FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Landmarks & Historic Districts Board
Phone: (631) 283-6000
“Southampton Town Receives Prestigious SPLIA Preservation Award”
In recognition of considerable accomplishments in the field of historic preservation throughout 2011, the Town of Southampton was one of four honorees by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) at their annual award presentation ceremony at their headquarters in Cold Spring Harbor, Sunday, April 22nd, 2012.
Specifically, the Town of Southampton was recognized due to specific historic preservation related accomplishments in 2011 by the Landmarks & Historic Districts Board (LHDB), chaired by Sally Spanburgh, and the Historical Burial Ground Committee, headed by Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer and Town Historian Zach Studenroth.
“This is a great honor and represents the tremendous efforts that have been put forth by Town staff members and volunteers to preserve the rich heritage, sites, and structures that make Southampton such a distinct and historic area to live and visit,” said Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, Town Board liaison to the Landmarks & Historic Districts Board. “In a current climate where folks are concerned about making a living and maintaining their property values there’s a lot of pressure on policy makers regarding landmarks. That’s why it’s so important that we have people like those who were honored at the SPLIA awards, who educate on the economic enhancements that cultural areas and landmarks can bring.”
Over the course of the 2011 calendar year, the LHDB established a Landmarks Maintenance Program to enable cash-strapped owners of historic structures the means with which to maintain them, and helped draft bills that modified the Town’s zoning codes to enable the creation of historic districts, strengthen demolition procedures, and introduce demolition related definitions. Further, the Board conducted an extensive public education and outreach program entitled, “The State of Historic Preservation in the Town of Southampton,” continued to compile Hamlet Heritage Area Reports, had the 12th landmark in the Town designated, and created an online interactive “Historic Resources Map,” a public tool where visitors can look up historical points of interest, and obtain information on the overwhelming amount of historical architectural sites and landmarks that exist within the Town, the oldest in New York State. The Town also contracted to have its many historic resources inventoried in a reconnaissance level survey, expected to reach completion this spring.
“I was overjoyed to learn Southampton was one of the awardees this year, and in the company of Robert Stern Architects, no less,” said LHDB Chair Sally Spanburgh. “It is wonderful to be recognized for all our hard work, but even more rewarding to watch the fruits of that hard work pay off in our own communities.”
In 2004 the Town of Southampton undertook a survey of historic cemeteries and burying grounds which was followed by an intensive condition analysis in 2005-06 during which a team from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a stone-by-stone assessment throughout the 10 town owned burying grounds. Since then, under the auspices of the Town Clerk’s Office, these records have been converted into a user-friendly format that is accessible for research purposes on the Town's website, and a Historic Burying Ground Committee was formed to administer a 50-50 matching grant program to encourage volunteers and gifts of goods and services toward the restoration of these sites.
“The development of the Historic website has been a lengthy process but well worth the time spent to provide public access to the valuable information collected in the Cemetery Study and in turn to elevate the community’s awareness of the treasures we have a responsibility to preserve,” said Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer.
“The Hampton Bays Historical Society was instrumental in the development of a Cemetery Task Force that brought together key representatives of our community in preservations efforts and served as a model for the Town’s Burying Ground Committee,” Schermeyer added. “The individuals that serve on the Task Force and the new Burying Ground Committee all have a love and respect for our Town’s rich history; they certainly share in the honor of winning this award.”
The North Sea Burying Ground has been a model site for the program. Under the leadership of John Griffin (a descendant of several interred there), a stewardship agreement was formed between the Town and the Southampton Historical Museum, giving John and his volunteers the ability to clean the headstones, undertake small repairs, probe the site for buried and discarded stones, and contract with professionals for projects ranging from high tree work to iron fence repairs and re-setting stones that have fallen. Work toward forming similar partnerships between the Town and other historical and civic organizations who may wish to refurbish the burying grounds in their neighborhood is concurrently being sought.
With the momentum gained from both the activities of the LHDB and Historical Burying Ground Committee, and the SPLIA award, 2012 is destined to be equally productive. Already several privately owned burial ground groups are interested in participating in the program, several owners of landmark-worthy properties are applying for designation, and at least three neighborhoods are fighting to become Southampton’s first historic district.
Thanks to bipartisan support across the Town Board as well as the dedication of these town groups and boards which are largely comprised of volunteers, historic preservation in general is resuming its place as a town priority, along with the preservation of its cultural and natural resources.
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PHOTO ATTACHED: Representatives from the Town of Southampton receiving the award from SPLIA, Sunday, April 22, 2012. From left to right, Alexandra Wolfe, Preservation Services Director for SPLIA; Zachary Studenroth, Southampton Town Historian, Sally Spanburgh, Chair of the Southampton Town Landmarks & Historic Districts Board (LHDB), Bridget Fleming, Southampton Town Councilwoman and LHDB Liaison, other Southampton Town LHDB past and present members, Susan Sherry Clark, Richard Casabianca and Tom Ackerson.