Archeologist Recommends Expanded Study at Peter Crippen House
1653 Foundation Crowdfunding Campaign to Offer Up to $10,000 Match
The Town of Huntington and the 1653 Foundation have started a crowdfunding campaign with a $10,000 match from an anonymous donor to help cover the costs of an expanded archaeological study at the Peter Crippen House, a site significant to Huntington’s African American history.
Based on findings from the Phase I archaeological study at the Peter Crippen House, Dr. Allison McGovern recommended an expanded dig, or Phase II study, to uncover historical artifacts from the site, which would cost approximately $30,000. The Town currently has a donation of $5,000 from Empire Auto Group to cover part of the cost of the expanded study but must find an additional $25,000 in funding to move forward with the project.
The Town has teamed up with the 1653 Foundation to start a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the costs of the expanded Peter Crippen House archaeological study. Donations may be made at https://1653foundation.org/crippen-house/
An anonymous donor has offered a dollar-for-dollar match for the first $10,000 in contributions made through October 31, 2021.
Dr. McGovern is an archaeologist with VHB Engineering, the firm hired by the Town to oversee the Peter Crippen House archaeological study. The Manes Peace Prize Foundation donated $8,500 to the Town to conduct an archaeological study at the site, which covered the cost of the Phase 1 archaeological dig conducted in January 2021 by Dr. McGovern, a well-respected public archaeologist who works with historical societies and local interest groups to investigate aspects of the past through archaeological investigation.
The Town is seeking to retain the archaeologist who started the project to complete it; her previous field work will inform the process going forward and if the Town were to hire a different archaeological firm to conduct the expanded study, they may feel compelled to replicate the work that has already been completed, adding to the project costs.
“There are very few Long Island-based archaeologists, especially none with the depth of experience Dr. McGovern has working with sites related to the history of people of color on Long Island,” said Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci. “She is unique in that regard.”
Greg Wagner, co-founder of the 1653 Foundation stated, “The Mission of the 1653 Foundation is dedicated to restoring, maintaining and enhancing Huntington’s park lands and open space. Partnering with a local anonymous donor, the Foundation is facilitating a funding match of up to $10,000 toward the preservation of the history of the Peter Crippen House and other early African American settlers. This initiative highlights the home’s historical significance and will continue to celebrate the Town’s deep historical roots.”
Donations may be made at https://1653foundation.org/crippen-house/
Peter Crippen House History
The north wing of the Peter Crippen House is believed to be the Town’s first mill building built in 1658; the mill was taken out of service in 1672, moved from Mill Lane to Creek Road in 1674 and converted into a residence.
In 1864, the home was purchased by Peter Crippen, an African American who was born a free person in 1809 on a plantation in Virginia and came to Huntington in the 1830s, arriving to work at the Crossman brickyards in Lloyd Neck in 1836. Peter Crippen was a prominent member of Huntington’s African American community: In 1843, he was a founding member of the African Methodist Ebenezer Church in Huntington (currently the Bethel AME Church). While the property was not prime real estate, as the building was old even then and on marginal, marshy land, this purchase reflected an important achievement for Crippen, as African American land ownership was rare during this period.
After Crippen’s death in 1875, the house was expanded to the south. The house stayed in the Crippen family until the Town initiated a purchase of it in 2017 and closed on the property in June 2019. In early 2017, the Town Board removed the structure’s historic designation because of its deteriorated condition. In May 2017, a public hearing was scheduled for June 2017 to consider the acquisition of the property for use as an additional parking area for the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant, which sits next door to the site. In July 2017, the Town Board approved the $75,000 purchase of the Peter Crippen House property; the Town closed on the property in June 2019.
In December 2019, the Crippen House and accessory garage were declared to be structurally unsound and in danger of imminent collapse by the Town’s Deputy Director of Engineering, a Professional Engineer; existing perimeter fencing with locked gates provides protection for public safety purposes. The Town prepared a resolution for the controlled demolition of the structures in May 2020; entry into the house is not permitted, which requires the demolition project to be treated as a controlled demolition with asbestos in place. It has been the plan of the Town to have any demolition or dismantling of the house overseen by the Town’s Engineering Department to ensure any salvageable pieces of the structure will be properly preserved; the contract with the demolition company requires a pre-construction meeting to discuss options to salvage the timber frame of the oldest section of the structure to the extent possible. The resolution was not considered by the Town Board until June 2020, when it passed unanimously.