While this property was on marginal land near the head of Huntington Harbor, the purchase reflected an important achievement for Crippen. As a landowner, he could assure a measure of safety and security for his family and for himself as he lived out his final years. The house was about a half-mile from the AME church and located within a small African American community. Land ownership by African Americans remained rare during this period. In addition to Crippen and Smith, Town assessment records confirm one other Black man was a landowner at the time.
Peter died in 1875, at about 65 years of age. The Crippen family continued to own the house into the early twenty-first century.
While the house is in poor condition, it retains integrity and the ability to convey its historic significance. It is a remarkable and rare survivor illustrating two aspects of Huntington’s history, seventeenth century industry and early African American landownership.
In 1985, Town Historian Rufus Langhans inspected the house and recommended that the town acquire it and move it to another site that would be more suitable to its long-term preservation. The matter was dropped until 2006 when the Town allocated funding for an archaeological study of the grounds and an architectural study of the house. These studies were never completed because of questions about title to the property—the house had passed informally from generation to generation over the years since Peter Crippen had acquired it. By 2019, those questions were resolved and the Town’s sewer district acquired the property with plans to demolish the house to build a parking lot.
In June 2020, the Huntington Town Board approved a contract with a local demolition company to raze the house in order to construct a parking lot for the sewer plant. The Town proposed to try to save as many elements of the house as possible. Media coverage of the plans to demolish the building was met with protest from many quarters. In addition to emails pleading with the Town to reconsider the decision, an online petition garnered over a thousand signatures. Soon, a group of Town officials and community leaders was assembled to consider alternatives to demolition and the Town Board postponed its demolition plans indefinitely.
The house sits on marshy land prone to flooding and is surrounded on two sides by the Town’s sewer treatment plant. The committee agreed that the house should be relocated to a location that would be more suitable to its long term preservation and yet retain its historic context. A vacant Town-owned site on the other side of the sewer plant was selected. The site sits on the major north south artery in the area and thus is much more visible. At the same time, the selected site conveys the same context the house has on its current site. The long-term plan for the house would be to make it a part of a future African American history museum. Volunteers are being asked to help establish an independent not-for-profit organization to organize and operate such a museum.
In November 2020, the New York State Historic Preservation Office determined that the Crippen House is eligible for listing on the National Register under Criterion B in the area of Ethnic History: Black for its association with Peter Crippen and under Criterion C in the area of architecture as a rare remaining seventeenth-century mill building on Long Island.
This content was originally published here.