Mock Trials And More At North Shore Historical Museum

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Mock Trials And More At North Shore Historical Museum

The exhibits at North Shore Historical Museum are interactive and fun for children and even adults. Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, a member of the Board of Directors, pretends to be train engineer.

This is part five of a six part series covering Glen Cove and Oyster Bay’s museums.

With free admission (thanks to a generous donation) at North Shore Historical Museum, located at 140 Glen St. in Glen Cove, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon this summer away from the hot sun than pretending to be a judge, and even seeing inside what was once a real holding cell.

“This building was built in 1907 as a courthouse for the Town of Oyster Bay,” said Amy Driscoll. “When Glen Cove became a separate city in 1917, it was deeded over. It was a court house, police headquarters for the City of Glen Cove up until the 1980s, 1990s. It’s a lovely building, just not very practical. So the police moved to where they are now. The court moved to where they are now.”

And now, that building has become a three floor museum after community members fought to keep it from being torn down. On the main floor, there’s the court complete with the bench, a witness stand and seats, where the mock trials are done.
Mock trials are perfect for summer groups, Driscoll said, and it is available for all reading levels. All that’s needed is 12 children to participate, or a combination of children and parents.

“For the little kids we do ‘Goldie Locks’ or ‘The Three Little Pigs” and chewing gum in glass for the older kids, or texting and driving,” Driscoll said. “And they just have to read. We give them the scripts in advance. We can customize them. We can do it pretty much at our mutual convenience. So if they say we have a group getting together Thursdays at 2 p.m., if I can do it, we do it. And with a little luck, and a little planning, we can get one of the local sitting judges to come too.”

This program makes learning fun, and whether they’re ‘guilty or innocent,’ participants can go inside the jail cell to see for themselves.

Also on the main floor of the museum is the office of the judge, complete with books containing records, a type writer and a dial telephone.

“If they’re careful, we let them play,” Driscoll said of the child visitors. “Sometimes they sit down… Sometimes people want to open up the criminal dockets. If you ask we’ll do it. They’re here for a reason.”

Right next to the office is the Harlem Hellfighter tribute room. The Harlem Hellfighters originated as the 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit. According to Britannica, members of the African American community in New York City’s Harlem district would become the 369th Infantry Regiment. The French government decorated the entire unit with the Croix de Guerre, its highest award for bravery, as well as 170 additional individual medals for valor. The 369th’s battlefield prowess was almost overshadowed by its contribution to music, however, as the Hellfighters’ regimental band was credited with bringing jazz to Europe.

Earlier this summer, the museum also hosted a “Harlem Renaissance” exhibit. QR codes created by a Great Neck High School student also allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the exhibits.

As the exhibit notes, the “Harlem Renaissance” saw a rebirth of pride and interest in African American culture. Critics and audiences around the world acknowledged the remarkable achievements in literature, music, painting, dance, and other arts during this movement and era.

Upstairs, there’s different exhibits and pieces of history from Glen Cove, including a small exhibit on a St. Bernard named “Butch the Bum” who delighted the community in the 1940s.

“This dog not only lived in Glen Cove, but also got on the Long Island Rail Road and went to Oyster Bay because apparently there was a butcher shop there,” said Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, who serves on the Board of Directors and whose favorite exhibit is “Butch the Bum.” “People who are in their 80’s have pictures with that dog when they were five, because apparently he was the sweetest most kind dog ever.”
Driscoll said that there was one family who had a claimed ownership of him, but the whole community took care of him.

There’s also a long table with seats around it that is used for jury deliberation during the mock trials.

And finally, all the way downstairs is the jail cell that was used to keep people overnight. Interestingly enough, the man who shot J.P. Morgan was jailed here in the holding cell briefly before being shipped off to Mineola.

For more information about North Shore Historical Museum, visit northshorehistoricalmuseum.org.

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