Tag Archive | "southampton historical society"

Southampton Ready To Celebrate Its 375th Birthday

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Edmonds for web1127

Tom Edmonds, director of the Southampton Historical Society, at a tour of the Thomas Halsey House in Southampton Village.


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.

Alone In A Field

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Heller_79 Parsonage Lane Residence_9408

Last house owned by African-American farmer eyed for demolition

By Claire Walla

For such a modest-looking house, the property at 79 Parsonage Lane in Sagaponack is causing quite a stir.

In January, when an application to demolish the building was brought before the Sagaponack Village Architectural and Historic Review Board, Committee Chair Ann Sandford brought up an interesting point. The property in question could have been the last-standing building in Sagaponack to be owned by an African American.

Sandford, also a historian who wrote a history of the area called “Grandfather Lived Here,” tracked the home back to a man named Bevery Stewart, a farmer who purchased the home in 1912. It remained in the Stewart family until a few years ago when Stewart’s granddaughter sold the property to a local developer, Michael Davis.
Last Friday, February 18, when the application went before the Architectural Review Board once again, Lucius Ware of the East End chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) came out to object.

“Our number-one concern is the preservation of history,” he said.
“This particular house may be the last, or the only home owned by an African American in the Village of Sagaponack.” Though this figure may not be accurate, Census records show that this is at least true of the first half of the 21st Century.

(According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which gives five-year estimates of population demographics, there were no Black or African Americans living in Sagaponack from 2005 to 2010.)
Bridgehampton Historical Society Program Director Sally Spanburgh explained that whether or not a building in Sagaponack can be dubbed “historic” depends on two main criteria: whether or not a popular architect built it, and whether or not the architecture is associated with someone or something significant.

The law “leaves room for interpretation,” she added.
In an ideal world, Spanburgh said the property at 79 Parsonage Lane would be restored fully to the way it looked in the 1920s. However, in this case, she doesn’t see that happening.

“The board has to pick its battles,” she continued.

Part of what makes this case a moot point, as far as Spanburgh is concerned, is that the home is privately owned by Davis, who wants to tear-down the small, 1,339-square-foot building on the 3.6-acre property in order to erect a much larger home.

According to Spanburgh, should the board decide to prevent demolition, Davis would still have the authority to revamp the building, or even move it to another section of the property.

“He would be able to do whatever he wants with it, except tear it down,” she said. Which, in Spanburgh’s opinion, would defeat the purpose of preservation. “What’s the point if it’s out of public view?”

Still, Ware has hopes that the building will be preserved in some way to honor African American history in the area.

“Most everybody in the 20s and 30s were farmers,” he said. “African Americans played a very important role in farming in that area.”

Rather than demolish the structure, Ware called for the architectural review board to consider other options to preserve the building in some fashion, whether that means the village would acquire the property, private resources would put up the funds, or Community Preservation Funds would go to restoring the structure. But, whatever the case, this would ultimately require the cooperation from the current property owner.

Though Ware said he has not yet spoken with Davis, he hopes to do so soon.

“He might be open to [selling it],” Ware said. “I would guess that if the building were moved, he’d be just as satisfied.”