Heckscher Museum’s 100th anniversary prompts renovation plans

Heckscher Museum’s 100th anniversary prompts renovation plans

The Heckscher Museum of Art. Photo by Anthony Petriello

By Anthony Petriello

Over the next two years, the staff of a Huntington museum hope to restore its former glory in time to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

The Town of Huntington’s town board voted unanimously to allow The Heckscher Museum of Art to begin raising approximately $500,000 to fund critical renovations at its July 17 meeting.

“The cost is high,” said Michael Schantz, the museum’s executive director and CEO, “but the museum raises money all the time to support exhibitions, programs, and community events, so I don’t anticipate any issue in raising the funds.”

The stairs leading up to The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington. Photo by Anthony Petriello

From crumbling French limestone to sagging steps, the museum located inside Heckscher Park is in desperate need of repair to prevent further damage to the already crumbling historic exterior. The building is listed on both the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. It is also the longest-standing art museum building in continuous use in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to Schantz, and is a fine
example of Renaissance Revival architecture in need of preservation.

“The Heckscher Museum is the foundation from which all of Huntington’s cultural offerings have grown,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “I’m proud to support the historical preservation efforts that will help the museum and the town continue to welcome and educate patrons of the arts for years to come.”

The museum has several structural issues, most detrimental of which is the roofing. Ken Moss, superintendent of buildings and grounds, said poorly designed drainage on the primarily
flat roof has caused pooling of water that has caused the roof to begin buckling. It poses a grave threat of allowing water to leak into the building, putting priceless art pieces at risk of damage.

The coping stones, or the tops of shorter walls along the front of the building, have extensive damage caused primarily by skateboarders, according to the museum.

The side wall of the Heckscher museum shows discoloration of the limestone bricks and cracking in the walls. Photo by Anthony Petriello

Since the public donation of the museum by philanthropists August and Nannie Heckscher in 1920, settling of exterior steps and patios has caused them to become misshapen and leaves them in need to removal and resetting. The limestone exterior walls have cracked in some areas, and repairs from the past have become discolored compared to the surrounding historic limestone, leaving the entire exterior surface in need of refinishing.

The museum’s staff also wants to remove extensive staining on the building’s limestone exterior walls, stairs and walkways. Due to the stone’s porous nature, it has absorbed airborne pollutants and provides a surface on which green mold can propagate.

Moss said due to the building’s location in Heckscher Park, adjacent to a pond, as well as its sheer age, several factors must be taken into consideration when cleaning its exterior surfaces.

“We need to use cleaners that are environmentally friendly and conservative to the building,” Moss said. “It’s extremely important that we protect the wildlife in the park.”

By repairing and cleaning The Heckscher Museum’s exterior, Schantz indicated how it would further add to the town’s recent beautification  of the surrounding parkland.

“The park has never looked so good,” he said. “and the people that come here have certainly
noticed the difference.”

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