By Stephen J. Kotz
Every 25 years, dating back to 1865, the Town of Southampton has held special celebrations to mark the arrival of the first European settlers in 1640, and 2015 will be no different.
From a special New Year’s Eve party at the Southampton Inn, to a convocation on March 7 at the First Presbyterian Church, which was also established in 1640, a rededication on June 13 at Conscience Point in North Sea, where Puritans first landed on June 12, 1640, and a community picnic that same day at the North Sea Community Center, a number of activities and exhibits are being planned.
To lift the curtain on the town’s 375th birthday celebration, the committee that was formed to organize the anniversary observance hosted a group of journalists on November 22 and 23, offering tours of historic sites in the village, including the Thomas Halsey House—the oldest in Southampton; and a reception at the Rogers Mansion, the home of the Southampton Historical Society.
Dede Gotthelf, the owner of the Southampton Inn, also provided free meals and lodging for the visiting journalists.
Ms Gotthelf led a tour that took the group through the village estate section, where she pointed out some of the homes of the village’s rich and famous summer colony residents. “We’re just a little early,” Ms. Gotthelf said. “In a couple of weeks the hedges will start to lose their foliage so you can see some of the magnificent homes.”
The tour also passed some of the village’s most well-known landmarks as well, including the Meadow Club, Coopers Beach and St. Andrew’s Dune Church and the Southampton Bathing Corporation.
Later the group met Tom Edmonds, executive director of the historical society, who offered a tour of the Thomas Halsey House. Although a historical marker identifies the house as having been built in 1648, Mr. Edmonds said the original section, which consisted of two rooms, probably dated to 1683, although Mr. Halsey established a farm on the South Main Street site as early as 1648. A second section of the house was erected in 1730 before additional rooms were added to the rear.
Mr. Edmonds showed off some of the collection, including a two-piece helmet, so designed for easy packing, which settlers would have brought with them “because they didn’t know whether they were going to encounter hostile Indians.” There was a rug, displayed like a table cloth, because it was too valuable to be left on the floor and would have been displayed on a table or wall as “a way to show off that you could afford a rug like that;” there was the peel, an oversized spatula, decorated with a heart. That meant, Mr. Edmonds pointed out, that it was probably a wedding gift from a husband to his wife and recognized the fact that a woman spent the lion’s share of her day tending the hearth while her husband farmed or hunted.
While the 375th anniversary will celebrate the arrival of a band of Puritans from Massachusetts, anniversary organizers said they did not want to forget the Shinnecock Indians, who had been calling Southampton home for thousands of years prior to the arrival of white settlers. There is an extensive portion of the Halsey House dedicated to Shinnecock history, and the tribe has its own cultural museum on the reservation west of the village.
The Shinnecock tribe will also take part in the Conscience Point rededication when they will hold a special pageant.
The historical society will obviously take a central role in the celebration. It plans an exhibit at the Rogers Mansion opening March 7 that will detail the families who lived in the famous house, who included Samuel Parrish, who founded the Parrish Art Museum in his former home on Jobs Lane before moving to the Rogers Mansion for the remainder of his life. Other events include a celebration of the Halsey family on July 23, a Polish festival on August 1, a Harvest Day Fair on September 27, and a reunion of the Howell family, another founding family, on October 16.
The Southampton Cultural Center will present “Artists and Southampton: A Living Legacy,” opening on June 2. The Southampton Trails Preservation Society will recreate a historic walk from Conscience Point to the village on June 14, and on June 20, the village will hold celebrate the grand occasion with a concert, servings of cake and a community sing-along.