Peconic Lane Community Center grand opening tonight

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | A new community center will open in the former Peconic Lane School tonight..

The Peconic Lane Community Center will host its grand opening tonight.

The community center is taking over the old Peconic School building, purchased by Southold Town in 2008 with the hope of using it to provide more recreation space for Southolders. The school building is right next door to the existing Southold Recreation Center, and the two will be connected by a walkway.

The town plans eventually to offer an expanded array of programming in the new building, and may partner with East End Arts and other nonprofits to provide cultural programming for the community. But to start off, they plan to simply move some programs over from the rec center.

“Guitar lessons are on the same night as dog obedience,” Southold Town recreation supervisor Ken Reeves said this week. “Right now, kids have to walk through the dog class to get to their guitar class.”

Mr. Reeves hopes guitar lessons and art, poetry and memoir-writing classes will be held in the new community center, leaving space in the rec center for more physical classes, like aerobics.

“It’s a little more private for the participants and the instructors,” he said.

When the town first bought the schoolbuilding, it convened a meeting of stakeholders, who discussed what kind of programming they’d like to see there. One of their requests was an exhibit on the history of Peconic.

Southold historian Antonia Booth has been at work ever since putting together a pictorial history of the hamlet, along with several stories from its history — like the speakeasy that operated at Goldsmith Inlet during Prohibition and the story of whaling captain Thomas W. Royce, who lived in Peconic — a series of historic photographs taken by Peconic resident Charles Glover Corey, and memorabilia including a reproduction of a letter sent to President Roosevelt by Albert Einstein from the Peconic post office. Ms. Booth also wrote brief articles on the Peconic Impressionist school of painters and on the history of the hamlet. Peconic was known originally as West Southold and in the 1880s was called Hermitage, after Daniel Overton, who lived a hermetic life in a small house by the railroad tracks. In the early 1900s, after the post office informed residents that there was another postal district in New York called Hermitage, the name was changed to Peconic.

Ms. Booth has compiled a handout on hamlet history that will be distributed to the public at the grand opening celebration, which begins at 7 p.m. tonight.

The town’s Department of Public Works has been renovating the building, which was last used as a school in the early 1980s, for more than a year. The building has three classrooms, which have been carpeted, and a fourth room with a stage that can also be used for public programs. Two rooms in the center of the building can be used for conferences and small group meetings.

Mr. Reeves said that the public will be invited to share their ideas on what kind of programming they’d like to see in the building at tonoght’s opening.

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