Long Island

Digging for Clues at Historic Home to Shed Light on Black Experience in 1800s Long Island

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A Huntington house with a rich history sits in disrepair, but archaeologists believe that the dirt itself contains clues to the African-American experience on Long Island from long ago.

Peter Crippen, the son of former slaves, purchased the home in 1864. His family and descendants went on to own the property for more than a century, until selling it to the town of Huntington in 2019. It had stood on the same spot on Creek Road since 1674.

"[The house] was going to be demolished and they were going to create a parking lot on the spot," said Dr. Harvey Manes. He heads the Manes Peace Prize Foundation, and donated $8,5000 from the foundation to help research the historical site.

"I felt that's terrible, there's so much African-American history in this building," Manes said.

Archaeologist Allison McGovern has been sifting through the dirt for clues into how one of the town's first African-American families may have lived. She said she has found artifacts from a soil deposit that dates back to the 19th century, when Crippen and his family would've owned the home.

Officials also want to hire an engineer to see if any of the original Crippen home can be restored.

"This is worth looking into, he made a real contribution during a time when African-Americans had it extremely difficult," said Rev. Gloria Artis, of the African-American Designation Council.

"African-American history is too often overlooked, we don't appreciate the contributions," said Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes. "At least in the town of Huntington, there have been African-Americans living here since the 17th century."

It is their hope that any artifacts found at the home will be placed in an African-American museum in the future.

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