Each week, reporter and history-lover Mariana Dominguez visits a historical location on the South Shore. This week she visited the West Islip History Center located in the historic LaGrange building in West Islip.
This week, I had the pleasure of visiting the West Islip History Center and meeting with Lynn Luttenberger, president of the West Islip Historical Society. The West Islip History Center building is located at the corner of Higbie Lane and Montauk Highway in West Islip.
The West Islip Historical Society was founded in 2007 by Carolyn Agenjo, along with a small group of passionate residents of West Islip. Agenjo recently died in October of 2021. The society’s artifacts and photos are housed at the renovated LaGrange Inn. The exact date of the building of the old inn is unknown, but according to the West Islip Historical Society, it was in operation shortly after the American Revolution.
The property was owned by the Higbie family until approximately 1918. In the 1930s, LaGrange became a restaurant and was such until 2000. The building continued to be operated as a catering hall until 2010. In 2013, CVS moved a store onto the LaGrange site. CVS preserved the LaGrange building and relocated its location on the site. The West Islip Historical Society took on the project of housing and curating a museum in the building, and on Sept. 8, 2019, the History Center opened.
Currently on display at the WIHS is a special exhibit on the history of Good Samaritan Hospital. Luttenberger said the society enjoys highlighting local organizations and their history, as it gets members of those organizations to come visit the museum as well as provides more local history for the museum.
The museum houses a lot of artifacts from the LaGrange Inn and restaurant, as well as a plethora of photos that show the West Islip of yesteryear. There is also a collection of maps and aerial shots of West Islip that showcase how the town has developed over the years. In December, the society hosted their first holiday gathering, which Luttenberger said was a huge success with over 100 people attending.
The event featured carolers and music from the high school, as well as the LaGrange building beautifully dressed up for the holidays. The group gathers at the West Islip Library, which is just across the street from the LaGrange building, monthly for meetings and presentations. Luttenberger noted that the WIHS is a great organization because it has something for everybody. Kids love looking at pictures of places that they recognize and see what they looked like years ago. Older residents love visiting to take a trip down memory lane, or to bring items they may have found of historical significance that belonged to them or family members.
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