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Jul 6, 2018 3:31 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Groundbreaking Held At Future Site Of The Southampton African American Museum

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Saturday at the Southampton African American Musuem.   DANA SHAW
Jul 10, 2018 12:40 PM

It’s been a long time coming, but the future looks bright for the Southampton African American Museum.Having secured nearly $850,000 in funding, Brenda Simmons, the organization’s executive director, helped break ground on the museum’s permanent home at 245 North Sea Road in Southampton Village on Saturday.

The single-story building, once home to Randy’s Barber Shop, was designated as the first African-American historic landmark in the Village of Southampton in 2010. It was recognized as a gathering place for African-Americans—“the East End’s version of a juke joint,” Ms. Simmons said.

“Back in the 1920s, it was a place where African-Americans gathered and played music and danced,” she explained.

Once complete, the museum will focus on teaching the community, particularly school-age children, of the contributions made by African-Americans on the East End. Ms. Simmons plans to collaborate with local schools to implement a curriculum where students will research and produce research reports on influential African-American leaders like Pyrrhus Concer.

Mr. Concer was a 19th century African-American whaler from Southampton who was on 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 came back to Southampton Village and was a respected member of the community who once operated a ferry service on Lake Agawam, not far from his Pond Lane home.

The students’ research papers and coinciding artwork will be displayed on the walls of the 1,450-square-foot museum on North Sea Road.

Other exhibits will include African-American carvings and artwork, which Ms. Simmons said have been donated to the organization over the years, as well as vintage clippers used by former barbershop owner Randy Conquest. She also plans to track down an old barber chair and barber’s pole.

Ms. Simmons also anticipates that the historic barbershop will be home to the African American Film Festival, which in the past has highlighted local African-American activists, artists and icons.

“Those are things that are going to be part of our museum,” Ms. Simmons said. “We want everyone to learn about our culture—I think everybody should learn about everybody’s culture.”

If all goes according to plan, the building—purchased by the town in partnership with the village, using Community Preservation Fund revenues, in 2006—will officially open its doors in September 2019, but only after extensive renovations by Southampton architect Siamak Samii.

The majority of renovations will focus on the building’s interior, as there are certain restrictions on what can be done to the structure due to its historical designation. Minor updates to the exterior, including fixing broken shingles, also will be completed.

“He’s been very instrumental in helping me,” Ms. Simmons said of Mr. Samii.

The project is estimated to cost around $825,000 and will be paid for with $725,000 in Community Preservation Funds. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. secured an additional $125,000 in state funding about three years ago as part of the State and Municipal Capital Fund.

“Historic preservation and supporting local museums is critically important,” Mr. Thiele said. “The history of the African-American community on the East End, and in Southampton in particular, has been under-told. I thought it was a way to ensure that the public was aware of a part of our history that has been forgotten.

“I know Brenda has lived and died with this project for several years,” he added. “It’s perfect proof that persistence pays off.”

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It will be nice to get this project moving forward, not only for the Hillcrest community but the rest of Southampton Village as well.
By 11953guest (37), southampton on Jul 7, 18 10:00 PM
Congratulations! Look forward to having this landmark available for learning and historical preservation. Will be a great asset for our community.
By Infoseeker (266), Hampton Bays on Jul 7, 18 10:38 PM