The history of Wantagh is closer then ever thanks to the and the . Although the museum maintains everything as it was in the 1900s, it’s recently been having a bit of a makeover.
In the 1960s, when the Long Island Rail Road began to elevate the tracks as part of renovations, plans were made to demolish Wantagh’s train station. Community members, wanting to preserve the history of Wantagh, formed the Wantagh Preservation Society. A non-profit organization based on Wantagh, working not only to maintain the Wantagh Museum, but also to preserve and improve upon the history of Wantagh.
These original members worked to have the first structure the Wantagh Museum occupied – the station—moved its current location. The society worked to restore the structure to its 1904 appearance and opened it to the public. In addition, the “Jamaica,” a parlor car built for the Long Island Rail Road, was donated by the LIRR to the society in 1972. The car was built in 1912 and maintains that appearance today.
Tom Watson, president of the Wantagh Preservation Society, says it’s important for residents to realize that the station, as historical as it is, is more than just that.
“It’s actually the home of the Wantagh Museum… home of the history of Wantagh,” Watson said.
Inside can be found a whole museum dedicated to Wantagh’s history, complete with various exhibits of photographs and memorabilia, which preserve the original state of the community.
About 10 years ago, according to Watson, donated the third structure that makes up the museum - the original Wantagh Post Office. Currently, the society is in the midst of restoring it to its original appearance.
Those aren’t the only renovations and changes happening, Watson added. Thanks to a grant from the county the society is also working to stabilize the deterioration of other structures that make up the museum, such as the train itself.
The work the Society has done to bring these structures to Wantagh in their original conditions, as well as the exhibits inside, make this museum more than just a “train museum,” Watson reminds residents.
“This museum allows residents to get a glimpse of Wantagh’s history, and see the town as it once was,” he said.
The museum is open to the public free of charge and staffed fully by volunteers. If you have a piece of Wantagh history you’d like to share with the museum, Watson says there is plenty of opportunity to do so. Visit the website, call, or just stop by the museum.