Greenport’s jail doors may be reopening again — as a museum

Greenport Jail is going to become a police museum. (Credit: Rachel Young)
Greenport Jail is going to become a police museum. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Over the course of its 98-year history, the former Greenport Village Jail has alternately served as a simulated haunted house and place for traveling salesmen to rest their heads. Now, local officials hope to give the 400-square-foot structure its newest lease on life as a police museum.

The Greenport Village Board is working with Ron Breuer, board chairman of East End Seaport Museum, to submit an application for a Suffolk County Revitalization grant to restore the jail, which closed after the village police department was disbanded in 1995. The Greenport Improvement Committee is also assisting with the effort.

“We think it’s a great idea for the community,” said Greenport Village Trustee Julia Robins, adding that officials have not yet determined how much grant funding will be sought. “There is a lot of interest for a police museum on Long Island.”

If all goes as planned, Mr. Breuer said, the museum will open to the public in roughly a year. Before that can happen, the building’s lead paint must be removed, he said. A new heating system will also be installed. Aside from those changes, however, the jail likely won’t undergo any major cosmetic improvements.

“We want to restore it, not eliminate anything,” Mr. Breuer said. “We want to dedicate it to those that protect and serve us.”

Former village administrator Dave Abatelli, a Greenport Improvement Committee member, said volunteers replaced the building’s roof, front door and front steps several years ago.

Exhibits at the museum would include Greenport Village Jail artifacts like log books, nightsticks, uniforms and arrest records. Other Long Island police departments could also potentially donate memorabilia, Mr. Abatelli said.

“There is a lot from the Greenport Police Department that is boxed up and archived,” Mr. Breuer said.

When it was erected on Carpenter Street in June 1917, the fireproof brick and steel building, which cost just under $4,000 to construct, boasted several modern amenities like heat, running water and electricity. The building’s three existing steel cells — one for women, two for men — each contain a toilet, sink and long wooden bench.

The jail’s basement, which won’t be open the public once the structure is converted to a museum, reportedly once housed traveling salesmen and transients in wooden bunks, some of which Mr. Abatelli said still exist. The building, which is sometimes opened for tours during East End Seaport Museum’s annual Maritime Festival, also functioned as a haunted house attraction as recently as five years ago.

“That was the fun aspect of it,” Ms. Robins said. “[The museum] would be more public-oriented toward tourists coming to see the village and also to celebrate the historic nature of this old jail that’s been here for years.”

“It’s a historic building,” agreed Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley, who served with the Greenport Village Police Department for 10 months in 1979. “There aren’t many jails around like that. I can still remember putting people in there. I think it would make a great little museum.”

[email protected]