The Westhampton Beach Historical Society began with 13 local residents who felt that the history of our community should be preserved for future generations. These Founders, including Reverend Wilbur Sadleir, Ria Del Bene, Ridgie Barnett, Greg Minasian, Anne Kirsch, Barbara Betts and Frank Goul, first met in 1989 at the home of Barbara Betts, with the purpose of promoting historical research, encouraging greater knowledge of Westhampton area history, preserving historical artifacts and structures, and establishing a local historical museum.
Our first exhibit, “A Walk Through Yesterday” was mounted in 1990 in a rented store on Main Street to introduce the Society to the community. The Hampton Chronicle (now the Southampton Press) provided our first publicity and we began accepting members. Membership costs the first year were only $5 for individuals, $7.50 for families and $15 for businesses; of course our entire 1990 budget was only $1,051!!
Our first fund-raiser was also held that year – a chicken supper at the Beach Methodist Church. Behind the scenes, the Society Founders pursued the necessary paperwork with the New York State Board of Regents, with the result that a Conditional Charter was granted to the Society.
By early 1991 news of our Society had spread throughout the community, to the point that when Ken and Vicki Rosenberg contemplated construction on their property in Quiogue, requiring them to demolish an old house, they instead offered it to the Society for use as a museum. We were delighted and promptly took them up on the offer. In March 1991 the Society requested permission from the Village to lease the grounds on which the museum now stands so the house could be moved. Mayor Arma E. Andon was very supportive and expressed the willingness of the Village to host a local historical museum. A long-term lease was subsequently executed and the museum building was relocated later in 1991.
The result is our current Tuthill House Museum – named for the family that originally built the house in Remsenburg in 1840. The Museum took four years and $150,000 to restore and opened in 1995. During those years before the Tuthill House Museum was restored and opened to the public, we continued to develop and present exhibits wherever we could find a venue. Early exhibits were presented in the library showcases and in local store windows. We also helped present an exhibit in the Westhampton Beach Post Office in 1991 for their 50th Anniversary building rededication. (The Westhampton Beach Post Office building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.)
New York State Board of Regents granted the Westhampton Beach Historic Society an absolute charter and we opened the Museum in 1995.
Our Current Home – The Tuthill House Museum
The house was built in 1840 by Josiah Tuthill. Josiah was a grandson of John Tuthill who came from Southold about 1760 to become a first settler of Speonk (later renamed Remsenburg).
The house was originally located on South County Road, a wide avenue made truly beautiful by lovely Colonial and Victorian homes fronted by white picket fences and stately trees.
In the mid to late 1890’s the house served as the local post office and gathering spot, with Josiah Tuthill’s son, Gilbert, acting as Postmaster.
In 1954 the house was sold and floated by bay to Quiogue, at a site on Foster Lane.
In 1990, the house was donated to WHBHS. By 1991, the quaint old farmhouse was once again on the move—this time to its current site on Mill Road.
With dedication, commitment and community support, the Historical Society opened the totally renovated house-museum to the public in 1995.
Thurston Raynor Milk House
Now located on the museum grounds, the Thurston Raynor Milk House was once a part of the Thurston Raynor Homestead located on the southeast corner of South Road and Apaucuck Point Road in Westhampton.
The homestead was named for Thurston Herrick Raynor, who operated a dairy farm at the site and died without family heirs in 1961. He was the last of five generations of Raynors to have lived at the homestead. This homestead is believed to have originally been constructed by Nathan Raynor in the mid 1700’s.
During Thurston’s time the milk house building contained a cream separator. Surplus milk was carried from the barns across Apaucuck Point Road to the milk house, The milk was treated in the separator, which initially was hand cranked and later operated with an electric motor. The cellar beneath the milk house was used to store ice packed in salt hay or seaweed to keep the cream cool. Thurston Raynor had a milk route, mostly in Culvertown (Baycrest Road area in Westhampton), delivering milk and cream via horse-drawn buggy.
(Davis Brothers Engineering moved the Milk House to its current location in August 2005.)
The Meeker Carriage House and Privy
The original structure dates from about 1845 and was most likely used as a small barn and two-seater privy. The building stood behind the Foster-Meeker House on Main Street, Westhampton Beach. The two-seater privy is an excellent example of historic sanitary waste management practices!
In 2008 Walter Goldstein donated this carriage house and privy to the Historical Society and it was moved to its present location next to the Thurston Raynor Milk House at 101 Mill Road. The restoration was completed in 2009 and the Meeker Carriage House now houses the Society’s permanent collection of farm tools as well as an Amish courting carriage donated by the Bauer family.
The Foster-Meeker House – An Education Center For All Ages
Part of our mission is to preserve the history of the area and to educate people of all ages about our past. To that end we have undertaken the restoration of the Foster-Meeker House, the oldest home in Westhampton Beach, built around 1735. January 2013 marks the beginning of the interior, very carefully undertaken, demolition and restoration of this historic home.