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Historic Amagansett Schoolhouse will have new role as a museum

Amagansett schools Superintendent Eleanor Tritt in front of

Amagansett schools Superintendent Eleanor Tritt in front of the 19th century Amagansett Schoolhouse, which has been donated to the district and relocated onto school district property, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday celebrated the return of the one-room 19th century Amagansett Schoolhouse to district property, where it will become a historical museum for local students.

The event, attended by about 200 students, teachers, district alumni and community members, was held in the gymnasium of the nearby Amagansett School on Main Street due to the wet weather.

"We were originally going to have it outside the schoolhouse, but we heard the forecast for the weather," Amagansett Superintendent Eleanor Tritt said after the ceremony. "But there was great community spirit."

The wood-frame building, constructed in 1802, was moved Sept. 19 by truck about three-quarters of a mile from the Atlantic Avenue property of Dr. Huntington Sheldon. It now rests at 320 Main St., at Miankoma Lane, in front of the elementary school. Sheldon donated the building to the school district.

"The district is very thankful for this generous donation, and we are excited that our children will be able to explore this piece of Amagansett history," Tritt said. "Dr. Sheldon's donation will enable today's children to appreciate the historical significance of this schoolhouse for years to come."

The schoolhouse, originally built on Amagansett Street -- now Main Street -- is believed to be the oldest on the East End. In 1864, the building was moved to what is now the south part of the East End Cemetery on Atlantic Avenue, where it remained until 1881. It was later auctioned off to Marcus Hand for $212, and he eventually sold it to Captain Joshua B. Edwards, who moved it to his property, which is now part of the Sheldon property.

"Although my family has enjoyed having the schoolhouse as an integral part of our property for eight decades, we feel it is time to share this historic piece of Amagansett history with the future generations of Amagansett students and residents," Sheldon said in a statement.

The building was used for several purposes over the years. Sandy Nuzzi, principal clerk for the district, said it retains some original features, including a desk, a potbelly stove, a miniature sailboat and a bench.

It took nearly two hours to move the structure to its new location. A remote-controlled hydraulic pump motor system was connected to a special platform with wheels for the trip north on Atlantic Avenue, then west on Amagansett's Main Street to the school district property.

Tritt said many people contributed services and equipment that allowed the schoolhouse to be moved. She said plans now are to work with state education department officials "to see what they will allow us to do" in terms of preparing such a historic property for use as a museum.

"That all remains to be developed," Tritt said of the plan and about when the museum might actually open. "It took us a year to go through the steps necessary to get it here."

She said electrical work for the reopened building and fire alarms are also being donated.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell noted that he is a former Amagansett grade-school student and said he can't believe the schoolhouse has been returned to near its original location.

"I couldn't be more thrilled," Cantwell said. "It's almost a miracle that the school was protected by the Sheldon family in almost pristine condition and is now placed almost in its original place."

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