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May 6, 2009 3:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Historical Society celebrates 20-year anniversary

May 6, 2009 3:11 PM

The seeds of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society were planted 20 years ago, when a dozen or so local history buffs started meeting every few weeks at the Josiah Foster house on Main Street to discuss how to save the village’s history.

On Sunday afternoon, those same history buffs, the original founding members of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society, were honored at a Founder’s Day Luncheon held at the Westhampton Country Club on Potunk Lane in Westhampton Beach.

“They started with practically nothing,” said Bob Murray, the current vice president of the organization. “They wanted to preserve what is left of this area.”

Tickets to the event cost $100 each, and proceeds from the brunch are going toward the Historical Society’s restoration of the Foster-Meeker homestead, an 18th-century Cape Cod-style house that was moved from Main Street to Mill Road last year. The home is now adjacent to the Tuthill House, another home preserved by the organization. That home was originally located in Quiogue and moved to Mill Road in the village.

On Monday, Mr. Murray said he did not yet know how much Sunday’s event raised for his organization. The group is hoping to preserve the Foster-Meeker homestead, which was built in 1735, and renovate its interior to show how the inside of a home would have looked in the mid-1700s. Mr. Murray explained that it will cost approximately $400,000 to preserve and restore the home.

Sunday’s lunch was the first anniversary celebration that the Historical Society has ever thrown for itself, Mr. Murray said. He noted that Lisa Fox, a trustee of the group, organized the festivities that attracted about 50 people.

Ora Belle “Ridgie” Barnett, the current president of the Historical Society and one of the founding members who was honored Sunday, recalled the first days of the organization.

“At the first meetings, we talked about history,” Ms. Barnett said. “We never took minutes; We talked about doing things.”

Ms. Barnett explained that one of the first events the society ever held was called “A Walk Through Yesterday.” She said that group members filled a vacant store on Main Street with antiques and pictures. Members of the public were then welcome to peruse the Westhampton-area relics, Ms. Barnett said.

The exhibit provided the impetus for the Historical Society’s acquisition of the Tuthill House, Ms. Barnett explained. She said that at the event, she was introduced to the Rosenbergs, who were building a home on Quiogue and had planned on taking down the Tuthill house, which was on their property. Rather than demolish the building, the Rosenbergs donated it to the Historical Society.

“We were able to work with the Rosenbergs and the village,” Ms. Barnett said, adding that Westhampton Beach owns the land on Mill Road where the Tuthill House is now featured. Today, the Tuthill House serves as the Historical Society’s home base.

“Naturally, we wanted to have a place where we could meet,” Ms. Barnett said.

Beecher Halsey, 87, another original member of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society, also played an important role in moving and restoring the Tuthill House. “I was more involved with the mechanics of putting the house on the foundation, and getting it fixed up and repaired,” Mr. Halsey said.

Mr. Halsey, who was not able make it to Sunday’s brunch, said he had an interest in creating the Westhampton Beach Historical Society because of his family’s roots in the area. He said that he still has a deed for property in Speonk and Westhampton that was once owned by one of his family members, Abraham Halsey. The deed is dated 1721.

“We’ve been here for many, many years,” Mr. Halsey said. “I’ve always been interested in the history and heritage of the area.”

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Congratulations Westhampton Historical! Keep up the good work. It is a joy to see what strides you have made in the last 20 years.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on May 6, 09 7:34 PM
Congratulations ! Hi Ron !
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on May 7, 09 11:09 AM