Raynham Hall since the 1850s
In 1851, Solomon Townsend II, son of Solomon and Anne, and grandson of Samuel and Sarah, purchased the Townsend Homestead and its property from his uncle, Dr. Ebenezer Seely. He then remodeled and enlarged the colonial dwelling in the fashionable Gothic Revival style, bringing the number of rooms from eight to twenty-two. The addition of a large rear wing and a tower doubled the size of the house and transformed it into an elegant Victorian “villa.” Disregarding his grandfather’s Patriot allegiances, he renamed it Raynham Hall, after the home of the Townshends in Norfolk, England, of whom perhaps the most prominent member was Charles Townshend, author of the Townshend Acts which played no small part in sparking the Revolution. Initially, Raynham Hall served as a summer residence for Solomon and his family, with Solomon probably commuting to New York City during the week while his wife Helene DeKay Townsend and their children lived in Oyster Bay. By 1861, the family had made Raynham Hall their permanent residence.
Like his father and grandfather, Solomon was a prosperous merchant and importer. In keeping with the family tradition of public service, he served in the State Legislature and at two State Constitutional Conventions, in addition to being President of the Oyster Bay Board of Education. By 1860 he was one of the wealthiest and most respected men in Oyster Bay.
Solomon II (1805 – 1880) in 1849 married Helene DeKay (1821 – 1895)
They had six children:
- Solomon Samuel, 1850-1910
- Charles DeKay, 1851-1922
- Robert, 1853-1915
- Maurice Edward, 1855-1927
- Edward Nicoll, 1858-1914
- Maria Fonda, 1860-1908
By 1912, the house had passed into the ownership of Edward Nicoll Townsend, Jr., son of Edward Nicoll Townsend list above, and grandson of Solomon II. He held the house for two years before selling it to a cousin, his great-aunt Sarah Townsend Coles’ granddaughter, Julia Weekes Coles. Julia owned the Townsend home between 1914 and 1933, and though she apparently never lived there, she and her sister, Sarah Townsend Coles Halstead, maintained the home and operated a tea room there for a time. In 1933, Ms. Coles sold it for $10 to the Oyster Bay chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a hereditary organization whose members are descendents of people who were Patriots during the War of Independence.
The Daughters of the American Revolution, in turn, donated the property to the Town of Oyster Bay in 1947, on condition that the Town maintain Raynham Hall “as a public shrine, and as far as possible, make perpetual a memorial to the brave men and women of revolutionary times, for the use and benefit of the general public of the nation under agreements, covenants and conditions which will best secure to our people the diffusion of knowledge and the inspiration of our forebears in cherishing freedom, love of country and the fostering of patriotism.”
The Friends of Raynham Hall, Inc., is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization incorporated in 1953 which partners with the Town of Oyster Bay to maintain and operate Raynham Hall as a museum.