It was a wonderful night!
Lovers of history are excited that the Huntington Historical Society has successfully completed the long awaited restoration and expansion of the Trade School building—where Huntington’s history lives. A ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration of the generosity of the donors who made this project possible will be held on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. at the Trade School.
“The week of Thanksgiving is the perfect time for us to publicly thank all the generous donors who made this project possible,” said Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, executive director of the Historical Society.
“This project was first conceived almost twenty years ago. Through the hard work of the Society’s volunteers and the generous support of so many donors from across the country, we are pleased that the project has now been completed,” said Lucie Blohm, president of the Historical Society’s Board of Trustees.
In addition to restoring the century old Trade School building, the project included the construction of a new archives wing that provides more climate-controlled space to preserve the Society’s extensive archival collection.
The need for additional archive space reached a critical point by the end of the 1990s. At the same time, Doris Buffett, sister of legendary investor Warren Buffett, was completing work on her family’s genealogy. Ms. Buffett’s research led her to the Huntington Historical Society because the Buffett family in America traces its origins to John Buffett who arrived in Huntington by 1696. The Buffett family remained in Huntington for the next two centuries. Doris and Warren’s great grandfather, Sydney Buffett left Huntington in 1867 and settled in Omaha, Nebraska where he established a successful grocery business.
In appreciation for the help the Historical Society had provided in compiling the Buffett family history, Ms. Buffett asked what the Society’s greatest need was. Robert C. Hughes, who is now Huntington Town Historian and was at that time the president of the Historical Society, explained that the greatest need was for additional archives space. Ms. Buffett issued a challenge to the citizens of Huntington to raise the funds pledging that she would match every donation dollar for dollar. The result was a $162,000 donation from Ms. Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation.
In the years that followed, additional funds were raised and a $400,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation was secured. Additional grants from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation and the Gerry Charitable Trust helped the Society meet the $1.5 million construction budget.
Historical Society trustees Mathew Fortunato, a retired engineer and construction manager, and Toby Kissam volunteered their time to supervise the construction phase of the project.
In preparation for construction, volunteers relocated the entire archives collection to the old South Huntington library building, while the Historical Society’s administrative staff relocated to the David Conklin Farmhouse.
The new addition is two stories: one exiting on Main Street (Route 25A) on the south side of the building while the floor below is at grade on Gerard Street on the north side of the building. The lower level of the addition provides state-of-the-art climate controlled archival storage space with rolling shelving to maximize capacity. The Main Street level provides readily accessible storage space of the most frequently requested research materials as well as a room for meetings or in-depth research projects. The addition includes an exterior ramp that for the first time provides access to the Trade School building for wheelchair users and allows ADA access to the main floor of the existing building.
The addition is set back 13’ from the front façade of the Trade School building so as to not obscure the front portion of the side façade, which features decorative elements. The Trade School building continues to appear as a stand-alone building with none of its historic decorative detailing obscured by the addition. Without mimicking the architecture of the historic building, the addition echoes many of the design elements of the Trade School building, such as the curve of the bay window, the large window , the chimneys, and selective use of the distinctive iron-spot bricks seen on the front façade of the Trade School building.
The design was approved by the New York State Historic Preservation Office as well as the Huntington Historic Preservation Commission and the Huntington Town Board.
The project was designed by Huntington based Hoffman Grayson, Architects. The firm was selected following a design competition held at the end of 2011. Hoffman Grayson has extensive experience in historic restoration projects. The firm’s most notable restoration projects include the barn complex at the Marion Carll Farm in Commack, John W. Engeman Theatre in Northport, and the Paramount Theatre in Huntington. Specifications for the restoration aspect of the project were prepared by Steward Preservation Services, LLC.
The Trade School building was constructed in 1905 to house the Huntington Sewing and Trade School, which had been established in 1886 to teach girls how to sew. The school developed into a co-educational vocational school for children as well as immigrant adults. When the school went out of business in the 1930s, the building was taken over by the local school district and then later by the Town government.
When the Town of Huntington consolidated its offices into a new Town Hall, the Trade School was sold to the Huntington Historical Society. The Society moved its administrative offices and resource center from cramped quarters in one of its house museums to the Trade School Building in 1983.