Pyrrhus Concer house in Southampton to be demolished, but also saved

The home at 51 Pond Lane in Southampton

The home at 51 Pond Lane in Southampton Village, believed to be the former home of Pyrrhus Concer, a slave born in Southampton in 1814. (Sept. 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

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Pyrrhus Concer's house will be demolished, but it will rise again.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said the village will save pieces of the former slave and ferry captain's 19th-century home before its new owners raze it this month, then build a replica at a site that has yet to be determined.

The decision to salvage some beams and framing in the house at 51 Pond Lane comes after a protracted fight between preservationists and the property's new owners, who sought to demolish the structure and build a new home in its place before its history came to light last year.

"I think when it's all said and done, it's going to be a great project, it really will be," Epley said last week. "It's kind of unfortunate that this is really how most of the public learned about this man. He was actually quite an amazing person."

Concer, a slave who was born in 1814 and freed in 1827, led an adventurous life that was largely forgotten until the dispute over his house erupted last year. As a whaler, he sailed to Japan in 1845, the first African-American to do so, traveled to California in search of gold and later operated a ferry in Southampton, historians said. When he died in 1897, an obituary in the Southampton Press described him as "one of the most respected residents of the village."

On March 17, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Concer's birth, Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) declared the day Pyrrhus Concer Day in New York State.

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David Hermer and Silvia Campo, who bought the property for $2.75 million in 2013, sued the village for $10 million this past spring after the village's Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation rejected the couple's application to demolish the house late last year.

The village and the owners reached a settlement in May that gave the village 60 days to remove historical items from the home before its demolition, which may happen this week, Epley said. The 60-day period ended last month, but the owners have granted the village more time, he said.

Strada Baxter Design/Build, an Amagansett-based firm specializing in historic restoration, determined some of the home's beams near the foundation and parts of the frame date back to the 1800s, Epley said.

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"There's enough physical historic evidence to show how the house was originally built, and when," said Robert Strada, a partner with the firm, who said last week that the examination is continuing.

Hermer and Campo will also allow the village to place a marker on the property commemorating Concer, Epley said. An attorney for the owners did not return requests for comment Monday.

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