The Save Second House committee, a brand-new arm of the Montauk Historical Society, has four members and some big ideas for restoring the run-down building, which houses a museum.
The committee includes Honora Herlihy as its chairwoman, Nora Franzetti as secretary and treasurer, Lawrence Cooke, who has been working to establish an Indian Museum on the north side of the property, and Kathryn Nadeau, who replaced Elizabeth White last month as president of the historical society.
Members are planning a slew of fund-raisers, starting May 10 with a dog walk around Fort Pond and play time on the museum’s grounds from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Animal Rescue Fund’s mobile adoption van will be on site, as will professional dog trainers offering training tools. There will also be vendors, raffles, food and doggie treats, and a Manly Man Milk Bone-eating contest.
Although a museum, Second House is better known for the craft fairs it holds there each summer. It was one of the first three houses built in Montauk in the late 1700s, all of which were lost to fire. First House burned down in 1798 and was rebuilt, only to burn down again in 1909 and never be rebuilt. Third House, which is now part of a Suffolk County park, was rebuilt in 1806. Second House was rebuilt in 1797.
The three houses were used by the cattle keepers and shepherds who cared for the herds that were driven “on Montauk” to graze during the months of May through November. It took about six hours for their owners, residents of East Hampton, to herd the animals out east.
The keeper’s job at Second House was to keep cows out of the sheep pasture and make sure the sheep did not stray east into cattle lands, according to Peg Winski’s 1997 book, “Montauk, an Anecdotal History.” Ms. Winski, who has since died, was a member of the historical society and a teacher at the Montauk School for many years.
In October 1990, the staff of Victoria magazine (a now-defunct publication “dedicated to all things lacey, flowery, and beautiful”) spruced the place up for a photo shoot, which, while flowery and beautiful, had its historical character removed for cosmetic reasons that some historians were not too happy about.
Since then the museum has stayed low key. One winter it housed a raccoon that wreaked havoc on the interior.
Those who visit the craft fairs sometimes wander to the back of the building to see the heirloom garden in bloom with lavender, hollyhock, sage, and other flowers and herbs. In season, roses and ivy tumble over the shingled building and faded arbor that wears a crown of rose thorns. The museum is open in summer on weekends, though many visitors are unaware of it. Schoolchildren studying local history often visit the site.
Members of the new committee want to rejuvenate and restore Second House’s roof, windows, slashes, and toilets, and to repair its shingles, some of which are patched. It will take a lot of money, which means they are looking at a long-term commitment. But they are ready to bring life back to the place, and will hold outdoor movies and other fund-raising events there this summer.
They would very much like to have the museum added to the National Register of Historic Places, which could mean grant money might be available for its restoration. Ms. Nadeau is sorting through the requirements now.
It is not necessary to bring a dog to join the first fund-raiser on May 10, which will start and end at the museum and circle Fort Pond. There is a $20 donation fee requested. More information can be found at savesecondhouse@ gmail.com.