BRIGHTWATERS—The Wohseepee Park cabin on North Windsor Avenue has stood amidst the sylvan landscape of the charming village since 1926. It started off as a gathering place for residents and was then used as a Boy Scout meeting hall beginning in the 1940s. More recently, during elections it has served as a polling place, and it has played a part in a number of celebrations, Easter egg hunts and visits with Santa. Now, a new chapter is being written as the structure undergoes a major overhaul at no cost to taxpayers.
Mayor John Valdini, who owns a contracting company, is leading the renovation of the 1,400-foot structure, which had been in severe disrepair. Soon after he took office last year, he put out a call for volunteers and donations and said the response was very enthusiastic. One hundred and eight people donated funds; others donated building materials and/or labor as well as a number of other items, from garbage dumpsters to a smart T.V. and surveillance cameras that will eventually help to protect the property.
“We’re trying to make it functional,” said Valdini. “And the village is not spending any money on it except for the [initial] fliers we sent out.”
There have been many challenges along the way. First, contained asbestos in some of the previous building materials had to be professionally removed. Then, since there was no building foundation, one had to be poured. The cabin’s walls, which were severely bowing, had to be straightened and reinforced. A fireplace—the scene for many family photos—was removed for fear it would collapse. Valdini said it would be replaced with an electric hearth.
There were a few serendipitous moments during all of that work, though. Valdini said a glass bottle from the 1920s containing a slip of paper that had children’s names written on it was found in cement blocks under the floor of the building. Letters dating back to the 1940s were found between the walls. The letters gave a glimpse of what life was like in the village during the Second World War. Valdini noted that at that time, the cabin was used as a meeting place for members of the Civilian Air Patrol.
The cabin was an active construction site when the Islip Bulletin visited it last week. Patrick Valdini, who works alongside of his father, said he was very pleased with what had been accomplished so far. “I went to camp here,” he noted while looking around the space. “It’s nice to see it getting a facelift.”
That facelift includes an outside deck, new-and-improved indoor bathrooms, raised ceilings and the ever-popular shiplap walls. Valdini expects the final cost of the project to be around $150,000 and he expects it to all be done by Memorial Day this year.
Despite all of the enthusiasm, the mayor said there were only a few complaints, mostly due to concerns about keeping the cabin secure, something he said would be accomplished with the security cameras.
“It’s going to be a terrific building,” Valdini said. “I think once they see the final results, everyone will be happy.”