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Sunday, May 29, 2016
Forward to the past
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Jimin Kim/Herald
Marilyn Devlin and Frank Seipp showed off a servant’s tospy-turvy doll.

“The sea captains first came here about 1860 and 1870 when the advent of the railroad brought them out to Rockville Centre because they wanted a safe haven for their families while they were out at sea,” Devlin said.

Enclosed in a glass case was a handcrafted wedding basket made of white sea shells. Resembling a bouquet, the sailor’s masterpiece was covered with flower adornments also composed of shells.

Seipp gingerly dropped the needle in the famous Victrola, an antique record player housed in a cabinet. A rustic ballad echoed down the corridor as Devlin opened small doors in the base of the cabinet, which amplified the sound.

Down the hall in the toy exhibit, Seipp pulled out an original Crayola crayon set from the 1920s. A description on the mustard-colored box read ‘An Artist’s Crayon at Scholar’s Price.’” Lying on a model replica of the Phillips House was a doll with its face carved out of a walnut.

Amid the collection of lead cars, a doll of an African American girl sat in a chair by the corner. It was a topsy-turvy doll, and it was in fact, two dolls in one. The black doll wore a red polka-dotted dress and its face was painted to give it a minstrel appearance. Seipp demonstrated the hidden feature of the handmade toy by turning it upside down to reveal a white doll with blonde hair and blue eyes.

“They weren’t allowed to have black dolls, the servants,” said Devlin. “So when the master or the mistress was in the house, the servants would play with the white doll and then it would be flipped over when they were alone and it was a black doll.”

Ever since the museum opened its doors in 1978, it’s been free to the public. Recently, the museum received a $110,000 grant—$80,000 from the State of New York and $30,000 from the Nassau County hotel tax. The museum plans to waterproof the basement and install new windows and air conditioners.

The renovations will help preserve the house and its contents for future village residents to enjoy.

“I feel it’s a part of my giveback,” Seipp said. “This is just a way of passing on our heritage, which I’m proud of.”


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