In the eight years since Huntington officials designated the home of former slave Peter Crippen as a historic landmark, it has continued to decay.
Time and storms pushed the building on Creek Road to the point that it can’t be salvaged and the owner wants the historic designation removed so the property can be sold. The change will reverse protections initiated in 2008 for the home of what preservationists believed was the first African-American in Huntington to purchase land, town officials said. Crippen bought the property in 1864.
“At the time of designation historians thought the place could be salvaged,” said town board member Mark Cuthbertson. “But as it has made its way through Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and other storms, it just does not appear to be able to make it. It’s in a very marshy area and it has severe structural deficiencies.”
The house, a one-and-a-half story wood structure, was designated a landmark for two reasons: its age and its association with Huntington’s African-American heritage, town officials said. Even then, members of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, which makes landmark recommendations to the board, noted that the building was in a deteriorated state.
A Jan. 26 memo from the commission to the town board said it “reluctantly recommends that the town board grant the petition to revoke landmark designation of the Crippen House on condition that the timber framing from the north wing be salvaged.” The north wing was built in 1657 as a grist mill with the Crippen family adding to the home around 1880 and in the 1950s,
Since its designation, the structure has deteriorated and sunk 2 feet into the ground. And town historians subsequently found that Benjamin Hammond, nephew of Jupiter Hammon, the country’s first published African-American poet, actually purchased land in the town in the 1790s.
The Jan. 26 memo also says that “While Mr. Crippen’s purchase still has some historic significance, it is not enough to overcome the severe deterioration of the building.”
Raymond Carmen Jr., a descendant of Crippen and the property’s current owner along with his sister, said no one has lived in the home since their father died in 2001. Carmen said a nearby auto body shop owner uses the property to store vehicles. Carman said the business owner and the town have expressed an interest in purchasing the property.
“I can’t sell it with the [historic] designation attached to it,” Carmen said. “So I am paying taxes on a property that I can’t use.”
Irene Moore, chairwoman of the town’s African-American Designation Council which is tasked with preserving and obtaining recognition for African-American history within the town, said if none of the building can be salvaged members would move to have a marker placed on the site to commemorate the land’s significance.
A public hearing about removing the historic designation is set for March 8 at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Main St.