When it comes to historical landmarks on Long Island, Oyster Bay’s Raynham Hall Museum might not be the first place that comes to mind. Many people have likely never heard of the site. However, the 18th century-home served an important role in the formation of the United States.
“This is a secret gem on Long Island,” said museum educator Arlene Pastore. “Oyster Bay is a very historic town and we have many historic happenings that happened on Long Island that I think people are interested in.”
Raynham Hall was the home of Robert Townsend, one of George Washington’s most trusted spies during the American Revolution. The 23-room establishment, which has been converted into museum, offers visitors a vivid look at nearly three centuries of history. The colonial appearance of the house, combined with Victorian-styled rooms, sends visitors back to the days of the Founding Fathers.
The front of the home was restored to its Colonial appearance in 1953. Photos: Nick Valastro
The home officially became a museum in 1953. Since that time, Raynham Hall has not been as popularly regarded compared to sites such as former President Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, also located in Oyster Bay. The President’s home saw 19,000 visitors last year, while Raynham Hall’s drew 10,000.
“The history books don’t really give us a lot of press.” said Pastore. “The museum has the facts, and not only that, but the surroundings to show what happened throughout the years.”
The rear of the home retains a Victorian look.
Maintaining the museum is a costly job. The task of preserving the home is the responsibility of the Town of Oyster Bay and Friends of Raynham Hall, a private foundation. Moving forward, employees of the hall would like to renovate the Victorian section of the house.
“Right now we have applied for a grant to redo the Victorian part of the house, and it is going to be many, many zeros to get everything back the way it should be,” said museum educator Michael Goudket.
The museum’s next event will be its “Spymasters Lecture Series: Kenneth A. Daigler” on Jan. 20. More information can be found at raynhamhallmusuem.org.