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Huntington to raze home of former slave who founded town's first black church

No demolition date has been set for the

No demolition date has been set for the Crippen House, seen on Friday, which Huntington Town purchased in 2017 from a former slave's descendants for $75,000. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Huntington home of a former slave and founder of the oldest African-American church in the town is set to be demolished.

The town board voted 5-0 at its June 16 meeting to enter into an agreement with a demolition company to raze the dilapidated home of Peter Crippen on Creek Road.

Crippen, a founder of Huntington’s Bethel AME Church, bought his property in 1864. The town purchased it in 2017 from his descendants for $75,000.

“The Crippen House is a very important piece of Huntington’s history, and while we regret to have seen the house deteriorate over the course of decades to its current state, we are hopeful that salvaged remnants of the original structure can be put to special use,” said Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.

The board approved a $66,000 agreement with Panzner Demo and Abatement Corp. in Patchogue to demolish, remove and dispose of the house and an accessory garage.

There is no date set for the demolition. Once the site is cleared it will be used for employee parking until a permanent use is determined, town officials said.

The house, a one-and-a-half story wood structure, was designated a local landmark in 2008 for two reasons: its age and its association with Huntington’s African-American heritage, town officials said. The north wing was built in 1657 as a grist mill, and the Crippen family added to the home around 1880 and in the 1950s, town officials said.

Crippen was thought to be the first African-American to purchase property in Huntington, but town historians later found that was not the case. Even in bestowing the designation, members of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, which makes landmark recommendations to the board, noted that the building was in a deteriorated state.

The designation was removed in 2016 at the request of Crippen’s descendants, who wanted to sell the property.

Irene Moore, chair of the town’s African-American Historic Designation Council, said it’s notable that the home remained in the family for more than 150 years.

“The council has asked the town to place an historical marker at the site of the house as well as do an archaeological study of the site to preserve artifacts,” Moore said.

Lupinacci said town historian Robert Hughes is looking into possibly getting local universities with archaeology programs to perform a dig for free.

“We’d like to see an entire wall of original timbers saved,” Lupinacci said. “If saving an entire wall is not possible, the alternative is to save whatever timbers or other original wooden structures that may be salvageable.”

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