Southampton Town Board members voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to use $4.3 million in Community Preservation Fund Money to preserve the homestead of Pyrrhus Concer, born a slave in Southampton in 1814, who later in life was an intrepid, world-traveling whaler.
The property’s owners, David Hermer and Silvia Campo, had planned to demolish Concer’s house, but agreed last year to allow historians to disassemble the house to be stored for future use as an African-American history museum.
When Mr. Hermer and Ms. Campo abandoned their building plans and put the property on the market last year, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who spearheaded the Community Preservation Fund, urged Southampton Town to use the preservation money to buy the property and reconstruct Concer’s house.
Southampton CPF Director Mary Wilson told the town board at a public hearing Tuesday afternoon that Southampton Village plans to reconstruct the house and manage the property at no cost to the town.
Brenda Simmons, who co-founded the African American History Museum of the East End and serves as Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley’s assistant, said she’s excited that the town will “continue the legacy of this extraordinary man.”
In the midst of Southampton’s 375th Anniversary celebration, Ms. Simmons reflected that “375 years ago, we as African Americans didnt have much to celebrate.”
“Over the years, so much of our history has been erased and fictionalized, but Pyrrus Concer’s contribution is a reality that we all cannot ignore and overlook,” she said. “I hope his history will be taught in local public schools. In researching this man, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that he was a humble man of integrity and excellence. This black man was highly respected and honored, and he has made an everlasting mark on our history.”
Ms. Simmons invited the public to the property, at 51 Pond Lane, for the unveiling of a historical marker in Pyrrhus Concer’s memory on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 11:30 a.m.
Southampton Historical Museum Director Tom Edmonds said he believes the location of the property, adjacent to Agawam Park and Lake Agawam, will make it a perfect site for families to learn about history while enjoying a peaceful recreational afternoon.
“Southampton has gone through a painful and public scorching” over what happened with the house, he added. “Restoring his house in its original location will greatly rectify our reputation.”
HIstoric preservationist Robert Strada pointed out several architectural details, including hand hewn materials and Greek revival elements, that make the house interesting from an architectural history standpoint.
Georgette Grier-Key, director of Sag Harbor’s Eastville Community Historical Society, said Pyrrhus Concer’s personal history is unusual among African Americans in its thorough documentation.
“Our country has been built on the backs of the free labor of enslaved people,” she said. “We need to allow people to tell their own stories.”
Southampton Landmarks and Historic Districts Board Chair Sally Spanburgh said she hopes a museum in Concer’s house will do just that.
“Southampton can teach itself and others about slavery here,” she said. “There is so much to learn and share about this property and this house. This acquisition will remedy what was almost a tragedy and a total loss. It will announce to other places near and far that Southampton considers its diverse history to be very meaningful.”