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Feb 17, 2015 2:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Local Push To Save Pyrrhus Concer Homestead Gaining Traction

Feb 18, 2015 11:04 AM

A new push to preserve the site of the Pyrrhus Concer homestead utilizing proceeds from Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund gained some traction this week, with State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. throwing his support behind the plan.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Thiele said he would support the CPF purchase of the Southampton Village parcel, noting that the proposition was brought to his attention by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, a not-for-profit historic preservation organization. The group has called on the town to purchase the lot at 51 Pond Lane, where the now demolished house once stood, and then to construct a new house from historical materials that were salvaged prior to the home’s demolition.

Born a slave in 1814, Mr. Concer was later freed and went on several whaling expeditions, most notably when he was part of a crew that saved stranded Japanese sailors and returned them to their country. He was one of the first Americans, and one of the first black men, to visit then restricted Japan.

The 0.82-acre property has been at the center of controversy since September 2013, when the Southampton Village Architectural Review Board first heard public comment on a proposal to demolish the Pyrrhus Concer house, which many East End residents said was an integral part of Southampton history, and treasured by the region’s African-American community, to make way for a single-family home. After several months of public debate, the ARB denied the homeowners a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the structure, which led to a $10 million lawsuit filed against the village, with the owners claiming their property rights were being denied.

In May 2014, the village and the homeowners reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit, and the village was able to go into the house to salvage historic artifacts before the house was ultimately demolished in August. Then, in November, owners David Hermer and Silvia Campo changed their minds, and withdrew applications to develop the property, putting it on the market for $4,995,000.

According to Jason Crowley, the preservation director for SPLIA, the sale of the property along Lake Agawam is a valuable opportunity to right a wrong by preserving the property, incorporating archaeological excavations and a monument on the grounds.

“Because materials were lost and the integrity was in question, they can reassemble it as a preserved ruin, and even though it will be a shadow of what was there, it will show the history of what was lost but not forgotten and create a public center for people to learn about African-American history, Pyrrhus Concer, and the relationship with the East End," Mr. Crowley said. “It could be a good way to bring the house home.”

This week, Mr. Thiele said he has talked to several Southampton officials, including CPF Manager Mary Wilson and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, neither of whom was available for comment on Tuesday, about the proposal, and said there is agreement that the proposal has merit. The first step, he said, would be for the town to have the property appraised and decide on a price it would be willing to pay.

Mr. Thiele said that preserving the property would serve the public interest: “We can make the best of this tragic situation by acquiring the property, returning the salvaged materials to the site, and devoting the location to research and education.”

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Why didn't they do this at the beginning when the owners offered to sell them the land?
By Broo100 (11), Southampton on Feb 17, 15 4:39 PM
If they use 4 million from the cpf funds for a 3/4 acre lot this will confirm a bunch of political correctness bs. They have never proved that Mr Concer had lived at the site in fact the demolished house was built way after Mr Concer died.They used CPF funds a couple years ago to buy a village barbershop paying double what it was worth, because blacks had their hair cut at the location.
This is another abuse of CPF funds.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 17, 15 5:31 PM
4 members liked this comment
Whatever happened to the two cads who demolished the historic home and then changed their minds about constructing a tacky McMansion, only to put the now empty land back on the market? Seems to me some of the CPF money should be used to fund a lawsuit against them for unconscionable conduct.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Feb 17, 15 9:07 PM
you mean the couple that bought a house after obtaining a document from the town assuring them that the house had no historical or architectural value? The same document in which the town historian recommended the house be demolished?
By Broo100 (11), Southampton on Feb 17, 15 9:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
While it is sad to see historic structures demolished, what would have happened if CPF funds had been used to buy this one? It would look just like the barber shop, Conscience Point and Swan beach - just to name a few...... Unkept, ignored and left to rot like all the other CPF purchases. The Town has used the CPF fund to herald their accomplishments in the Media while doing absolutely nothing to preserve what they paid for. If Conscience point was privately owned, the owners would have the Town ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Feb 18, 15 9:08 AM
2 members liked this comment
While I agree with you that these properties that have been purchased by the town and village have been allowed to rot, I beleive that some of these properties like have been purchased directly by the town and village and not through the CPF. I agree its a shame that there is no management of these after the purchase, often it seems to solve a neighborhood political problem rather than true preservation purpose.

In the case of Conscience Point I believe this was a town purchase done because ...more
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Feb 18, 15 9:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
Part of the problem with CPF is that I believe the monies cannot be used for restoration of buildings - only for purchase and some general maintenance, so the Town's need to come up with other funding for restoration projects.

Yes, it would be great that every time the Town buys one of these historic structures that they spruce it up ASAP but we all know how slow government works. Projects need public approval, Board approval, then be put out to bid, find a qualified builder and have the ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Feb 18, 15 10:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
Not true.....CPF can be used to fund historic restorations under the stewardship part of the program....
By shadow captain (34), sag harbor on Feb 18, 15 10:45 AM
It's too late now. I think the ferry on Lake Agawam is already an eyesore and makes what once was a peaceful park more like Disneyland. Now a fake old house across the street? This whole situation shows the ignorance and folly
of our local government. Time to get some new faces to weigh in on these matters.
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Feb 18, 15 11:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
This would be like exhuming Joan Rivers, giving her a new face lift and propping her up in a window . There is too much money in the CPF fund and it is not used to the best advantage. If they 'reconstruct" the house using salvaged materials, it will look like a local Pain Quotidien and further advance the ersatz, theme park quality the town creates to cover all its desecrations.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Feb 19, 15 12:12 PM
Why is the Town doing it? It's the Village trustees who "settled" this fraudulent
lawsuit, which had the cooperation of mayor Mark Epley and ARB and Building
Department lawyer Elbert W. Robinson Jr. And the bogus lawsuit was brought
with the intention of nullifying the 13 December ARB decision, written per usual by Elbert W., which correctly stated that the Concer house at 51 Pond Lane should be preserved. Remember that the owners of that property, adjacent to their 37 Pond Lane property, ...more
By ek616367 (14), Southampton on Feb 19, 15 1:04 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 20, 15 10:34 PM
Ahhh hindsight = head up a-- and wondering why the issue has gone along the wayside. And why can't a politician give a "YES or NO" answer in under nine hun dred words?
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Feb 28, 15 4:54 PM