Preserving North Shore’s history

County grant to help restore courthouse façade


A restoration project nearly 20 years in the making at the North Shore Historical Museum in Glen Cove is progressing steadily. The museum is housed in the old Justices Courthouse, which dates back to 1907.

Planning for the restoration, which is taking place in phases, began in the early 2000s. Work started with a roof raising and interior restoration in 2013. The project’s final phase, which began in 2014 and is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year, will restore the building’s original terracotta façade.

The Raise the Eagle project will conclude the museum board of directors’ effort to restore the 112-year-old building to its former glory. Georgie Connett, the museum’s president, said that terracotta tiles from the original structure would be used in the restoration. One piece in particular, a large eagle figurine, will crown the project — hence its name. When completed, the façade will contain 85 percent of the old tiling.

Since the courthouse is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the board is limited in what it is allowed to do in the restoration, which must match, as closely as possible, the original work on the building, Connett said. “Over the years, pieces that have fallen off the façade of the building were saved to be included in the restoration,” she said. Restoring the façade, she added, would stop any further deterioration.

The cost of restoring the façade is $225,000. The museum received a $75,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in 2014, and has received donations and held fundraisers to match that number. The board is also seeking an additional $100,000 from a private foundation, and has allocated $125,000 for the project.

On March 25, the Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a measure to award the museum $50,000 from its Hotel and Motel Occupancy Tax Fund. The request came from Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove. She explained that hotel/motel grants are intended to promote tourism and culture in Nassau. “This falls into that category quite well,” she said.

As the daughter of a historian — Dr. Millie DeRiggi — DeRiggi-Whitton said she was raised to appreciate history, a feeling the museum strives to inspire in visitors. “It’s been embedded in me since I was a kid, and it means a lot that I’ve been able to help,” she said. “The museum has an amazing history, and it’s been a community effort to save this building.”

DeRiggi-Whitton said the museum’s programming is to be commended, shining a light on North Shore residents who played roles in American history. The recent “Harlem Hellfighters” exhibit honored black soldiers — many from Glen Cove — who served in a special unit in the U.S. Army during World War I. Another exhibit, in 2017, highlighted the contributions of local women who rallied support for equal rights during women’s suffrage.

The programs, she said, “show a rich history that many people aren’t even aware of. It’s good to give credit and respect to the people who lived here before us.”

“Every time I walk in, I’m in awe,” Connett said. “It’s glorious now, but once that façade is on, it’ll be like a dream come true.”