Editorial: Keeping history alive is no easy task

An interesting juxtaposition exists in this week’s paper. While one historic property is about to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, another is in such disrepair that it’s in danger of demolition — and barely remains a link to the area’s past.

The Brewster House in Flanders, a once-popular boarding house dating to the 1880s, has been so poorly maintained that Southampton Town officials now consider it potentially dangerous.

“It needed a champion and a strong steward” a decade ago, one Flanders historian told us this week Instead, the building has been mostly neglected since a 1987 fire.

At Ty Llwyd Farm in Northville, on the other hand, Richard Wines — perhaps the area’s strongest champion of local history — is behind an effort to place the complex on the National Register of Historic Places. With origins in the 1870s, it will be the list’s 11th individual Riverhead Town property — the sixth in the past decade alone.

Being named to the National Register is a tremendous accomplishment. It provides tax incentives to property owners and is an acknowledgment local history buffs can appreciate. But the designation doesn’t guarantee that a structure will remain “historic” forever. Nearly 1,000 properties have been removed from the register because they were modified or demolished.

Rather, Ty Llwyd’s nomination is emblematic of a larger picture: the effort a community puts into preserving its sense of self so that future generations have links to the area’s past.

It’s certainly welcome news that the owners of the Brewster House have some kind of plan to restore the historic Flanders Road property. The fact that the building still faces demolition if no action is taken is troubling, though we look forward to hearing what the owners have in mind.

Historic structures can be restored or town down, but they can’t be replaced. Let us use these two properties as completely different examples of that.

Photo courtesy Suffolk County Historical Society