By Melissa Arnold
Since 1964, the Three Village Historical Society (TVHS) has worked hard to preserve and share the community’s past with future generations. You’ve likely seen the historical society members and volunteers at local events, like the annual Spirits Tour, Culper Spy Day, Prohibition Night, or the Candlelight House Tour during the holidays.
The society is also dedicated to protecting local historic properties of all kinds. Recently, they were awarded a $350,000 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to be used to rebuild, restore, and repurpose the Dominick-Crawford Barn, a historically significant building from circa 1847. The barn will have a new home in the field neighboring the historical society’s headquarters. The meadow is currently used to host a farmer’s market every Friday through September.
The pre-Civil War barn was originally located just inside the boundaries of Old Field. It was in poor condition, suffering from the lack of upkeep and long-term exposure to the elements. But TVHS member president Steve Hintze saw potential in the wooden structure.
“The Village of Old Field planned to demolish the barn, but we felt it was historically significant because it was one of the last of its time,” said Hintze, who served as historical society president in 2007.
The barn also serves as an example of two different eras of construction. According to Hintze, You can still see the markings of traditional hand saws, but the work of circular saws is also evident — a method that was still very new at the time. The finished structure was a blending of the old and the new.
It’s been a long road to earn the funding to support the project. Early on, Hintze reached out to Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who guided the society toward a $300,000 grant from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. This additional grant from the Gardiner Foundation will allow construction to move forward with a barn raising this fall.
Of course, such an old structure would need to be entirely rebuilt to meet the requirements of modern safety codes. The historical society chose to use the old timber for the exterior while shoring up the interior with stronger materials. In this way, the barn is getting the best of both worlds.
“It gives us greater structural stability while honoring the original look,” explained Steve Healy, current president of the historical society.
Acquiring the barn also has practical advantages for the society, where space has always been at a premium.
“We always seem to be short on space, and it was one of those things where we were looking for something new and the barn really fit the bill. We’re very happy about it,” said Healy.
In the recent past, the historical society could only allow groups of 25 people at a time into its exhibit space inside its headquarters at 93 Main Street in Setauket. This limit forced them to turn away larger groups, most notably schools that hoped to visit on a field trip.
Once completed, the new two-story, 35-by-50-foot space will be able to accomodate more than 200 people, Hintze said.
It will include teaching facilities, interchangeable exhibit space and archives. The center will allow the Society to supplement the archival space currently being used at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket and provide accessible, climate-controlled storage for the society’s many historical artifacts.
“We are always being offered historical documents and artifacts from the community, so this will give us an opportunity to brush the dust off our archives and share them,” Healy explained.
And as the area recovers from the pandemic, the historical society is looking forward to hosting future large events, including auctions, summer camps, and even hoedowns at the barn.
“We’re excited to bring the community together for historical and educational opportunities of all kinds,” said Hintze. “When you start a project from just the seed of an idea and eventually see it come to fruition, it’s a great feeling.”
For more information about the Three Village Historical Society, visit www.tvhs.org.