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Town of Huntington, NY - News Details

1/11/2021 - [VIDEO] Huntington Archeological Dig Kicks Off Black History Month Early at Peter Crippen House


Huntington – Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci, Councilwoman Joan Cergol and Councilman Ed Smyth were joined by Dr. Harvey Manes of the Manes Peace Prize Foundation, archaeologist Allison McGovern, Ph.D., VHB Engineering, Town officials and members of the community during the second day of the archeological dig taking place at the Peter Crippen House, a site significant to the Town of Huntington’s African American history, on Friday, January 8.  


Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci stated, “The long-term plan is to relocate the restored structure, if it is feasible to do so, to a more suitable site to serve as a museum or use any salvageable timbers in some educational capacity dedicated to Huntington’s African American history.” Supervisor Lupinacci’s office has been working closely with the Town Historian, Engineering Department and the Town’s African American Historic Designation Council to ensure that the Peter Crippen House, which is in severe disrepair and is set to be demolished, can be properly preserved, as the site is integral to Huntington’s African American history. “We are excited to see what is unearthed as the archaeological study proceeds over the next week and we will follow up with any discoveries made during the dig.” 


Preserving Huntington's history is a priority to the Lupinacci administration and the current Town Board. This past summer, the Town submitted an inquiry to the State Historic Preservation Office seeking eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. In September 2020, Supervisor Lupinacci and Town Historian Robert Hughes were able to secure an $8,500 donation from the Manes Peace Prize Foundation to conduct an archaeological study on-site before any demolition occurs at the Crippen House. The Town also applied for $4,000 in Preservation League of New York State grant funding for a structural assessment of the house to determine to what extent the building, or its timbers, can be preserved for reconstruction at another site, the location of which has yet to be determined. In November 2020, the State Historic Preservation Office determined that the house is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes the property eligible for State grant funds. The Town awaits a decision on the grant funding. 


Councilwoman Joan Cergol stated, “I’m so pleased to be a part of advancing this archeological exploration at the Peter Crippen House. Based on the artifacts that have already turned up after day one, I remain optimistic that more will follow to better inform and connect us to Huntington’s African American history and Mr. Crippen’s personal legacy here.” 


Councilman Ed Smyth made a suggestion to rename Creek Road after Peter Crippen to honor his achievements as one of Huntington’s early African American landowners and as a founding member and trustee of what is now the Bethel AME Church in Huntington, "I think it's an appropriate monument to the African American community and to Peter Crippen here at this location to permanently rename this road in his honor." 


Dr. Harvey Manes, of the Manes Peace Prize Foundation, which donated $8,500 to the Town to conduct an archaeological study at the site, noted, “African-Americans made an important contribution to the history of Huntington which needs to be recognized.” Dr. Harvey Manes’ American Peace Prize Foundation honors American individuals and organizations for their achievements in promoting peace and good will to make the world a better place for future generations. 


Dr. Allison McGovern, an archaeologist with VHB Engineering, is overseeing the dig; Dr. McGovern a well-respected public archaeologist who works with historical societies and local interest groups to investigate aspects of the past through archaeological investigation. At the press conference, Dr. McGovern relayed some of her early findings, including pieces of ceramics and glass, including a glass Vaseline jar dating back to the turn of the last century. The archaeological study began on Thursday, January 7, continued Friday and is expected to resume Wednesday, January 13, pending weather conditions, lasting approximately 4-5 days total. 


Attendees at the press conference included President of the Huntington NAACP, Reverend Larry Jennings, Pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Huntington, whose members were involved in the preservation discussions early on; Irene Moore, Chairperson of the African American Historic Designation Council and members Melissa Rousseau, Charleen Francis, and Rev. Glorious Artis; Sarah Kautz of Preservation Long Island, who has been very helpful to the Town on this preservation project; Town Historian Robert Hughes; and the Town’s Deputy Director of Engineering Services Jim Ahrens, P.E. 


Peter Crippen House History 


The north wing of the Peter Crippen House is believed to be the Town's first mill building built in 1658; the mill was taken out of service in 1672, moved from Mill Lane to Creek Road in 1674 and converted into a residence. 


In 1864, the home was purchased by Peter Crippen, an African American who was born a free person in 1809 on a plantation in Virginia and came to Huntington in the 1830s, arriving to work at the Crossman brickyards in Lloyd Neck in 1836. Peter Crippen was a prominent member of Huntington's African American community: In 1843, he was a founding member of the African Methodist Ebenezer Church in Huntington (currently the Bethel AME Church). While the property was not prime real estate, as the building was old even then and on marginal, marshy land, this purchase reflected an important achievement for Crippen, as African American land ownership was rare during this period. 


After Crippen’s death in 1875, the house was expanded to the south. The house stayed in the Crippen family until the Town initiated a purchase of it in 2017 and closed on the property in June 2019. In early 2017, the Town Board removed the structure’s historic designation because of its deteriorated condition. In May 2017, a public hearing was scheduled for June 2017 to consider the acquisition of the property for use as an additional parking area for the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant, which sits next door to the site. In July 2017, the Town Board approved the $75,000 purchase of the Peter Crippen House property; the Town closed on the property in June 2019. 


In December 2019, the Crippen House and accessory garage were declared to be structurally unsound and in danger of imminent collapse by the Town's Deputy Director of Engineering, a Professional Engineer; existing perimeter fencing with locked gates provides protection for public safety purposes. The Town prepared a resolution for the controlled demolition of the structures in May 2020; entry into the house is not permitted, which requires the demolition project to be treated as a controlled demolition with asbestos in place. It has been the plan of the Town to have any demolition or dismantling of the house overseen by the Town’s Engineering Department to ensure any salvageable pieces of the structure will be properly preserved; the contract with the demolition company requires a pre-construction meeting to discuss options to salvage the timber frame of the oldest section of the structure to the extent possible. The resolution was not considered by the Town Board until June 2020, when it passed unanimously.