A child born in 2003, the same year Southampton Town partnered with residents of Bridgehampton to purchase a rundown Greek Revival house on the corner of Ocean Road and Montauk Highway known as the Rogers House to protect the property from commercial development, would have likely graduated from high school this year.
Similarly, plans to turn the dilapidated building, which had two-by-fours bracing unstable Ionic columns and old gas pumps out front from the days when it doubled as a service station in the early 1970s, into a new home for the Bridgehampton Historical Society, which has since changed its name to the Bridgehampton Museum, have taken just as long to come to fruition.
This Sunday, the museum’s board of trustees will celebrate the completion of that $11.7 million, 18-year project, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception at 5 p.m.
“We are thrilled and grateful to the Town of Southampton for their partnership, continued support and vision with regard to this project. It’s a dream come true for the Bridgehampton Museum and our community,” said the museum’s president, Peter Sughrue, in a release this week.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Community Preservation Fund Manager Lisa Kombrink, as well as the project’s early proponents, Gerrit Vreeland, Dennis Suskind, Robert Morrow, John Millard and John Eilertsen, the museum’s recently retired executive director, will be among those attending.
The Rogers House has undergone a remarkable transformation and we are excited about the future,” said Ms. Dec, who took over for Mr. Eilertsen in May. “We could not ask for better partners than the Town of Southampton as we move forward with this venture of using this space to tell the stories about where we’ve been and where we’re going as a community.”
The sprawling building, which includes nine rooms on the first floor, another five on the second floor, with still more storage space on the third floor, has been completely renovated with most of the main rooms, where future exhibits will be displayed, painted white. Additional work will be done in the coming months before the facility has its grand opening in 2022, Ms. Dec said.
The museum’s former headquarters, the Corwith House, just a few blocks to the west, will be maintained as a farm museum with its own changing exhibits, while the Rogers House will become its main museum, with temporary and permanent exhibits, including paintings by Claus and Helen Hoie that were donated by the Hoie Foundation.
Having the additional space will allow the museum to expand its offerings to present a more inclusive view of Bridgehampton’s history, one that doesn’t only reflect its past as a farming community, but one that recognizes the contributions of its Black community, many of whom came here to work on the potato farms, its more recent Latino arrivals, as well as the original settlers, members of the Shinnecock Native American tribe, Ms. Dec said.
The Rogers House was built around the turn of the 18th century. It was acquired by Abraham T. Rose in 1824, who sold it to its most famous owner, portrait artist National Rogers, in 1840. Mr. Rogers added extensively to the house, transforming it into an exceptional example of Greek Revival architecture, which was in vogue at the time, Ms. Dec said. Among other things, he added the front portico and Ionic columns, four parlors on the front side of the house as well as two second-story bedrooms to the front of the house, a third floor, and the cupola.
The home had several other owners over the ensuing years, including whaling Captain James Huntting.
Further renovations were undertaken by John Hedges and his son-in-law Frank Topping, who turned the building into the Hampton House hotel in the late 1890s, adding a dining room and butler’s pantry as well as remodeling and expanding the kitchen wing. The hotel closed in 1949, and the Hopping family lived in the house until James Hopping sold the property to the town in 2003.
The project was not without its problems. The town contributed $2.5 million to the approximate $3 million purchase price to head off a proposed commercial development. But the restoration project took years longer than expected and cost millions of dollars more than originally envisioned as contractors encountered a series of setbacks along their way.