Historical NY innovators get National Register nods

Our town: Hampton Bays' Ellis Squires Jr. House, recognized as the birthplace of "Squiretown," is one of 21 New York State nominees recommended for inclusion in the National Registry of Historic Places.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The founders of Long Island’s circa-1800s “Squiretown” and a boathouse belonging to one of America’s first movie stars may soon enjoy new places in history – literally.

Twenty-one statewide properties, including four on the Island, have been nominated for inclusion on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places by the NYS Board for Historic Preservations.

Included in the board’s recommendations are an off-Broadway New York City theater that played a key role in LGBT history and the final resting place of human-rights pioneers Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, among other historically significant spots.

On Long Island, the nominations include Setauket’s Bethel Christian Avenue Historic District, a neighborhood – including residences and a social hall – that formed in the 19th Century around the Bethel AME Church and championed the backgrounds of people with combined Native American and African American heritages.

Brookhaven’s Old Bethel Cemetery, founded in 1848 to allow that same population to worship and bury their dead more freely, has also been nominated for historical recognition.

Also making the Board for Historic Preservations’ wish list: Sag Harbor’s William Farnum Boathouse, a 1915 construction believed to be the last intact structure owned by Farnum, a prominent early 20th Century actor who successfully transitioned from silent to sound films.

The board also paid homage to the Ellis Squires Jr. House, the oldest dwelling in Hampton Bays named for Ellis Jr. and Jerusha Rogers Squires, who likely built the house in 1790 to provide for a family of seven children – sparking a network of descendants and a surrounding community that became known as “Squiretown” in the 19th Century.

Inclusion on the state and national registers is more than a ceremonial nod: Historical-places designation can assist property owners with revitalization efforts by making buildings and geographic areas eligible for various public-preservation programs and services, as well as state grants and both state and federal historic-rehabilitation tax credits.

William Farnum: Historical performance.

Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to bolster the state’s use of rehabilitation tax credits in 2013, some $3 billion has been invested in the preservation and restoration of historically designated commercial properties across New York, according to the governor’s office.

“Listing these landmarks will honor the contributions made by so many New Yorkers throughout our vast history, and helps advance efforts to preserve and improve these important historic sites for future generations,” Cuomo said in announcing the 21 new nominations.

The Board for Historic Preservations made recommendations this go-around in six of the state’s 10 economic zones. The most nominations were made in the New York City region, where the board proposed five historically significant spots, including a circa-1877 building that, from 1958 to 1968, housed Caffe Cino, the significant Off-Off-Broadway theater known for supporting gay playwrights – at a time when depicting homosexuality on stage was illegal.

The Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester – established by that city in 1838 and the final resting place of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony, among others – was one of three nominations in the Finger Lakes region.

Also making the cut: The Spear & Co.’s circa-1906 factory in Queens, Syracuse’s North Salina Street Historic District, the 169-year-old Oswego & Syracuse Railroad Freight House in Oswego and the Kreiner Malt House and Grain Elevator in Buffalo, which opened in 1925 and supplied malt to local brewers for much of the 20th Century.

The board also recommended adding 19 properties to Brooklyn’s Lefferts Manor Historic District, which was originally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Once the board’s recommendations are approved by the NYS historic preservation officer, the properties will be listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and officially nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. There are currently more than 120,000 New York buildings, structures and sites listed on the National Register.