Members of the Huntington Historical Society, along with local officials,...

Members of the Huntington Historical Society, along with local officials, held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Monday, July 21, 2014, for the $1.3 million dollar renovation of the Huntington Historical Society at 209 Main St. Credit: Newsday / Daniel Rader

A ceremonial groundbreaking Monday helped celebrate the long-awaited $1.3 million expansion of the Huntington Historical Society building on Main Street.

After 14 years, the society has raised enough money -- including a $400,000 matching grant from the state, a challenge matching grant of $162,000 from philanthropist Doris Buffett and private donations -- to build an addition to the building that will be used as a storage and resource center.

"We have documents, letters, diaries, photo albums, maps, you name it, from the town of Huntington," said Linda Walch, executive director of the society.

"We really needed a space that was more climate controlled and appropriate so that everyone can enjoy the space and our history."

The project began about two weeks ago and the expansion is expected to be complete by January.

The two-level addition will be built in the side lot and add more than 1,200 square feet. It will have two rooms and a new entry through a handicapped-accessible plaza. The historic facade will remain.

The building was erected in 1905 as a sewing trade school for girls and a place where boys learned caning, or chair-seat weaving. It has housed the historical society since 1982, when members purchased the building and a 20-foot-wide lot on its west side from the town.

Town historian Robert Hughes said it took about a year to pack up all the archives and records, which are being stored at the Old South Huntington Library building on Depot Road in Huntington Station.

"The Huntington Historical Society has played an integral role in developing our cultural programs and helping us look at the past in order to go forward in the future," said Town Supervisor Frank Petrone.

Susan Berland, a town board member who sponsored a resolution that granted the society an easement for the construction, said it is important that the town keep its history intact.

"The best way to do that is to house it in the best location possible, and that's exactly what's going to happen."

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