A historic ferry route traversing Lake Agawam in Southampton Village may be revived next summer if plans to reinstate the roughly mile-long boat ride are successful.
According to Nick Palumbo, the north-south ferry ride would run from July to August 2014 as a 200th birthday tribute to former slave Pyrrhus Concer, who drove his boat up and down Lake Agawam in the mid-1800s transporting people between Main Street and the village beaches.
The modern-day route would follow the historic one, picking passengers up near Agawam Park and dropping them off at the Bathing Corporation of Southampton on Gin Lane. From there, passengers will be able to choose to walk to Coopers Beach, or go to the public beach directly to the east of the landing dock. The trip will take 10 to 12 minutes each way, and eight to 10 people will fit at a time.
“I think it would be practical transportation for people at the park who want to go to the beach, and for people at the beach who want to go to the village for something to eat,” Mr. Palumbo said in an interview this week. “But, at the same time, we want to connect it to the historical event that we are celebrating and bring that story to light.”
Pyrrhus Concer, an African-American, was born a slave in Southampton in 1814 and became a whaler in Sag Harbor after he was freed. While on a whaling expedition, Mr. Concer was on a boat captained by Mercator Cooper that rescued several Japanese sailors who were in distress, becoming one of the first Americans to dock in Tokyo. Upon returning to Southampton, Mr. Concer launched the Lake Agawam ferry, according to Mr. Palumbo.
The organizers of the ferry in Pyrrhus Concer’s honor—Kevin Luss, Sean Hattrick, Ed Simioni, Josh Belury and Mark Parash—recently launched a fundraising campaign through a new website, Agawamferry.org, and to date have raised a little more than $2,000 for the project. Although Mr. Palumbo said he is not sure how much money will have to be raised to get the project off the ground, Mr. Palumbo said they hope to charge $5 a ride on the ferry.
Now, the group is moving forward with the plan as much as possible, including researching leasing options for an electric vessel. To promote the proposal, Mr. Palumbo said the group has gone around to several local civic groups with their pitch, and will go before the Southampton Village Board at their next meeting on Thursday, June 13, at Village Hall.
If approved, the ferry would run next summer. However, if it is popular, the group’s members said they would consider extending the ferry for summers to come.
“It seems like a good opportunity to celebrate his story,” Mr. Palumbo said of Mr. Concer. “Everybody has been really enthusiastic about it.”