Southampton Historical Museum Receives Grant To Restore Red Creek Schoolhouse

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The 19th-century Red Creek Schoolhouse at the Southampton Historical Museum is one giant step closer to being restored.

The Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, which supports nonprofit historic foundations that promote New York State history, has awarded a $50,500 matching grant to the Southampton Historical Museum in Southampton Village to restore the schoolhouse.

The Southampton Historical Museum matched the Gardiner Foundation grant with proceeds from the sale of the White House in the village, which had been a bequest to the museum.

Katherine Curran, the executive director for the Gardiner Foundation, said that organization had decided to donate the money to the Southampton Historical Museum because of the outreach it does.

“Right now, history is hot,” Ms. Curran said. “Everyone wants to know about their roots, ancestry and community. Everyone is looking for some kind of connection.”

The schoolhouse was built in the 1830s in the historic village of Red Creek, a self-sustaining boat-building community on Peconic Bay near the border of Hampton Bays and Flanders. Populated by carpenters, farmers, fishermen and others, the community had its own blacksmith, general store, church and whale oil factory—and its own schoolhouse, which, according a press release from the Historical Museum, educated 40 schoolchildren.

“As the whaling industry declined in the late 19th century, the community of Red Creek disappeared,” according to the release.

The schoolhouse, which was all that remained, was purchased by the Southampton Historical Museum in 1953 from William Hubbard, who’d used it to store boats, for $400. It was then moved to Southampton Village.

Emma Ballou, a curator and registrar at the museum, said the building had to be lifted off its foundation and moved onto a barge, which floated the building through the Shinnecock Canal and into Shinnecock Bay, and then to Southampton.

“It’s a gem,” she said of the one-room schoolhouse, which today is a popular attraction for field trips to explore how children learned and adults did their work almost 200 years ago.

Ms. Ballou said museum officials are in the process of lining up the work and hope to start restoration in January and see it completed by October 2017.

Ms. Curran said the museum does a great job of reaching out to elementary school students and teaching them about the local history of Southampton—especially through the schoolhouse.

“All the schoolchildren who come here love it,” Ms. Ballou said. “It’s really a good education experience. It’s hard to really put kids back in time to get them to understand the historical context, and the schoolhouse helps with that.”

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