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Anticipating Southampton’s 375th Anniversary

This July 4, we’re celebrating the 238th year of US independence. But before we go setting off those fireworks, maybe we should consider keeping our powder dry for a major celebration coming up just next year.

In 2015, Southampton Town turns 375. This is special, because Southampton—as anyone who has read its welcome signs can tell you—is considered the first English settlement in the state of New York. Before Southampton’s founding in 1640, New York was mostly Native Americans and the Dutch. In fact, in 1640, New York was still known as Nieuw Amsterdam—which means that the welcome signs are technically wrong. At any rate, ever since 1865, it has been the custom to have a special celebration every 25 years. Right now, Southampton is gearing up to mark year 375 with all kinds of fanfare and fun.

First another point about Southampton’s status as the first English settlement in New York. As with any mark of distinction, there is dispute and conflict. For at least 150 years, Southampton has been squabbling with Southold Town on the North Fork over which town was really the first English settlement. Dan’s Papers knows better than to take a side in this argument—all we know is Southampton Town is turning 375, and thus has been here for a really long time. That’s good enough reason to celebrate.

Zachary N. Studenroth, Southampton Town Historian, is already busy talking to all kinds of organizations to get them involved in hosting events to coincide with the town’s 375th birthday. These events will occur during “Open House Southampton,” a series scheduled for the week following Founder’s Day. Southampton Founder’s Day is June 12, which in 2015 will fall conveniently on a Friday. “We’re inviting all kinds of groups—local businesses, cultural groups, environmental groups,” says Studenroth. He will be setting up a website to market and promote the anniversary programming and to act as a clearinghouse for information. Studenroth also plans a longer-term program for the 375th that will leave a more permanent legacy. “We want to create a lasting piece,” he says, “a takeaway that people will be able to use going forward.”

This will be a booklet containing a variety of self-guided driving and walking tours, including off-the-beaten track destinations. The booklet will be distributed throughout the year for maximum impact, and will obviously continue to be a valuable resource long after the 375th anniversary is over.

Studenroth is especially excited about plans to include the natural world as a part of the celebration. One event he cites as being particularly interesting is a tour of Hubbard County Park, guided by Steve Engelbreit. “Engelbreit’s a New York State Assemblyman, but he’s also a naturalist and he teaches at Stony Brook,” notes Studenroth. “Hubbard County Park is this very delicate natural environment, and has therefore remained quite undeveloped.” Since for a good part of its history Southampton has been highly valued for its natural beauty, it only makes sense to feature the environment—as part of the anniversary celebrations.

So, even as today we celebrate our forcible taking of the United States from the English, we can look forward to next year’s celebration of England taking Southampton from the Native Americans and the Dutch. Save some sparklers!

What will you do to celebrate Southampton’s 375th Anniversary?

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