First it was a schoolhouse. Then a firehouse. Now it’s a museum.
The small wooden building on Waverly Avenue, constructed in 1893 and moved three times, has quite a history in Seaford, and now it is used as a monument to Seaford’s history.
The renovated Seaford Historical Museum re-opened last Thursday night during a ceremony for Historical Society members and invited guests. They got to see the first set of labeled displays that were months in the making.
The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the mural by Seaford artist Cliff Miller, depicting duck hunting along the bay in the early 20th century. Historical Society officers Steve Bongiovi and Patrick Martz pulled off a piece of plastic covering the artwork, and showed off the masterpiece that Miller began last fall and finished just a few weeks ago.
Before that, the museum went through a long renovation process. Walls were ripped down and the electric was upgraded. A new heating and air conditioning system was installed. New walls were put up and painted.
“Even at first glance, you can see how much work has been done in this room,” said Historical Society President Judy Bongiovi of the main room, which once had been split into two classrooms, and later was the Fire Department’s meeting hall.
Congressman Peter King, who has called Seaford home for more than 40 years, commended the members of the community who came together to make the renovation possible.
Historical Society Vice President Frank Allaire was the construction manager. He took the vision of former President Bill Powell, who died in 2011, and turned it into a reality. “I know this was very important to him,” Allaire said. “I’ve felt a pat on my shoulder that I think came from Bill.”
Allaire explained that the renovation was a lot of big projects that required coordinating the work of multiple contractors. He said the ultimate goal is to turn the museum into an education center for Seaford’s youth.
Bob Powell, Bill’s brother, was also in attendance. “There’s no doubt about it that he would be proud,” Bob said. “This was his dream. This is what he wanted.”
Powell added that he was sworn into the Fire Department in that room, so the building has a special place in his heart.
Stan Bahr, the first president of the Seaford Historical Society, remembers when they moved the building to its present location after it was donated by the Fire Department. Bahr’s mother also went to school there.
Miller, who holds painting classes in the building, said Seaford now has a beautiful, legitimate museum. “Prior to the renovation,” he said, “the building was just a place with a bunch of old stuff.”
Historical Society members have taken that old stuff and labeled it, so it has educational value for guests. Judy Bongiovi explained that there are many items stored in the attic, and those will be brought out in the future to keep the displays fresh.
Current displays include old pictures, sections devoted to the schools and Fire Department, and duck decoys provided by Ben and Kate Sohm. A boat, known as the Seaford Skiff, was restored by Ben Sohm and Paul Ketchum, and sits in front of the mural.
Natalie Naylor, president of the Nassau County Historical Society, said she had visited the museum in the past, and was in awe of the transformation. As someone who loves old schoolhouses, she said was pleased to see Seaford re-purpose the building.
“I’m very impressed with this,” she said. “It’s a wonderful local history museum. They’ve got everything nicely displayed and labeled.”