By Claire Walla
When news of a possible demolition in Sagaponack made headlines last month, it peaked the interest of Lidz Pauyo. Though she lives and works in New York City, Pauyo had been searching for an old home to acquire and place on the plot of land she bought six years ago on Gull Rock Road in Sag Harbor.
“I’ve been looking for a historical structure because I find these houses very interesting,” she said.
While she had made several inquiries into other historic homes since buying her land, she said the price was either way too high, or she regrettably ended up making contact when it was already too late.
In mid-February, however, Pauyo read a blog written by Sally Spanburgh of the Bridgehampton Historical Society about a modest two-story home at 79 Parsonage Lane that had once belonged to an African American farmer named Bevery Stewart. According to Ann Sandford, Chair of the Sagaponack Village Architectural and Historical Review Board (AHRB), this is the only house on record that was owned by a black farmer in the first half of the 20th century — and it was up for grabs.
(A local developer named Michael Davis bought the property with hopes to revamp the main house, and demolish the small, two story home on the lot.)
Pauyo—who is African American herself—jumped at the opportunity.
“I made an appointment [with Davis] to see the house and then said I’d like to move it,” Pauyo recalled. “I said I live in a community where this may have some significance.”
She is now in the midst of plans to acquire the two-story structure and move it to Sag Harbor, where she will make it her home. At a Sagaponack Village AHRB meeting last Friday, March 18, the board decided unanimously to approve Davis’ application to demolish, with the understanding that the home will actually be moved.
“We’re 99.9 percent clear it’s going to be moved,” Sandford declared at the meeting.
“I’m thrilled with how this has ended up,” said Spanburgh, who is also a member of the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board. “I’m sure there will be people who won’t be happy that the house is in a different community, but you have to be happy on some level that the house is preserved.”
The preservation of this modest structure was at the forefront of efforts within the black community to preserve history.
“Part of what we want is to appropriate recognition for those who did the farm work in Sagaponack,” said Lucius Ware, president of the East End chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In addition to keeping the home intact, Ware was eager to note that Davis has agreed to place a plaque on the side of the road just outside the home’s current location that will commemorate the history of African American farmers on the East End.
“I think we’re all on the same side as far as that’s concerned,” Davis said, adding that he’s “happy to donate a plaque that would go on the side of the road.”
In addition, Davis said he will take pictures of the home, as it stands now, which he intends to donate to the African American Museum of the East End in Southampton.
Pauyo has already retained a surveyor to do a topographical survey, and in about two weeks they will be able to perform the field work. In the meantime, Pauyo has been in contact with Dawn Movers, which is putting plans in place to move the structure.
In the past, telephone wires could be moved or adjusted to compensate for large structures rolling down the street. Today, however, the process is pricey. Instead, according to Stan Kazel of Dawn House Movers, the house will be broken down into five sections and transported across the Long Island Green Belt and into Sag Harbor Hills.
Kazel said his route of choice would take the dismembered building across the Sag Harbor Turnpike. However, he still needs to check with the Village of Sag Harbor to get clearance before finalizing plans. “I haven’t moved anything through that village in so long,” he said.
Kazel added that unless all paperwork is done and approved in the immediate future, the house will most likely be transported in September, after the height of summer.
Though Pauyo estimated the total cost of the procedure will run in the six figures, she said she’s excited to be able to preserve a part of African American history here on the East End, especially knowing that she’s relocated the house to another East End area with significance for the African American community.
Because the house has little architectural significance, Pauyo said she will not work to restore the home. But, because the building is in dire need of repairs, she said it will certainly be renovated.
Pauyo has yet to meet with Ware to establish exactly how to honor the house’s history from its new location, but she is open to new ideas.
“I really like the house,” she continued, “it’s worth it.”
Spanburgh added, “I think it’s a happy ending.”