Published: October 13, 2015
The Southold Historical Society recently named Karen Lund-Rooney as its new director, and she began her position in September. A longtime Southold resident, she has always had a passion for history and historic homes. As director, she will oversee society events, fundraising, professional and volunteer staff, exhibitions, as well as preserving the society’s vast collections of historic artifacts and buildings.
What drew you to Southold and this position?
Having been brought up in a “midcentury” ranch house in suburbia, I was always fascinated by older homes that had such character with cozy upstairs bedrooms with sloping roofs, dusty attics with treasures from old relatives and fireplaces that filled the house with that wonderful woody smell and sometimes a little smoke. While starting to plan for retirement from teaching, I began to look for a historic house to fulfill my dream of living in a totally different time and place. I found my house in Southold, and moved here 2001.
By moving to the North Fork, I naturally became immersed in the history of the area by visiting historic sites, researching the history of my home, and becoming a member of the Oysterponds Historical Society in Orient. As the years went by, I became a willing docent and then the chair of the education committee and a trustee. When the society needed an interim director, I stepped in to serve.
The position of director of the Southold Historical Society was a perfect “match” for my experiences and interests. Having now acted as a director, I had confidence that I would be able to serve Southold well. The combination of my administrative skills, knowledge of how to work toward the mission of a historical society and overall fascination with the history of the area made me a good candidate. In addition, I live right down the street from my museum complex in a historic home!
What are some of your goals in the future as society director and challenges facing the society?
My main goal is to support the society in fulfilling its mission to further knowledge in history, education and culture. Our staff, board and volunteers have done an amazing job at organizing events and programs to attract residents. I believe our major challenge (and my most pressing goal) is to continue to serve our membership, but also to attract through new programming and educational activities young families who could see the history of this growing area to be relevant and connected to their busy lives.
Tell us a bit about some the of the most interesting historic properties in Southold the society maintains.
All of our properties have a story to tell, but for me, two come to mind very quickly. At our museum complex on the Main Road in Southold, stands the Ice House at was constructed in the late 1700s in Southold on a farm. In these early days, every farm had an ice house, and this one stood on the Thomas Wells farm. The winters were much colder in the Nineteenth Century, so the ponds froze to a great depth. The men of the community would work together to cut ice from the ponds and distribute it to each farm. You can still see the hay and straw that acted as insulation on the floor of the ice house. In the summer months, milk, butter and meats would be set on top of the ice.
The other property that was fascinating is the Horton Point Lighthouse that overlooks Long Island Sound. The lighthouse was constructed in 1857 and now houses our nautical museum.
What will 2016 bring for the society, in terms of exhibitions/projects, etc?
We are discussing the planning several exhibitions, which might include New York City scenes by prominent local photographers, samplers, and Christmas cards. Engaging in the process of strategic planning will be a project that the board and membership will be involved in the new year.
As with most antique lovers, we have a passion for historic houses, which you share.
My home, which I share with my husband, John and stepson, John Andrew, was built circa 1783, and is a Colonial Path house, which is 1½ stories. In addition to installing clapboard and wood shingles on the house, I restored a small room in the front by taking down a wall that separated two small rooms and opening up the original doorway to this “birthing room.” Although the room now is used as a laundry room, its original purpose of being a place of the beginning of life pervades the feel of the entire home. Moving into this home has give us a new beginning in an historic setting.
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