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Jan 14, 2016 11:21 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Artifacts Found At Rogers Mansion Create Uncertainty For Installation Of Sewer Line

Archaeological Field Technicians Sara Regensburger and Douglas Boucher of the Louis Berger Group examine an item found on the grounds of the Rogers Mansion in Southampton Village.  DANA SHAW
Jan 19, 2016 3:11 PM

In archaeology, it’s all about context.

Archaeologists discovered a colonial-era gunflint and remnants of a brick foundation on Wednesday, January 13, after they dug up soil on the grounds of the historic Rogers Mansion in Southampton Village—a find that could be significant if sewer lines for the village’s proposed sewer district are installed.

A team of field archaeologists from the Louis Berger group, a New Jersey engineering firm, were in Southampton last week visiting certain sites to determine if the areas are sound enough to install sewer lines. The work is part of an overall evaluation for the sewer project, under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, which is being conducted by Cameron Engineering & Associates, and the digging locations were determined by the relative strength of the soil structure and previous archaeological finds.

According to Louis Berger Senior Archaeologist Jay Sander, the discovery at the Rogers Mansion, which also included historic ceramics, china, ironware and bits of metal, could be significant enough that the firm will recommend that a sewer line not be installed there.

“It’s a known site—it’s never been explored. It would be fun to do more work, but probably the best course of action would be to avoid it,” Mr. Sander said last Thursday morning, January 14, as his team sifted through dirt behind the Village Police Department headquarters on Windmill Lane, where the sewer system’s wastewater treatment plant would be constructed.

The SEQRA evaluation is required to determine the environmental effect the sewer system would have in the village. According to a letter dated in December from Cameron Engineering and addressed to Frank Russo, senior vice president of H2M Architects and Engineers, the firm that drew up the proposal for Southampton, an initial archaeological survey of the village was conducted in October but recommended that shovel tests be undertaken at various locations. The total cost of the SEQRA review for the village, according to the letter, is $53,947, with about $20,000 of that covering the archaeological component. The Village Board authorized the work at its meeting last Thursday.

“Basically, we’re enforcing section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to just make sure that these guys don’t damage anything historically significant when they put the sewer in,” explained Doug Boucher, one of the Louis Berger field archaeologists on the project.

In addition to the Rogers Mansion on Meeting House Lane and the area behind the Police Department, the archaeologists scoured Agawam Park, the parcel of vacant land between the police headquarters and Lola Prentice Park, and the area along the boundary of the North End Cemetery during their time in the village last week from Tuesday to Friday.

Mr. Sander said the team did find some artifacts at Agawam Park that date back to the 1800s, including bottle lips, as well as a pipe stem that could date back to when the Europeans first arrived in Southampton in the 1600s. But because the artifacts were found in a mixture of different soils, it is difficult for the archaeologists to determine what their importance is.

“It has to be in context. The stuff that we found in the park was all disturbed soils, so that’s probably not what we would consider significant, because it’s all mixed up—it’s just stuff,” Mr. Sander said. “We don’t know where it came from. It doesn’t tell a story about history. It doesn’t add anything.”

Sara Regensburger, another field archaeologist on the project, agreed.

“A lot of archaeology is basically about context,” she said. “You can find the best thing in the world, but if it’s right next to a plastic sheet, what’s it gonna do us?”

But the gunflint and brick foundation proved to be an exciting discovery. Tom Edmonds, executive director of the Southampton Historical Museum, wrote in an email that while he was not aware that the archaeologists would be digging at the Rogers Mansion, where the museum is based, “whatever they found had to be important” because of the historical significance of the property. He added that he hopes the Louis Berger group returns the items to the museum after they are documented for the SEQRA report.

“The whole experience was a surprise. This was a great opportunity for the community to learn about our shared past,” Mr. Edmonds wrote. “What a find!”

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So much for public input.
Jan 14, 16 11:51 AM appended by KevinLuss
...and by that I mean, it seems like they are already moving forward with the sewer project.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Jan 14, 16 11:51 AM
The mayor is hell bent on making a sewer district. The cost will be close to 35 million or more. Throw this guy out, with his arrogance.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 16, 16 2:44 PM

The Mayor's plan will be very bad for SV business, all the landlords will pass the tax increase on to the tenants. If the Mayor wants a cleaner Lake Agawam, the richest people in the world that live on the lake should pay a substantial part of the cost AND chemicals on Lake Agawam lawns should be severely restricted.
By tim2011 (18), southampton on Jan 17, 16 12:07 AM
Right on chief1,Throw him out with his arrogence the deputy mayor
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jan 19, 16 10:49 AM
Reminds me: Are they going to do an archaeological study at the site of the proposed condos on the east side of the canal?
By baywoman (165), southampton on Jan 25, 16 2:06 PM
1 member liked this comment