I had passed this museum many times driving through Rockville Centre, a lovely and desirable incorporated village in the southwestern section of the Town of Hempstead. Except for the museum sign posted on the front lawn, denoting it as a museum, The Phillips House Museum blends into the neighborhood with its numerous house styles, great and small, in a variety of architectural styles that include Victorian and Tudor homes.
With the passage of time, different homeowners, as well as changes and expansions in the town through the greater part of the 20th Century, The Phillips House grew into disrepair and was also situated in the wrong location, when in 1977, plans were being implemented to demolish the old beauty to make way for a parking lot.
And a what a gift these visionaries have left for the town and for posterity! I did not quite know what to expect as I searched for a parking spot and was more than thrilled (to say the least!) when I began walking around this charming former residence. Mrs. Reagan started her enchanting tour in the Guest Parlor, filled with items that were typical of the time, including lovely period furniture and decorative items. As we proceeded towards the back of the home, we made our way into the Family Parlor, with a beautiful couch and chairs, adorned with needlepointed imagery.
The kitchen, is perhaps one of the most fun rooms of all! Not only will you find an old “ice box”, the predecessor of our modern day refrigerator, as well as a super cool stove that had the option for both coal burning (to give off more heat in the cold weather) and electric (for the summer), but a huge collection of kitchen gadgets for almost every use possible for cooking.
I learned all about the gadgets that were used for cooking and meal preparation, as at the time, food required much more at home prep than it does today. Many of these items had the patent number engraved on them.
All of these items have been cataloged for the museum. This tedious job was the work of Christopher Mackey, a local boy scout working on his Eagle Scout badge, roughly 20 years ago.
The collection, which has been called the "finest collection of kitchen gadgets" originally belonged to Lillian Blumberg. In fact, so extensive is this collection, that its previous owner, Lillian Blumberg, was offered a great sum from Sotheby’s, but she decided instead to donate it to the museum.
The second floor was a good size, with plenty of light shining in from outside. From the bedrooms to the large, central sitting area, were pieces of history all around on display. Clothing and accessories from a gone-by era adorned the beds and furnishings. A vintage wedding dress and shoes, which were so small that we pondered who could have possibly fit into them as well as an entire ladies’ grooming set, were highlights for me.
As the sole visitor at the time of my visit, I had Mrs. Reagan and her wealth of knowledge and historical stories to myself. I agreed to be draped with a ladies cape whose weight made clear why men needed to help a lady put it on in those days.
Walking up further to the third floor attic, I was enchanted to see the old fashioned "twisted chimney." When building chimney's during this period, the superstition was that a twisted chimney would prevent the evil spirits from entering the home. Builders would make the chimney straight on the exterior and "twisted" on the interior, like this one that is in the attic of The Phillips House Museum.
The Phillips House Museum
28 Hempstead Ave, Rockville Centre, NY 11570
Phone: (516) 764-7459