Preservation Long Island has announced its 2021 List of Endangered Historic Places, and three of the eight sites are on the East End.
The group has listed the Pyrrhus Concer homesite in Southampton, the Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah neighborhoods in Sag Harbor, and the home and studio of the artists James Brook and Charlotte Parks in Springs as being vulnerable. Ironically, all three are the subject of ongoing preservation efforts.
“The program offers Long Islanders an opportunity to advocate for preservation in their communities while learning how to use tools like landmark designation, tax incentives, and public outreach,” Alexandra Wolfe, Preservation Long Island’s executive director, said in a press release. “Our program partners receive priority technical assistance from our professional staff and their listings are featured on our website and social media.”
A former slave, Pyrrhus Concer was an African American whaler, who sailed on the Manhattan, which rescued a group of Japanese sailors and returned them to their country in 1845. At the time, Japan was closed to the outside world, likely making Concer the first Black person to be admitted into the country. He later built a house at 51 Pond Lane in Southampton Village and ran a ferry on Lake Agawam.
His house was never made a historic landmark, and the most recent owners tore it down. They ultimately never built on the site and sold the land to the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund.
Preservation Long Island noted that the effort to rebuild the homestead and create a museum has faced delays caused by an inter-municipal agreement between the town and village and other factors.
The Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, Ninevah neighborhoods, known collectively as SANS, are three historically Black summer enclaves that have come under intense development pressure in the last decade, with many modest houses being torn down and replaced with much bigger ones. Many Black leaders in business and the arts have made the area their summer home, but the neighborhoods were also important for many middle-class Blacks who were unable to purchase houses elsewhere because of discriminatory lending practices and outright codified segregation
Although Sag Harbor Village government has been discussing steps to help protect the neighborhood with SANS leaders for several years now, the village has yet to add SANS to its local historic district even though it was named to both the National and State Registers of Historic Places in 2019, said Sarah Kautz, Preservation Long Island’s preservation director.
The third East End site to be included on the list are the home and studios of the artists James Brook and Charlotte Park. Their property was purchased by the East Hampton Town CPF with an initial plan to restore the buildings, but the town’s most recent CPF plan calls for the buildings to be demolished and the property maintained as open space. An effort is now afoot to have the buildings preserved.
Ms. Kautz said while programs such as the five East End towns’ Community Preservation Funds are valuable, they focus primarily on preserving open space and farmland.
“Preservation gets separated off as a thing unto itself,” she said. “If a town has a preservation plan, they are often outdated and don’t engage the public. From Preservation Long Island’s perspective, it would be great to see history come into the fold in a serious way.”
Often, she said, there is a self-fulfilling prophesy that historic structures are money pits that will use up valuable resources to save them for posterity. In fact, she said, towns are able to leverage the money they use to purchase historic properties to partner with nonprofits to obtain grants for restoration work.
A panel of Preservation Long Island staff and trustees, as well as experts in architecture, historic preservation, and other related fields selected the properties based on three key criteria: overall historic significance, severity of the threat and impact the listing will have on efforts to protect the nominated site.
The five other sites on the list are John McKay III’s “Happy House” in the Village of East Hills in Nassau County; the Peter Crippen Home Site in the Town of Huntington; the Rogers/Remz Grain and Feed Building in Port Jefferson Station; the St. James Firehouse in the Town of Smithtown; and the William Tooker House in the Village of Port Jefferson.
Each of the eight sites will be showcased in a series of free virtual programs that will include interviews and panel discussions open to the public in June and July. Visit the 2021 Endangered Historic Places page on the Preservation Long Island website, preservationlongisland.org, to learn more about each of the selected sites, and to register for the free virtual events.