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Hamptons Life

Jun 24, 2019 2:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Southampton History Museum Celebrates 120 Years

The Southampton History Museum's newly restored Nugent Carriage House, home to the Carriage House Thrift Shop, on the grounds of the Rogers Mansion. ANNETTE HINKLE
Jun 24, 2019 2:07 PM

The Southampton History Museum celebrated its birthday with a party on June 15, marking 120 years of preserving the town’s artifacts and educating the community about a way of life that is no more.

What began in 1899 as a committee of concerned citizens with a mission, but with no physical space, Southampton History Museum is now an organization that oversees and manages four properties: The Rogers Mansion Museum Complex with its 12 historic buildings, The Thomas Halsey Homestead, The Pelletreau Silver Shop, and Conscience Point Historic Site.

It was just a “group of nice people who got together to be activists, to actively preserve the history,” Tom Edmonds, the executive director of the Southampton History Museum, explained in a recent interview.

It wasn’t until 1952 that the Southampton History Museum moved into its first property. That’s when the organization leased the Rogers Mansion and grounds from Southampton Village and began a restoration to turn the property into a museum. Prior to that, the Rogers Mansion had served as a home to families and organizations like the Red Cross. The home sits on land that was originally granted to William Rogers in 1645 and remained in the Rogers family for eight generations. Samuel L. Parrish, the founder of the Parrish Art Museum, an attorney from New York City and summer colonist, purchased the residence in 1899. After his death in 1932, the Red Cross, the YMCA and other organizations operated out of the mansion until the Southampton History Museum lease began.

Today, the mansion is a treasure trove of objects and furnishings donated by community members, with some items dating back to the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The grounds also contain a collection of historic structures, such as the Red Creek Schoolhouse, the Carpenter’s Shop, Hildreth’s General Store, and Fordham and Elliston Paint Shop, which reminds Mr. Edmonds of his own childhood working at a Sherwin-Williams paint store owned by his father.

Mr. Edmonds, who majored in museum studies at New York University, was hired to oversee the museum in 2006 when he was residing in Queens. Over the course of his 13 years at the museum, he became fascinated with Southampton and its “12,000-year history,” which includes the formation of Long Island through glacial movement and the story of its earliest Native American inhabitants.

“It’s ancient history, and of course the Colonial Era, when the English pioneers came here,” Mr. Edmonds said.

The 12 English settlers who arrived at Conscience Point in North Sea in 1640 gave Southampton its name. They had traveled here by boat from Massachusetts to start the colony. According to Mr. Edmonds, they were all under the age of 25 and were middle-class tradespeople who knew how to farm and make their own goods. With the end of the Revolutionary War and the withdrawal of British forces from the East End in 1783, the community began to decline. Then the whaling industry came along to rescue the community, and by the 19th century, it was a booming business, though by century’s end, it, too, had virtually vanished.

Then came the 1872 extension of the Long Island Rail Road to the South Fork, which brought rich New Yorkers looking for a break from the bustle of the city to Southampton, transforming the village into a summer resort community for the wealthy.

Mr. Edmonds called the relationship between the wealthy class and the locals “symbiotic,” as the new residents created a market for local goods, heating fuel, food and other necessities in an otherwise struggling economy.

On a recent Friday, Mr. Edmonds sat on a bench on the Rogers Mansions grounds, reflecting on the development of the community over time. He noted that the spot where he sat once had a view of the ocean. This was prior to Southampton’s development when the area consisted mostly of pastureland for cows and cornfields.

“First they [the founders of the Southampton History Museum] would be shocked at how much this has developed,” Mr. Edmonds said of the village. “What they wouldn’t have is our perspective, that if it wasn’t for preservation, we would look like Atlantic City. Easily.”

Along with the recent “birthday party,” the Southampton History Museum has reopened the Carriage House Thrift Shop in what was historically known as the Nugent Carriage House. Inside, donated goods and consignment items are being sold with proceeds funding education programs, which are offered for free by the Southampton History Museum. Rogers Mansion is located at 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton Village. For more information on the museum, visit southamptonhistory.org.

Upcoming Events Include:

“Morris Studio: The Unseen Collection, Photographs of Southampton 1892-1940”

Exhibition on view through August 3.

Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton

Whale of a Fair, on the Great Lawn of the Rogers Mansion

Saturday, July 6, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton

Vendors offer art, handmade items, jewelry, vintage clothing, antiques and more. Fair is held on various Saturdays all summer long.

“The Beach Ball,” Halsey House Gala

Saturday, July 6, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Halsey House, 249 South Main Street, Southampton

To buy tickets, call 631-283-2494 or visit southamptonhistory.org

Roaring into the Future: Art Deco and Early Modernism in New York, 1925-1935

Saturday, July 13, 4 p.m.

Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton

Ghost Hunting at the Halsey House

Saturday, July 13, 8:30 to 11 p.m.

Halsey House, 249 South Main Street, Southampton

To buy tickets call 631-283-2494 or visit southamptonhistory.org

Ghost Hunting at the Rogers Mansion

Saturday, July 13, 8:30 to 11 p.m.

Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton

To buy tickets call 631-283-2494 or visit southamptonhistory.org

The Old North Cemetery and Bowden Square: A Walking Tour with Anne Halsey

Thursday, July 25, 11 a.m.

North Sea Road at North Main Street, Southampton

RSVP by calling 631-283-2494


Jewelry Making Classes

Saturday, July 27, 10 a.m.

The Pelletreau Silver Shop, 80 Main Street, Southampton

Fee is charged. To register call 631-283-2494

To Perpetuate the Best: Furnishing the Colonial Revival House

Saturday, July 27, 4 p.m.

Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton

RSVP at 631-283-2494

$10 admission. Free for members.

Hands on History: Conscience Point Tour & Local Conservation

Thursday, August 1, 3 p.m.

Presented by the Long Island Aquarium

Conscience Point, 1640 Conscience Point Road, Southampton

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