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Southampton Plans Museum At Site Of Torn Down Home Of Freed Slave

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- On the East End of Long Island, there is a piece of history that some would rather leave forgotten that will now be preserved.

"Slavery is not talked about. It's like a bad word we don't mention or want to think about," said Thomas Edmonds, with the Southampton Historical Museum.

But as Southampton celebrates its 375th birthday, it is acknowledging the difficult chapters of slavery in its past, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

"We are happy with the end result that the Pyrrhus Concer homestead will be saved. I think there is a disagreement in how we got there," said Georgette Grier-Key, with the Eastville Historical Society.

It has been a contentious two years. A home belonging to freed slave, Pyrrhus Concer, a whaler and ferryman on Lake Agawam, was bought by a couple from Brooklyn who sued and won the right to tear it down and build their dream home.

"What was at risk at the time was a multi-million dollar lawsuit between the new owners and the village. I think it was a very courageous thing that the village did," said Robert Strada, historic restoration architect.

The village called in experts who entered and removed priceless timber before the house was pulverized.

The historic materials salvaged include 200-year-old oak gun stock posts and hand-hewn sills, McLogan reported.

Remnants saved, the village was blindsided when the couple suddenly backed out of its plan to build on the site, and put the now empty property on the market for $5 million.

The town then stepped in and bought it using community preservation funds.

"(McLogan: Did the town feel this was a political hot potato?) We tend to put that aside and just wanted to do the right thing by the community, and the right thing by us as a legislative body," said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst.

The new plan is to reconstruct a replica of Concer's homestead as a museum on the site.

"A lot of our history has been erased, a lot of our history has been fictionalized, and I think it is important now to use this opportunity. Children can learn from this man," said Brenda Simmons, with Southampton African American Museum.

"That big ugly hole over there, I think we'll see a phoenix coming out of the ground, and I see a glorious future," said Edmonds.

Concer's legacy of rising out of slavery will now live on.

The couple who tore down the home declined to comment. They sold the property for $4.3 million.

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