The Ellis Squires Jr. House has always been well known among Hampton Bays residents. Now its history will be known across the nation.
The historic two-story building has been recognized by the National Park Service and U.S. Department of the Interior, which agreed to add it to the National Register of Historic Places on Monday, November 20. The register includes a list of more than 120,000 recognized buildings and landscapes in the nation, according to State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor.
The Ellis Squires House, located on Newtown Road, is said to be the oldest surviving dwelling in Hampton Bays. According to historians, its namesake, Ellis Squires Jr., built the house circa 1790 and lived there with his wife, Jerusha Rogers Squires. The couple had seven children and the area they lived in became known in the 19th century as Squiretown.
It wasn’t always clear what the federal-style building would become. After Southampton Town officials purchased the property in 2005 for $1.2 million, using money from the Community Preservation Fund, they were unsure what to do with it and so it sat vacant and untouched for more than a decade, its white mold-stained cedar wood shingles peeling and cracking. The building’s salvation didn’t come until February when Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman signed a stewardship agreement with an East End nonprofit advocacy group called Peconic Historic Preservation, which agreed to restore and manage the property for a 10-year period. The Revolutionary War home still sits on its original rubble-stone foundation. “That is a credit to the folks that built it,” Robert Strada, the co-founder of Peconic Historic Preservation, said.
Repairs will be completed in phases over the next five years as Peconic Historic Preservation secures funding through donations, fundraising, and state grants.
“We’re very excited about our progress,” Mr. Strada said. “We’ve covered a lot of ground in just a little time.”
“It’s about time,” longtime Hampton Bays resident Rachel Stephens said. She is the owner of Sweet Woodland Farm, just down the road from the Ellis house, and is the Agro-Ecology Director at Ecological Culture Initiative in Hampton Bays. "I’m happy to hear that it will finally be getting the historic status it deserves. There are so few houses that actually have the status in Hampton Bays so I think this is a really important step forward."
Though the progress they’ve made in just under a year is notable the road ahead is a long one. Mr. Strada explained that the “entire” historic structure needs repairing “starting with the original rubble stone foundation and topping it off with a new cedar shingle roof.”
“Everything needs to be done,” he said, adding that the project is estimated to cost $1,062,270; however, Mr. Strada said that does not include “soft costs” for the development of architectural and engineering plans after a historic structure report is done.
“It’s a lot of work and we have a long way to go,” Mr. Strada said.
“It’s just been sitting there decaying,” said Brenda Sinclair Berntson, the president of the Hampton Bays Historical Society. “Whatever will stop that process of decay would be a good thing.”
Mr. Strada, who has worked on a number of restoration projects on the East End including the Lyzon Hat Shop in Hampton Bays, said the goal is to ensure that “the architectural, historic and cultural features of the property will be restored and maintained forever.”