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Historic Hempstead Town: Rock Hall Museum

By: Kate Nalepinski
Rock Hall Museum

Photo Courtesy Rock Hall Museum

The preservation of Long Island’s historic structures helps us understand, appreciate and plan for our future. In the Town of Hempstead, not only the largest township in the United States but one of the most historic structures anywhere in the country, the importance and challenge are equally at the forefront of such efforts.

“More and more historic buildings are being torn down and destroyed, by either neglect and or greed,” says Hempstead Town historian Tom Saltzman. “Landmarking at least prevents the destruction of… buildings that have been important in the history of the town, its population and its families.”

Join us now as we continue our six-part series celebrating some of the most celebrated historical structures in the Town of Hempstead.

Rock Hall Museum
199 Broadway, Lawrence

The Rock Hall Museum is a “surviving example of Georgian domestic architecture,” according to “Preserving Hempstead’s Heritage,” a text by the Town of Hempstead Landmarks Preservation Commission under Supervisor Richard Guardino. Constructed in 1767, this two-and-a-half-story white mansion overlooking Jamaica Bay was originally the home of Josiah Martin, an Antiguan sugar planter who was loyal to the British crown.

The mansion was purchased in 1824 by Thomas Hewlett, and in 1948, George Hewlett, a descendent of Thomas, surrendered the building to the Town of Hempstead. It is currently owned and maintained by the town and Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. Enrolled on the National Register of Historic Places, it is also a New York State Revolutionary War Trail Site.

“The museum offers a guided tour, programs of historic interest, special lectures and an educational program for students,” the museum website offers. “Visit the museum’s cellar. The Warming Kitchen, Cold Storage Room and Wine Cellar offer fascinating views of the rarely seen working areas in an 18th century plantation-style home. Also located in the cellar is the museum’s ongoing Archaeology Exhibit Room. There you will see a display of 18th and 19th century artifacts that continue to be uncovered during excavations at Rock Hall.”

For up-to-date information on new exhibits, events and seeing the museum in person, visit friendsofrockhall.org.

Related: Visit the Wantagh Railroad Museum