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Jul 8, 2009 6:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach home could soon be recognized as historical landmark

Jul 8, 2009 6:05 PM

A 274-year-old home that was nearly demolished to make way for a waterfront mansion in Westhampton Beach Village is now well on its way to being listed on the state and federal registers of historic places.

The New York State Board of Historic Preservation nominated the Foster-Meeker Homestead for the State Register of Historic Places, an honorary title the Westhampton Beach Historical Society had been hoping would be bestowed upon the structure, according to Stephanie Davis, the corresponding secretary for the group.

The Foster-Meeker Homestead is an 18th-century Cape Cod-style house that was previously located just west of Turkey Bridge on Main Street in the village. The building, which was donated to the Historical Society, was moved next to the group’s Tuttle Hill House Museum on Mill Road last year. The Historical Society plans on restoring the building, a project that could cost as much as $400,000.

“This is a great thing, as it will allow us to apply for grants in the future and recognizes us as a historic site, which is going to be important for bringing people to Westhampton to see one of the few historic landmarks on the East End,” said Westhampton Beach Historical Society Vice President Bob Murray.

Once listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places, the Foster-Meeker Homestead will join other landmarks in Southampton Town including the Benjamin James Homestead and the Big Duck, both located on Flanders Road in Flanders, and the entire Southampton Village Historic District.

New York State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash only has to sign off on the Foster-Meeker Homestead’s application before it is officially listed on the state register, said Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the New York State Board for Historic Preservation. Mr. Keefe could not put a date on when Ms. Ash would sign off on the application.

Once that happens, the Foster-Meeker Homestead application will go before the National Parks Service, which must sign off on the federal landmark designation, Mr. Keefe explained. He did not know when federal officials would approve the application.

The historic Westhampton Beach home was moved from its original location on Main Street to Mill Road by an 18-wheel truck in June 2008, after the Historical Society received a $29,000 donation from Walter Goldstein. The Foster-Meeker Homestead was located on property owned by Mr. Goldstein prior to its relocation.

The Historical Society intends to apply for a New York State Environmental Bond Act matching grant once the home is officially on the state register. Ms. Davis said the group hopes to secure between $200,000 and $300,000. If it secures the matching grant, the Historical Society has to, in the very least, raise as much money as it receives from the state.

Ms. Davis noted that there is a lot of competition for the grant; last year, 32 applications were filed in Suffolk and Nassau counties, but only 11 groups received state money. The application deadline is not until September and Ms. Davis said her group will most likely have to wait several months before learning if it will receive any state funding.

Between the anticipated grant money and funds it has already raised, the Historical Society should be well on its way to reaching its goal of $400,000—the estimated amount needed to fully restore the 1,100-square-foot home.

“We’re looking to turn the clock back to the type of construction it had when it was first built in 1700s, including using materials and construction methods that would have been authentic for the time,” Ms. Davis said about her future plans for the house.

Once that work is complete, the society hopes the home will function as a living museum.

The Foster-Meeker Homestead is named after the family that first lived in the home. It was originally constructed as a one-story building, though previous owners renovated it and added a second story. Historical Society members had intended to remove that addition when they began restoring the home, but have since changed their minds. Mr. Murray said his group might leave the addition, explaining that it shows how architectural styles have changed since 1735, when the home was built.

In anticipation of receiving a matching state grant, Mr. Murray said his organization has been busy raising funds to finance the restoration. To date, the group cleared about $4,000 through its Founders’ Day Brunch held in the spring and, last month, secured another $8,000 in donations during an auction held at Starr Boggs, an event that kicked off the group’s summer exhibit season.

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Good job Westhampton Historical! Your hard work is paying off. I applaud you for working to save this treasure.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 7, 09 3:27 PM