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Barbara Schwartz

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web convo Barbara Schwartz

The Sag Harbor Historical Society opens a new exhibit this weekend on the evolution of the Annie Cooper Boyd House. What do you hope to accomplish?

We want to give people an idea of what life was like when the house was first occupied in 1795, and how it evolved through various ownerships. We’ll look at the house as it was first built by Joseph Whiting Foster, and including the addition Annie Cooper Boyd made in the early 1900s.

What was life like when Foster first built the house?

He and his wife lived there and they had two small children. It was a very simple life. He was probably surviving on seafood and hunting. By that time life had gotten a little simpler, they could go out and buy material, she didn’t have to weave their cloth by hand. Things were becoming less restrictive for women.

The village had gotten busier, but it was still small. The Presbyterian Church had only 13 members, and they were among the first.

We don’t know what he did for a living. They probably had a subsistence garden, probably a cow and a pig.

Were there many other homes in Sag Harbor at the time?

Oh yes, theere were a number of homes in Sad Harbor. His was a more modest house. There were several, bigger, ships captains homes. By 1795 Sag Harbor had pretty much recovered from the Revolution.

Children were encouraged to play more at that time. They weren’t expected to do chores when they first walked. They could go down to the harbor and watch ships come in, watch ships being built. They would collect eggs. Sag Harbor was exposed to a lot of the outside world. Children would see a lot of people from all over the world.

The next owners were the Coopers. When did they come in?

William Cooper would have purchased the property about 1871. On the neighboring property he had a substantial piece of land, and his shop for building whaleboats.

Was Annie the first to make a big addition?


What was the purpose of the renovation?

Really to bring it up to date. She and her husband moved into it after it was left to her by her parents. By 1906, heating a house with three fireplaces was not practical.

How much of the history of the building will the exhibit cover?

We go from 1795 to 1998, when Nancy Willey, Annie’s daughter, died and left it to the historical society.

We’ve never really talked about the early period of the house. We’ll have sketches by Pam Lawson imagining what life was like at the earliest part. She has a sketch of the mother knitting, for example. And we’ll have the model of the house as it was in 1795.  And a collection of photographs from when Annie Cooper Boyd lived there going back to the early 1900s.

It’s pretty remarkable, in more than 200 years, only two families lived in the house.

Yes, and not much was changed. You can still see some of the original paint, behind the layers, in some parts of the house.

The exhibit, “The Evolution of an Old Sag Harbor House – 1795-1998,” opens to the public Sunday, May 27, 1-4 p.m. at the historical society’s Annie Cooper Boyd House, 174 Main Street.