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Way-Finding Signs Are in OB’s Future

Preserve America project manager Meredith Maus working on historic signage

When the Oyster Bay Main Street Association (MSA) received a Preserve America grant, it put into motion a two-year project that is still in the works. It included working with local students to encourage their knowledge of local history and is now in the pre-production phase as they fine-tune the copy and photos for way-finding signs that are the aim of the program.

Presently, Meredith Maus is the project manager for the Preserve America efforts. She is currently using the Oyster Bay Historical Society files to look at antique photographs to include in the interpretive signs. As shown in a photograph of the Octagon Hotel plaque, the larger signs may use more than one photograph to identify each location.

Maus is a Massapequa resident who just graduated from the University of Vermont with a master’s in historic preservation.  She began her career on a consulting project in Vermont.

“It was a historical structure report for a 1960s passive solar house. They were preparing documentation – with all the information in one place – for when it finally became historic,” she said.

Maus worked as an intern at the MSA last year.

She said, “I learned how a nonprofit is run; I did some work on Hillside, the Trousdell house – researched and wrote an existing conditions report; I was involved with the Oyster Bay Farmer’s Market, volunteering alongside of Danielle Olesen who ran the Farmer’s Market. I also helped with the façade and sign improvement projects that OBMSA is currently running.”

At the MSA annual meeting in February, then executive director Isaac Kremer presented her with a book on historic structures reports.

“I had already written one report for the Hillside house, so he was joking - but he said he gave me the book before I wrote the second one,” she explained.

The MSA is working with community leaders in the Preserve America project.

“We showed signs at the annual meeting and also to a Preserve America Committee that is made of heads of different organizations: Harriet Gerard Clark of Raynham Hall Museum; Philip Blocklyn of the Oyster Bay Historical Society; and Patricia Aitken of Friends of the Bay. We’ve been talking about the designs and they are helping me move the project along,” Maus said.

There are decisions to be made about how to display the signs.

“They come in a large and small size. They are all meant to be very descriptive and to be hung outside. The larger will be on posts and the small ones, depending on what the building owner wants, will be on the outside hung like a picture; or on a post so that people can read it, as they walk by the streetscape,” Maus explained.

In the MSA annual report, they said of the signage project, “There are a number of historic buildings that powerfully connect people with the history of our community. Too often the important and powerful stories associated with these buildings remain hidden. A call for interpretive signs to mark historic sites was made as early as the 1975 Downtown Revitalization Guide.

“The Oyster Bay Main Street Association was instrumental at securing a Preserve America grant from the National Park Service for the ‘Finding Your Way in Oyster Bay Service Learning Project,’ and to raise additional private dollars so that interpretive and way-finding signs may be installed in the downtown.

“Assisting in this effort were approximately 50 students from Oyster Bay High School, who wrote the interpretive text to appear on several of the signs, under the direction of their teacher, Dennis Ruthkowski. This service learning project helped to connect these students with the history of their own community. Their work has the added benefit of helping other people understand and appreciate the history of our community,” it concluded.

In the presentation, they added the material that will appear on some of the signs. Somewhere in the area of Nobman’s Hardware Emporium on the corner of South and East Main Street will be a sign for Fleet’s Hall. The information on the sign was written by Nicole F. and says: “Fleet’s Hall was a building that was used for events such as public meetings, concerts, receptions, dances, and dinners from the 1800s to the early 1900s. In addition, it was the site of the first moving picture screening in Oyster Bay and also served as a polling place in 1904, when Roosevelt was on the Republican ticket for president. The building was demolished in the 1920s to make way for Nobman’s Hardware Emporium.”

Another historic marker is planned for the Hood A.M.E. Zion Church at 11 Summit Street at the corner of South Street. It’s story was told by Lauren A. and Lukas D. It says: “The Hood A.M.E. Zion Church was founded in 1848. It holds the distinction of being the oldest continuous congregation holding services in its original church structure in Oyster Bay.”

A sign was originally considered for Fort Hill, but since it already has one, that will not happen. They are planning one for Raynham Hall, but since New York State put up the current sign another one at Raynham Hall is still being considered.

Maus said the MSA Preserve America project includes 72 street signs. They will include on them, the area name such as Florence Park and Adams Park. At the present time, Maus said they are interested in the descriptive signs at about 40 sites, but no decision about them has been finalized. They are also working on a prototype for the street signs which will include a nautical reference.

“A design company, BAI Design, worked with MSA on the original project. MR Signs of Oyster Bay will be helping us with the fabrication,” said Ms. Maus.

For more information about MSA or the Preserve America Project please call 922-6982.