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Museum recalls Lake Ronkonkoma’s history

The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum is located

The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum is located at 328 Hawkins Ave. in Lake Ronkonkoma. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. (Feb. 26, 2011) Photo Credit: Kaitlynn Mannino

The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum sits quietly on Hawkins Avenue in a 95-year-old, white-painted building with brown trim that blends into the wintertime landscape.

Inside, the museum houses more than 1,000 arrowhead artifacts, Indian weapons and tools that date back hundreds of years, preserved in glass cases.

Relics of the town’s agricultural past line one wall. Rusted hand tools rest across from a case of dolls and toys from the early 1900s. Dolls with broken faces and rosy cheeks watch over a wooden child’s wagon.

Photographs and memorabilia of Maude Adams, a stage actress from the late 1880s through the early 1900s and a local philanthropist, covered an entire section of the room. Adams was famously known as the woman for whom the play “Peter Pan” was written, said the museum’s curator Dale Spencer, 54, of Lake Ronkonkoma. Adams was the first actress to play Peter Pan on Broadway, in 1905.

Nestled in a corner, vestiges of Long Island’s Native American population remained with chipped quartz arrowheads and rock mortars with pestles.

Historical society President Evelyn Vollgraff, of Ronkonkoma, was happy to show visitor George Martin around the museum on a recent Saturday.

“I remember when I was a kid and people used to get new gravel driveways,” recalled Martin, 65, of Lake Ronkonkoma. “We’d find arrowheads in the rocks. I’d give them away — I always thought I’d just find more.”

Back then, the gravel would sometimes be taken from the beach around Lake Ronkonkoma, a known site of many Indian artifacts.

Spencer pulled a thin blanket off the top of a donated phonograph that sat in a corner near the arrowheads display. The 4-foot-tall wooden body had barely a scratch on its golden surface and housed a cabinet full of old records.

The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society rents the building from the Sachem Public Library for a dollar per year -- an agreement that dates back to 1977. The building was previously used by the town as a storage facility and originally built in 1916 as a school district library.

Although the landscape of the town has changed considerably over the decades, the museum and its members abide, happy to quietly preserve a deep past housed within its worn walls.

The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum is located at 328 Hawkins Ave. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Call 631-467-3152, or visit the historical society's website for more information.

Photo: The Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society Museum, built in 1916, is about a mile north of the Long Island Expressway, Exit 60. 

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