A new exhibit at Hallockville Museum Farm takes visitors back in time to learn about the historic Grange Hall in Northville and the Grange movement on the North Fork.
Curated by Nancy Gilbert, Richard Wines, Mary Anne Huntington and Gabrielle Colen, the exhibit explores the landmark’s interesting past as well as the history of the movement with which it became associated — and for which it is named.
Located on Sound Avenue opposite Church Lane, Grange Hall was built in 1831 in Aquebogue as a Strict Congregationalist Meeting House. It was moved to its present location in 1834 and served as a church until 1860, when it was converted for use as a school by the Northville Academy, a private co-educational secondary school that enrolled more than 160 students.
The academy added a bell tower to the building and purchased an iron bell from an Ohio company that made “plantation bells” for “the southern trade,” according to the exhibit. The bell tower blew down in the 1938 hurricane and the bell has rested in the coal bin at Grange Hall ever since. The bell, which had not been rung for more than 70 years, was lent by First Parish Church, which owns Grange Hall, to Hallockville for the exhibit. Volunteers constructed a temporary stand for the bell so that it could be rung. Visitors are invited to pull the cord and ring the bell.
The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, a national fraternal organization founded in 1867, advocates for rural America and agriculture. Though it is still active today, the Grange movement was at its peak in 1873, the year the Sound Avenue Grange was founded, when the national movement boasted 2 million members.
In addition to advocating for agriculture, the Grange provided much-needed recreational and social activities for its members. These included dances and social gatherings.
The Sound Avenue Grange was both the first to be established on Long Island and the last to have meetings — in the 1990s.
On display in the exhibit are photographs of Grange members and activities, as well as numerous artifacts from Grange Hall, including a wooden pew from the original 1831 church, wood and brass staffs used by Grange officers, and a voting box used by Grange members to vote on prospective members. Members would vote on prospective members by placing a white or a black marble in the box. A single black marble disqualified the person seeking membership; any member could thus “black ball” an applicant.
Also on display is a quilt made by Grange member Betsy Jane Young Luce (1833-1877), whose great-granddaughter, Martha Salvatore, was on hand for the opening reception of the exhibit on Friday. The quilt was loaned to Hallockville by Luce descendent Nora Beth Mack.
The exhibit also includes audio recordings of recollections of Grange members.
Grange Hall today has returned to its roots as a Congregational meeting house. It is owned by First Parish Church, which this spring rented out its church building on the south side of the road to a Baptist congregation and began holding its own worship services at Grange Hall.
The exhibit is located inside the Trubisz “Little House” at Hallockville and will be open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m. through the end of the year.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti
We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.