Programs & Events

Oyster Bay Spy Walk: Can You Crack the Code?

Become a Spymaster while walking in Historic Oyster Bay! Visit 12 locations and observe the site and answer the clues. Apply the spy cypher to turn the numbers into letters. Solve the puzzle and read the secret message. Download the PDF here. Tag us while on your adventures @raynhamhall!

Samuel Townsend, Colonial Merchant

Virtual Tour: July 14, 21, and 28 at 1 p.m.
Program for ages 8 and under

This 30 to 40 minute program, developed especially for children aged 8 and under, features our Colonial rooms and explains how Samuel Townsend prospered as a merchant during the mid-1700s. Participants are engaged through frequent Q & A and special “show and tell” moments explaining Colonial-era objects. Topics of community life, agriculture, trans-Atlantic shipping and commerce come alive through this special virtual tour of the Townsend family of Oyster Bay.

The Townsends in the Revolution

Virtual Tour: July 15, 22, and 29 at 4 p.m.
Program for all ages
During this one-hour program participants can see some of our Colonial rooms and learn about how Samuel Townsend, who was a shipping merchant, helped plan the Revolution. Oyster Bay was occupied by several British regiments over the course of the war, notably Col. John Graves Simcoe, commander of a regiment of over 350 soldiers called the Queen’s Rangers. The British spy John André also stayed here in 1779, a year before he was captured and executed for his part in the Benedict Arnold treason plot.

Like other Long Islanders, the Townsends enslaved many African-Americans, who witnessed the war from a different perspective, as they faced an enemy occupation that forced them to serve not only those who enslaved them, but also the many British officers who stayed in the house. On this virtual tour, participants learn the newly-discovered true story of Liss, an enslaved teenage girl who escaped with the British in hopes of becoming free. Meanwhile, working as a merchant in British-controlled Manhattan, the Townsends’ son Robert joined a daring group of covert agents – the Culper Spy Ring. Communicating with Washington through letters written in secret code and invisible ink, Robert risked his life to provide critical information.

Standing Where They Stood: Learning About Slavery in Oyster Bay

Virtual Tour: July 16, 23, and 30 at 6 p.m.
Program for ages 12 and up
Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay is famous as the home of Robert Townsend – Washington’s spy – but this virtual tour brings to light a new – and much misunderstood history, focused not on the family, but on the 19 African-Americans who were enslaved by the Townsends, and the extent of slavery throughout New York and Long Island in the days before and after the Revolution. It is a history so critical to understand, and yet slavery in New York remains virtually unknown to the vast majority of New Yorkers.

This one hour program reveals true stories of scores of individuals who lived in slavery on Long Island, including the first slave freed on Long Island in 1685, the first published Black author in America, born in 1711, an enslaved woman who escaped with the British in 1779, and a regiment of African-Americans who fought alongside British Col. Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers in 1780. Participants are invited to connect with a particular enslaved individual, examine historical documents, read runaway slave ads and notices of slaves for sale, and learn about how laws in New York to end slavery impacted the lives of these forgotten Long Islanders.

Spy Camp, Weeks 1 or 2

Virtual Program, Week 1: August 10-14, 10-11 a.m., Week 2: August 17-21, 10-11 a.m.
Program for ages 8 and up
Learn to become a super spy at home! Explore the history of real spies who lived in Oyster Bay and Long Island during the Revolutionary War and learn their secret spy techniques. Each week will consist of Mon-Fri, 45-minute live Zoom programs learning different historic spy codes and ciphers each day. Each live program begins at 10:00 AM on Zoom, hosted by Raynham Hall Museum’s historian, Claire Bellerjeau. Class size will be limited to only 10 participants per week. Deadline to register is August 7th. Sign up now to claim one of the limited spots! Program materials will be downloadable PDFs for participants to print at home. We will send a reminder email at 4 PM the day before with the Zoom link and the day’s materials.

Monday: Ciphers, Nathan Hale and a Newly Discovered Spy
Tuesday: André, Arnold and their Secret Book Code
Wednesday: Hidden Messages: Quills, Mask and Grills
Thursday: The Culper Spy Ring and the Culper Code
Friday: Invisible Ink: Reading Between the Lines

Week 1
Week 2
Hang Out with our Historian

Hang out with Raynham Hall Museum’s historian Claire Bellerjeau in the garden of the museum and learn about all the history that happened here!

Visits are by appointment only, weather dependent, within the Raynham Hall garden, and with social distancing at all times. Masks are required for all visitors. Household members only. Maximum group size is 8. Our garden has several benches, but guests may also bring portable chairs.

Donations are gratefully accepted! To make an appointment, email Claire Bellerjeau at