mouth from elderly residents makes verification a daunting task.
Like a Nancy Drew novel, Stucchio seeks to find what has been dubbed the “missing Metzner Mausoleum,” the grave marker of a prominent town resident.
A local historian told Stucchio that the present Toys ‘R Us in the Lake Grove Shopping Center rests upon a cemetery. According to lore, the graves may have been moved to a nearby wooded area.
“Although, how can we prove it?” Stucchio asked.
Despite being transplants to Lake Grove, Stucchio and Blaut are deeply involved in the community and piecing together its history. They hope to impart a spirit of community and giving upon their children, and Blaut dreams of incorporating their historical findings into local school lesson plans.
“There was no ego here in creating this museum,” Blaut said. “Everyone in the society is dedicated to preserving history.”