America’s Kitchens at the Long Island Museum

Currently at the Long Island Museum of Art, History, and Carriages (the Stony Brook Carriage Museum) is the Historic New England traveling exhibit, “America’s Kitchens.” The museum is located on Route 25A in Stony Brook, NY.  The main buildings are the art museum and the carriage museum and there is a collection of historic buildings including a blacksmith shop, a barn, a schoolhouse, and a privy.

We were most excited for the America’s Kitchens exhibit so we headed to the art museum first, where the exhibit is housed. Pictures were allowed, so here are a few.

The entrance to the exhibit.

The exhibit included a few period kitchens from historic houses and displays of changing technology such as ovens and refrigerators.

Food preservation display.

Food preservation display: barrels with sand, ice box, a 1930s refrigerator and 1950s refrigerator (both by General Electric).

1874 "Victorian" kitchen from Illinois.

Post World War II Kitchen.

An easy bake oven, 1975-1985.

We enjoyed the entire exhibit and had a good time looking at everyone, but we came out feeling like it was not thorough enough. The layout may be different in each place, but the layout here wasn’t exactly chronological. It just seemed to be too much of an overview, and we kept wanting to know more. We wanted to open the ovens and learn more about the gadgets. A few other small groups of people walked in while we were there but didn’t spend as much time as we did, so maybe we are just really into kitchens. Other visitors seemed to enjoy it as well.

After America’s Kitchens we walked around the grounds and looked into the other buildings. It was a beautiful day for strolling the grounds. We did not visit the carriage museum, though we have previously (school field trips).

Looking down the hill from the art museum.

The barn at the museum. Inside are the three bays (threshing floor, hay mow, and stalls) with many farm tools.

The school house and privy.

Inside the blacksmith shop.

The grounds at the museum with a fountain for the people and horses of New York, dated 1880.

For anyone in the area, we would recommend the entire museum. Admission prices are $9 for adults and $4 for students. It’s a beautiful place. After the museum, walk down the street to the historic grist mill, the duck pond, and Avalon Park.

You Slept Where?

What do a tee-pee, a school house, a lighthouse, a library, and train cars have in common?  All across the country, properties such as those are being rehabilitated into unique inns.  Properties that may have suffered a terrible fate are saved and shared with the public while making a profit! It certainly seems better than turning it into a static historic site museum, huh?  Without further research, I am not able to verify a property’s historic integrity or if it meets the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, but I still think it’s fascinating. 

A friend’s parents recently visited the Grassy Creek Cabooses & Depot in Fancy Gap, VA, which has inspired me to look up similar places. The cabooses were transported to the site, so integrity can be questioned; however, check out the moving pictures on the site.  If the owners of Grassy Creek had not bought these cabooses, then they’d probably be long gone! It turns out that you can rent a train car in many states.  I’ve known about lighthouse inns, but none of the others.  

Rehabilitating a school house into an inn seems like a very environmentally friendly idea.  Many historic school houses face neglect and demolition because they are deemed to small to suit a district’s needs or not up to fire code.  After all, there can only be a certain number of viable historic school house museums. School houses have rooms and probably enough space for a reception area. In similar fashion, many school houses are being converted to apartments or lofts.  School houses are typically in a downtown setting, therefore nearby many tourist friendly activities.  And historic school houses are typically beautiful and visible.  Check out this one in Lava Hot Springs, ID and this one in Bisbee, AZ

Lighthouses must be wonderful places to spend a few nights as well. After all, they’re small, solitary, on the water, romantic, gorgeous…and sadly out of use in the nautical world (the historic ones that is).  Lighthouse inns are easy to find, but this one in California is beautiful. 

The website, Unusual Hotels of the World, lists many in the United States (disclaimer: not all are historic) including a library in New York City, the Route 66 Wigwam Hotel, more lighthouses and more trains.  And of course, you should check out the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America.

In regards to all of these historic properties, mentioned and unmentioned: there is nothing more satisfying than seeing that property finds new use once it has fallen out of favor with its old use.  We live in a society that needs to recycle buildings and sites and bring the past with us to the future.  A misconception is that historic hotels or unique inns are much more expensive than the chain hotels, when in fact it is often not true. A solution? Branch out from your usual lodging on trips. Those privately owned motels are not necessarily better or worse than the chain hotels.  And share the love – where have you stayed or where do you want to stay?  Do your preservation tendencies influence your lodging choices? If not yet, do you want them to influence your decisions?

Nebraska School House

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Location: Highway 26A, right after Junction 385S before Scottsbluff County

Click on the photos for full size images!

Taken August 2006 as I traversed the midwest with my mom and sister Sarah.  We were even scared half to death by someone screaming at us “your on private property!”  If that was true, we’re not sure, but likely my out-of-state NY plates provoked the comment.  They sped off in their run down truck, probably not really caring but wanting to scare us.   Trespassing is not endorsed, just to set the record straight.

If you are looking for information about school houses, contact Elyse, who wrote her undergrad thesis on Madison County, IL school houses.