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In Southampton, History’s Footsteps Are Right Below Your Feet

Originally Posted: July 03, 2008

Kelly Carroll

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The Rogers Mansion, on Meeting House Lane, was built in 1843 for whaling Captain Albert Rogers. Photos by Kelly Carroll

Southampton - Tom Edmonds is in a hurry. Carefully carrying an authentic Revolutionary War costume, complete with gold buttons, short white pants, a tri-corner hat, and a long black cane, he makes his way into Pelletreau Silver Shop on Main Street to deliver the garb.

"Eric is an artisan," offered Edmonds excitedly. "Just like it was in the 1750s."

Jewelry maker Eric Messin checks out his costume at the Pelletreau Silver Shop.

Eric Messin, the man to which Edmonds is referring, sits above a small open flame at his work desk. The resident jeweler in the historic shop, Messin happily takes the costume and holds it out in front of him, wondering if he has stockings to match.

Southampton is a place rich in American history. Born of early fishing clans and stoic farm families, the village was settled by sheer determination as the first New York settlement in 1640, only 20 years after the pilgrims first touched ground in New England. And it is fitting that this Fourth of July, for the first time, the Southampton Historical Museum and Research Center will have an entry in the annual village parade.

Participants will don authentic garb from the American Revolution, including Messin, who will be playing the part of the famous French General Marquis de Lafayette.

"He's playing the part because he's French," said Edmonds, with a laugh.

Yet the parade entry is just the start of a long line of summer events and programs at the Historical Museum's various venues, who's main operations run out of the Rogers Mansion on Meeting House Lane.

The White home at the corner of Jagger Lane was bequeathed to the Historical
Museum and Research Center in January.

In January, the museum was presented with the historic White Home on the corner of Main Street and Jagger Lane. Funnily enough, the house came with no money to keep it up, but it did come with many old buttons. In turn, the museum sold the buttons to be able to make some money to maintain the house.

In honor of Madeleine White, who lived in the home and was known for her hosting, the museum will hold a Lemonade Social at the house this July 4, so members of the museum can socialize and watch the parade.

As director, Edmonds is also very proud of the museum's new Main Street entrance, which is actually not quite completed. Down a red-brick alley, shared with the Sant Ambroeus restaurant, a soon-to-be installed gate will open up on to the Rogers Mansion grounds. Eventually, a "barker" will stand on Main Street inviting people to venture down the alleyway to the museum.

"This has been 20 years in the works," Edmonds, who has worked at the museum for two years and is a Southampton native, recounted.

At the mansion, built in 1843 for whaling Captain Albert Rogers, the museum runs its gift shop and displays several temporary collections that it owns or borrows, like the Lillywhite Family Collection or Ellen d'Pazzi's Lighthouse paintings, both on display until Aug. 30.

Historic handtools on display at the Pelletreau Silver Shop on Main Street.

On the grounds, the Southampton Colonial Society constructed "Old Southampton Village," a collection of historic structures moved from their original spots around Southampton town and re-deposited on the mansion grounds. They include a 19th century paint store, a one-room schoolhouse, and a cobbler's store.

In addition to the museum grounds, the Pelletreau shop on Main Street, Conscience Point at the end of North Sea Road, and the Thomas Halsey Homestead on South Main Street, which opens for the season July 6, are all part of the historical museum's program.

The Pelletreau Silver Shop, open on Main Street, was built in 1686.

Inside Rogers Mansion is housed the museum's Research Center and extensive library, full of information tracing back to the 17th century. More than 800 volumes of cemetery records, church records, whaling logs, deeds, society minutes, account books, genealogies, photographs, maps, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia sit in the archives.

"I knew they were good, but I didn't know how good," said Mary Cummings, archivist and manager of the Research Center, when asked about the collection of archives. "Its like I'm in a candy shop."

Cummings has worked for the Historical Museum for two years and mainly in archives. When something new is donated or bequeathed to the museum, Cummings makes sure to create a record, and put the article in an acid-free folder, to preserve it for years to come.

"It's a very good system," she offered, citing the PastPerfect computer software the center uses to search documents and artifacts. "When people have research questions, they come here. I find what they need."

Cummings, who has just finished a course in archiving, now knows how to trace the basics of genealogy. "Its best if a person calls and tells us what they are looking for," she recommended. "It evolves from there."

While Cummings works in the Research Center, Edmonds is busy around town. After dropping off the parade costume at Pelletreau's, he continues up Main Street toward the White home, site of the Lemonade Social during the parade on Friday. Pointing out the red, white and blue decorations and flags, Edmonds cheerily talks about the prospect of museum members mingling on the porch, discussing history, and watching the historic parade.

"Our mission," says Edmonds, "Is to preserve Southampton's history and culture."

An anchor lost from a British Frigett during the American Revolution later found in Gardiner's Bay.

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Guest (paula ungar) from larchmont,ny says::
I am happy I found this article. I called one of the inns for a reservation and spoke with this nice lady Kiki who told me about the resident silversmith.I work in gold and am a jewelry historian -and i lecture on jewelry. she told me about the new shop and the museum.I love the beach and hope to come out to see the museum and shop. I think it will be a great addition to the history of the village as well as a good businee enterprise. sincerely, paula ungarpjulny@aol.com
Jun 6, 2009 7:16 am


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