Tag Archive | "Sundy Schermeyer"

Preserving the Past for the Future

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Architectural Conservationist Joel Snodgrass, at left, looks on as Volunteer Bill Single and Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth work on Nancy Rose's headstone as part of the restoration of the headstones at the Old Burial Ground on Little Plains Road.

Architectural Conservationist Joel Snodgrass, at left, looks on as Volunteer Bill Single and Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth work on Nancy Rose’s headstone as part of the restoration of the headstones at the Old Burial Ground on Little Plains Road.

By Gianna Volpe; photo by Michael Heller

Community volunteers learned about restoring historic burying sites this weekend at the area’s oldest graveyard – the Old Southampton Cemetery – during workshops led by preservation expert Joel Snodgrass.

Funded by the historic division of the Southampton Town Clerk’s Office, Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer said the weekend was invaluable to ensuring her records are as comprehensive as they can be.

“That’s exactly what these stones are,” Ms. Schermeyer said at Friday’s workshop. “They’re records, so it’s great that people are doing their part to help see that things like this are being preserved.”

Mr. Snodgrass, who received his Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said preventing such sites from falling into ruin is gaining importance among those working in historic communities.

“We take for granted that historic, colonial burying sites sometimes contain the only record that remains of the existence of a person,” he said. “There’s no written records, there’s no church records, there’s no burial records – there’s no records; no nothing – so they’ve become very, very important from a genealogical and town record standpoint.”

Southampton Town historian Zachary Studenroth, who spent time Friday afternoon gently scraping sea foam green lichens from the nooks and crannies of the centuries-old tablets, said he’d witnessed this potential loss of history firsthand. ?“Years ago I was contacted by someone who said they’d moved to town and found a headstone in their carport and, not knowing where it belonged, had erected it in the woods behind their house,” said Mr. Studenroth. “Modern surveys showed no record of the stone, which belonged to a child we called ‘Little Danny,’ though it was included in an earlier cemetery survey done in the 1930s…It was very creepy because the stone was about the size and weight of a child, so it really was like we were carrying ‘Little Danny’ out of the woods to be reunited with his parents.”

Stories like that of  ‘Little Danny’ is exactly what made the workshop significant for volunteers like Karen Kiaer.

“It’s less about the stone preservation, although that’s important; it’s about the stories of the people under the stones,” said Ms. Kiaer, cemetery preservation project chairperson for the Shelter Island chapter of the Daughters of Revolution. “Stone by stone – as you’re digging up monuments to reset them  –– you’re also uncovering the monument of a person, and in Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island, you’re going back to the 1600s, to patriots, to the American Revolution.”

Southampton Town Videographer Charlie Styler took footage at this weekend’s workshop for a special he said will soon air on the Southampton Town Area Educational and Governmental Cable Channel 22.

Those interested in learning ways to bring sites like The Old Cemetery back to life can watch Mr. Styler’s footage to better understand preservation techniques like probing and pinning.

The first technique requires the use of thin, metal poles to “probe” the cemetery dirt for the buried bottom of a broken head or footstone, which Mr. Snodgrass said generically represents one-third the length of the entire stone.

Workshop volunteers like Bill Single and Chris Robinson used probing to find the bases of both head and footstones lying in the grass of The Old Southampton Cemetery grass, helping Mr. Snodgrass in “pinning” the broken pieces together after an epoxy was applied.

Mr. Snodgrass said extreme care should be taken when executing these techniques, as the historic objects are extremely delicate.

“You wouldn’t just pull it up because sometimes even suction on the back case of the fragile stone can cause damage,” he said of the need to excavate in order to make a match. “An inscription of a name – or typically initials – is usually an indication that they belong to each other.”

Maintenance to those stones still standing was also done this weekend, including the application of a microbial wash to remove lichens and other biological growth from the surfaces of porous marble and brownstone tablets.

“The porous stones, particularly ones with a granular quality to them, suffer from lichen growth,” Mr. Snodgrass said, adding gravestones offer the perfect environment for such clinging plants.

“[Gravestones] act as a perfect substrate,” he added. “They’ve got sort of a rough surface that can retain moisture and allows them to cling on easily, but more so, if you get normal rain the ground is damp, [gravestones] act as wicks, so the moisture will come up through the stone and evaporate out the surface of the stone.”

To mitigate biological growth at Old Southampton Cemetery, workshop volunteers used small pump sprayers to apply a non-toxic product called d2, which is used on the White House.

“It’s not meant to be put on and then it’s squeaky clean in 15 minutes,” Mr. Snodgrass said of the non-toxic liquid. “It’s designed to work over a period of time, so a month later you’ll see a change, even six months later. We treated the right one of two stones side by side – a husband and wife in a historic burying ground on the north shore – with d2 and the one on the right is entirely white now.”

 

 

Marriage Equality Act Yields 25 Registrants

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By Claire Walla

As of Monday, July 25, New York is all systems go. Just 30 days after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the marriage equality act into legislation, same-sex couples can now officially apply for a marriage license and be legally wed in the state of New York.

While some gay couples living in New York have already tied the knot in one of the five U.S. states where same-sex unions are already legal, and though some couples will opt to wait a bit before they listen to the wedding bells ring, the clerks’ offices in East Hampton and Southampton Towns are already seeing requests for the paper contracts.

Glenda Hayes of the East Hampton Town Clerk’s office said their offices had received three requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples on Monday, July 25 and one request the following day. The numbers in Southampton Town are a bit higher. According to Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, the town issued 19 marriage licenses just this past Monday, in addition to one on Tuesday and another on Wednesday.

Though the office seems to have been inundated at the start of the week, Schermeyer explained, “that was really because we were gathering applications from the week before. We allowed people to begin filling out their paperwork early on,” she said, adding that all of the applications that were started last week could only officially be filed on Monday. So, in that sense, the number of licenses she issued was pretty on-target. “We kind of had an idea [of how many we would be issuing] based on the number of phone calls we had coming in,” she said.

Though any couple that obtains a marriage license through a New York clerk’s office is free to marry in any part of the state, Schermeyer explained that she herself officiated ceremonies for three of the gay couples who had requested marriage licenses this week.
For the Reverend Katrina Foster, pastor of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton, the first wedding with two men she will preside over will take place this Saturday, July 30. She added that her first wedding with two women will be held in October.

“Both of my churches are excited to host the weddings for both couples,” she said. In fact, the passage of the Marriage Equality Act came nearly two months after Incarnation Lutheran Church officially adopted a statement of public welcome to all “regardless of age, race, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation,” etc.

In light of the fact that the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center has barred its priests from presiding over gay ceremonies, Reverend Foster is working to get the word out to the community that she can do the job.

“I’ve done some outreach to gay-specific communities” to get the word out that there is a pastor in the local community who can officiate a Christian service for a gay couple, she said. “I was just at a professional meet-and-greet [put on by the East End Gay Organization] the other night and I said, ‘If you need someone to officiate, I’d be happy to speak to you.’”

While Pastor Foster said her office hasn’t exactly been inundated with requests from gay couples, she said she’s not exactly surprised. While it may be the case that some couples feel strapped for options, she said it’s also very likely that there are a number of gay couples who will choose not to marry.

“More and more, a lot of people [gay or straight] are choosing not to engage in a hetero-normative construct,” i.e. marriage, she said. While that may sound overly complicated, when it comes down to it, it’s really very simple. “They just want to be themselves,” she said. “However they choose to be.”