by Michael White |

Greater Patchogue Historical Society vice president Rosemary Lucas got a bit emotional before Sunday’s ceremony to mark the opening of the group’s first-ever museum and exhibition space.

But it wasn’t the first time Lucas had shed tears of joy over the new space, something that’s been 35 years in the making.

“I’ve been a mess since we found out about it,” she laughed.

Historical Society members have been hard at work this past year transforming the lower floor of the recently refurbished Carnegie Library on West Main Street into a museum they feel is worthy of Greater Patchogue’s rich history.

“This whole time, we’ve always been looking for somebody to give us an historic house,” said Dorothy Pavacic, a charter member of the organization that was founded in 1982. “But nobody ever did.”

Now they feel they have something better.

During a touching ceremony on the grounds of the Patchogue-Medford Library’s Carnegie Library, at the corner of West Main Street and West Avenue, several speakers noted the benefits of having the history museum in the building’s lower floor.

Not only is the building itself historic, the upper floor is used for teen and young adults services.

“They can intertwine and can experience each other, and the young people can experience the history of our great village,” said Harold Trabold, president of the library’s board of trustees.

The focal point of the Historical Society space is an interior replica of Cantor’s general store, which had operated on South Ocean Avenue before closing in the 1920s.

“The cabinet is from Cantor’s; the family donated it and we went from there,” said Linda DiLauro, a vice president for the organization.

“This is a dream come true,” she said.

The entire wall carries a Main Street, Patchogue, theme.

The general store area is flanked by historic postcards that were blown up to wallpaper size, along with other artifacts such as a century-old barber’s pole and a Jimmy’s Quality Shoe Repairing sign. (See photos below.)

There’s even a gas lamp post that used to light up the downtown.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” said DiLauro, whose husband, Guy, did all the carpentry.

(A special round of applause was reserved for Guy DiLauro at the ceremony.)

Funding for the project was helped by grant money secured through county Legislator Rob Calarco, also a village resident.

“The nice thing on the local level is you get to see the product of your work … ,” Calarco told the crowd Sunday. “The young people of the Patchogue-Medford community can go right down the staircase and see and learn about heir history and learn about the rich history we have in this community that goes back centuries.

“It’s great we have these dedicated people from the Historical Society who preserved these artifacts and these pieces of history mostly in their homes and their attics and basements, stashed away here and there for years and now they’ll have a great opportunity to present it to all of us.”

ABOUT THE CARNEGIE

The Carnegie Library, which was built using $10,000 in seed money from steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, opened in 1908 on Lake Street — on land that was donated by Edwin Bailey.

The building was used by Patchogue-Medford Library until 1981, when the library moved its operations to Main Street. It was then used by Briarcliffe College, but was left vacant in 1998 after Briarcliffe moved to a larger facility in the village.

The property was eventually purchased by TRITEC Development Corporation, which later built its 291-unit New Village at Patchogue apartment complex between Lake and West Main streets.

TRITEC funded the pricey and painstaking job of lifting the 100-ton brick building and moving it, two inches a minute, to West Street in 2012.

Joined by family, Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri talks about the plaque from Lotito & Romeo Concrete — his grandfather’s company — that he donated.

Town Councilman Neil Foley checks out the vintage television set in the museum space.

Even the bathroom is outfitted with historic artifacts such as this wash bowl and cabinet.

The Early Years exhibit and gas lamp pole that once stood on Main Street.