The Southold Historical Society has been approved for a grant by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation in the amount of $72,245 to complete a project for the care of its collection. The creation of a good environment for all parts of the collection fulfills the society’s mission of being a good steward of what has been entrusted to the society over the years. The funds will be used to install heating and cooling systems (HVAC)in several of its historic houses and structures.
The Southold Historical Society was charted by the Board of Regents in 1965. The organization was founded out of the need of community members to have a safe, welcoming place where they could store and exhibit historical artifacts they loved and grew up with in Southold. Each artifact tells a piece of the story of Southold and its families, including its maritime and farming cultures, including its artistic environment which has nurtured various artists over the years. As Southold’s populace grew to include newcomers from ”up island” as well as from Manhattan and surrounding states, the founders of the society, under the leadership of Ann Currie-Bell, formalized this collection of history. Ann personified the interest in history here in Southold. She was born and raised in the house on the Main Road to which she returned as a married woman. Toward the end of her life, she gave this residence and its contents to the historical society, which she founded, as its first meeting and museum space.
The Southold Historical Society’s collection consists of over 25,000 objects relating to local and regional history, including paintings, ceramics, decoys, decorative arts and furniture, documents, maps, books, textiles, farm equipment, carriages, tools, whaling objects, etc. These objects are stored in the various houses and structures which the society owns. In the Prince Building located in the heart of Southold on the Main Road, textiles, art work and the archives are housed. The Prince Building accommodates the society’s offices, the Museum Shop and the Treasure Exchange (Consignment shop). When the project of the installation of the HVAC systems are completed, the collection will be moved to storage (and exhibit) to the Ann Currie-Bell House, the Thomas Moore House and the Pettit Center at the Museum Complex on the Main Road.
The Ann Currie-Bell House was built in 1901 by Joseph and Ella Hallock and was later occupied by Ann Currie-Bell and her husband, Tom Currie-Bell, a Scottish portraitist. Most of the furniture in the house is original, as well as the art work. In the gallery, art work by local artists have been displayed, and thematic exhibitions have used pieces of the collection for public view. After the HVAC system is installed, the doll collection and the textile/quilt collection will be stored and exhibited on the second floor.
The Thomas Moore House was built on this plot of land at the museum complex in the mid-1700s, and was continuously occupied unto the 1970’s. The first floor houses an open hearth kitchen, a dining room, a loom room and bedroom, interpreted as they would have been in the mid-1700’s. In preparation for the installation of the HVAC systems, the doll and toy collections on the second floor have been moved to the Ann Currie-Bell House where they will be stored and exhibited. The second floor will now become exclusively storage space.
The Downs Carriage House’s (1840) (Robert Long Print Shop) exterior is original to its purpose as a carriage house, while the inside has been refurbished to resemble an early 20th century print shop. Three printing presses from the area are housed there, including the Hurricane Press and a Merganthaler Linotype. The installation of the HVAC system will ensure that the restoration of the presses will enable the use of the presses in demonstrations to school groups and other visitors.
The Pettit Center, built as a residence in the 1950’s, was the previous Director’s residence. With the support of the grant and a private donor, the building will be renovated to become a central collections center and an art gallery. Four rooms on the main floor with additional space in the basement will be used for collections storage. The building will be fitted with an HVAC system that will enable collections items to be safely stored there.