October 13, 2010 | 1714 views
History is alive at Rock Hall
Museum’s country fair planned for Oct. 23-24
On three acres of the original 600 that were once a working farm, Rock Hall Museum presents a look at life in colonial and post-colonial America — with a touch of the tropics — that can engage young and old.
The museum’s mission, according to its director, Linda Barreira, is “to present early American history to all ages in a positive way through displays, furnishings and programs of historic significance.”
The Town of Hempstead facility, at 199 Broadway in Lawrence — adjacent to Lawrence Middle School — has been a museum since 1953 and, through its affiliation with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, seeks to preserve local history while expanding its reach in educating visitors.
The home was built in 1767 by Josiah Martin.
A tour led by Barreira, who has directed the facility for 25 years, provides not only facts and dates; she makes the mansion come alive with stories about both the Martins and the Hewletts, who bought the 125 acres around the home in 1824. Visitors can press audio boxes for information on each room.
As they make their way through the house, they will find no kitchen. Martin, who was from the Caribbean island of Antigua, was accustomed to outdoor cooking due to the tropical heat. And there is no indoor bathroom.
Fireplaces in every room kept them warm during cold weather, and breezes from the water to the south cooled the house during the summer. Bed warmers also helped to ward off winter’s chill.
Walking from room to room is a history lesson, as the furnishings in each room depict how it was used. When Martin took ill, his eldest son, Samuel, a physician who attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, took over the affairs of the farm. His bedroom is furnished the way he would have used it, Barreira said.
Though bad economic times are never welcome, the Great Depression was a bit of a boon to historical places like Rock Hall, as the Historic American Buildings Survey was established to put people to work and to conduct detailed inventories and drawings. Thanks to that work, Barreira has not only a record of the museum’s contents but information that has helped her and her staff furnish the rooms with historical accuracy.