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Cuomo supports historic protections for four Suffolk properties

The boathouse once owned by a silent film star, two places African and Native Americans made their own, and Hampton Bays’ oldest house belong on state and federal registers of historic properties, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

If the National Park Service approves the nominations, property owners could seek grants and tax credits, and preservationists will gain a say in any development, Jennifer Betsworth, a historic preservation specialist with the state Parks Department, said Thursday.

Sag Harbor’s 1915 William A. Farnum Boathouse bears the name of a stage and screen actor who biographers say earned $10,000 a week in Hollywood during the silent film era that ended in the 1930s.

“Farnum was one of those manly men, doing actions and Westerns, but it wasn’t just in his film life — he was always out fishing and boating,” Betsworth said.

Boats stored downstairs were “floated onto a wooden cradle at high tide, tied into position, and then hauled out of the water and into the boathouse through its large front door on a set of steel train rails,” according to the application documents for historic protection.

Guests were entertained upstairs amid Farnum’s sailing trophies and mounted fish, including a swordfish.

Christopher N. Matthews, who teaches anthropology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said two of the nominated sites embody the centuries-old but underappreciated history of Native Americans and African Americans: Setauket’s Bethel Christian Avenue Historic District and Stony Brook’s nearby Old Bethel Cemetery.

New York State in 1799 enacted a law gradually abolishing slavery and “independent free communities of color” were established in the Town Brookhaven, the documents said.

The 33-acre historic district includes residences, the 1874 Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the 1815 Laurel Hill cemetery, which Brookhaven set aside as a “Negro burying ground,” documents said.

Freed slaves, however, wanted “more freedom to worship and bury their dead,” application forms state. In 1848, trustees of the AME Society of Setauket and Stony Brook bought the Old Bethel site for their own church and cemetery. Though the church burned down in the 1870s and the congregation moved to the Setauket historic district, the cemetery was used into the early 20th century, documents said.

The fourth Suffolk site is Hampton Bays’ 1790 Ellis Squires Jr. House, where Ellis, his wife, Jerusha, and their seven children began the “Squiretown” community, documents said.

The hamlet’s “oldest surviving dwelling” preserves Suffolk architecture after the Revolution, which “interrupted” its economy and “social stability,” the documents said.

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