SYNOPSIS: The town of Southeast has seen a lot of changes since the area’s first settler arrived around 1732, and the Southeast Museum offers a great way to learn about it. The museum is housed in the basement of the old town hall that was built in 1896. After the museum, stop by the next door Brewster Library and the Brewster/Southeast Honor Roll monument.
APPROXIMATE TIME: 45 minutes.
DIRECTIONS: The museum is in downtown Brewster. To get there from Route 84 (either direction) take exit 19. At the bottom of the ramp, make a right onto Route 312 and go one mile. Make a left onto Route 6 and drive 2.2 miles into downtown Brewster. Keep to the left at the train station/traffic light to stay on Main Street. The museum is about 1/10th of a mile past the light, on the right hand side. The address is 67 Main Street.
THE VISIT: The museum has permanent exhibits on important parts of town’s history. Explore old pictures and artifacts from the grand old days of the railroad and when Southeast was a mining town. Learn about the role local characters played in the rise of the circus as an American pastime and see how one man’s ambition built the village that is now Brewster. Follow the story of a once penniless inventor whose condensed milk factory became a burgeoning business and a boon to local farmers, and see how New York City’s thirst for water drastically changed the Putnam landscape – and economy. A rocks & minerals collection on loan from the New York State Museum consists of samples taken from Tilly Foster Mine just a short distance away.
The museum also has featured exhibits that change from time to time. Past exhibits have included Woman’s Lives’ Through Fashion 1880-1930 and Children’s Lives 1900-1940.
HISTORY: The Southeast Museum got its start as a temporary exhibit in 1962 to celebrate Putnam County’s 150th anniversary. A large influx of visitors in a short period of time made it clear that something more permanent was needed. The next year, in 1963, the museum received its charter from the NYS Department of Education. There were 133 Charter Members, and William Quinn, who was President of the Brewster Chamber of Commerce at the time and a prominent supporter of a permanent museum, served as president of the museum for the first seven years.
We have visited the museum four or five times – once for a lecture, at least twice for a kid’s workshop, and once or twice just to look around. The museum has an online tour on their website (www.southeastmuseum.org) for those that either can’t or don’t want to head downtown. The museum phone number is 845/279-7500.