Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Welcome to the Mather Museum Complex

Hello! I would like to present the Mather Museum Complex. It looks just like a regular house right? Well it is and that is part of its charm but it is so much more than that and in this blog we will explore all that this amazing museum has to offer. However, before we get to any of that I think some introductions are in order. My name is Phil and I am a docent at the Mather Museum and I will admit, extremely biased! I have been lucky enough to be involved with this museum since 2009. It is here that I would like to point out that this blog is my own personal one, any views expressed here are mine and may or may not be those of the Port Jefferson Historical Society. Therefore, if there is anything that one reads in this blog that one disagrees with or if something upsets one then contact me and not the Society.  Moving on, I received my masters in education in Social Studies in 2007 and found that I was over qualified to teach in the high schools and junior highs or rather my price tag was too high to be considered. In the spring of 2009 I was looking to get into some museum work so I did a search of all the museums on Long Island. I tried the ones that were considered the "big ones" like the Vanderbilt, the Stony Brook Carriage Museum - or the Long Island Museum - and the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum. All great places which I encourage everyone to visit but also places that did not need anyone at that time. On the list was a local museum, The Mather Museum, of course my first thought was the Mather Hospital and a hospital museum did not excite me all that much. I contacted and met the secretary, Denice, an amazing woman who helps keep the museum running smooth. Denice got me in touch with the curator, Laura Warren, and I have been in love with the house since that first tour. Since that time I have met and worked with some of the most dedicated and wonderful people I could ever hope to meet. These are people who understand what it means to be apart of a community and who do everything they can to preserve its history and ensure a future. Port Jefferson itself is a special town. Yes we can get busy with tourists, whom we love, but if one just slows down and takes a stroll down East Main Street and talks with some of the wonderful residents then one will see what I mean. It is a town that cherishes its history. What better place could a historian ask for?

Laura also gave me an amazing opportunity. On my inaugural tour Laura mentioned that the Society has in their possession copies of letters from two brothers written to one another and home during the American Civil War. She also expressed that one of her deepest wishes was that they would be transcribed. A young historian just starting out does not get many opportunities such as this. I know I did not want to appear overly anxious to help her fulfill this wish and I am sure I came off more anxious that I hoped to be. Thus my journey with the letters of the Platt brothers began on July 4, 2009. Just because I love history does not mean I cannot be dramatic and what better way to celebrate the birth of the nation than by perusing Civil War letters? The brothers William and Jesse Platt came from Huntington NY and after the war William became a Port Jeffersonian. I did more than just transcribe and after three years the fruit of my labor was a book entitled I Now Take Up My Pen. I will talk about the letters in the future and the book can be purchased for $25 by contacting the Historical Society. Neither I nor the Society have made a dime from this though. All of the money goes to print more books and a portion of the books published get donated to schools and libraries so order today and help us share this amazing piece of history!

In the next post I will get more into the history of the house. Right now I wanted to touch on what else there is that we offer. We have the first floor of this gorgeous house which was originally built in 1840 with an addition in 1860, we have an amazing and unique clock collection, the Spinney Clock Collection, with 200 antique clocks maintained by one of the best clock guilds around, we have lovely grounds maintained by the Suwasset Garden Club and Kunz Greenhouses, and our outer buildings which are original to the house. The outer buildings consist of: The Tool Shed - a lot more interesting than it sounds - a carriage House, an upper barn that once housed the Mather's harness racing equipment and which was brilliantly turned into a barber shop, the first Port Jefferson Post Office and a General Store. Then we move to what I end up calling the lower barn but which we officially call the Marine Barn & Sail Loft - it is here that one can really see the beauty and extent of the property and where just last week I came across two doe feeding - we then wrap up the outer buildings with a shed of farm equipment, chair caning and the belle of the ball our two-seater outhouse. We recently were able to construct an archive building that looks like an ice house. The final building on the property is another 1840 house which we call the Craft House. The Craft House is also where one can find our Museum Shop which is open when the museum is open and again I am biased but this shop is an antique secret and there are some very exciting finds.

And that is the property! Most tours last for about a half of an hour to forty-five minutes, mine go a bit longer because I am detail oriented and have a lot of the history to share. I also have never had a tour where the people I have toured were not shocked and surprised by the scope of the museum. Not only in the size of the property but the extent of the artifacts as well as the uniqueness of said artifacts. We have a lot and it is a lot to take in. Another great part of this museum is the price. We accept donations, one does not have to purchase anything. We would appreciate it if people did give something in order to keep the museum up and running and in order to expand our services to the community. Look around at the prices for other museums. In the end most people are so impressed with what we offer that they always give what they can.

I will explore in depth various aspects of the museum and the Society in the future. If you like what you have read so far then come on down and take a tour. Personally I am there on Fridays and Sundays but any day you go I guarantee that one will be pleasantly surprised. Tour the house, have a nice lunch in Port, check out the Port Jefferson Recreation Department and then watch the ferry's come in from the Harborfront Park Pier.

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