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May 16, 2018 9:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Board Accepts Bid For Pyrrhus Concer House Restoration

The property in Southampton Village where the Pyrrhus Concer home once stood.  DANA SHAW
May 16, 2018 9:42 AM

The Southampton Village Board has accepted a bid of $437,600 to restore Pyrrhus Concer’s historic home next to Lake Agawam, paving the way to honor a local African-American legend.

The bid was accepted on Thursday, May 10, after a failed earlier attempt in December 2017 almost derailed the project when proposals came in substantially higher than the $500,000 that the village had appropriated for the project.

But on April 5, the project was opened back up, and four bids were submitted. The board chose to go with the lowest bid from William G. Prophy LLC; others ranged as high as nearly $1 million.

The project is being paid for by the Village of Southampton and includes reconstructing the approximately 16-foot-by-30-foot Pyrrhus Concer house, which was demolished by the property’s previous owners.

In 2016, a museum was planned for the property that included a visitor center, amphitheater, walkways and a path of waterfalls and ponds, but the project became pricey and village officials backed away from the deal.

Southampton Village officials now plan to rebuild the house using the majority of the original frame that was salvaged from the property, but there are no immediate plans for its use.

Paul Rogers, an architect with Chaleff & Rogers, said the construction is expected to begin within the next month or so, and should be completed by the fall.

Mr. Concer was a 19th century African-American whaler and a member of a crew that saved stranded Japanese sailors, making him one of the first Americans, and perhaps the first person of color, to visit Japan, at a time when entry to the country was restricted. He later resided in Southampton Village and was a respected member of the community who once operated a ferry service on Lake Agawam, not far from his home.

The 0.82-acre property was purchased by David and Sylvia Hermer in 2013 for $2.75 million. The couple applied to have the home demolished so they could build a new one, and, after several months of debate, the Southampton Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation denied their application, owing to the historic nature of the house, which had elements remaining from when Mr. Concer lived there in the 19th century.

The couple then filed a $10 million notice of claim against the village, charging that their rights as property owners were being denied. The village and homeowners later reached an agreement: The municipality was given permission to salvage artifacts before the home was demolished, and the couple put the property back on the market.

Two months later, the Southampton Town Board agreed to purchase and preserve the vacant property for $4.3 million, using Community Preservation Fund revenues.

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