Woman Discovers History in Her Floorboards

Originally published Sept. 1, 2014

When Rose Nigro renovated her home on Huntington Lane in Flanders, she had no idea what was hidden in her floorboards.Ms. Nigro, who bought the house in the late 1990s, knew she was the third or fourth owner of the home, which originally belonged to the Dunbar family more than a century before. At some point, little knick-knacks were hidden in her floorboards, presumably by a child.

While she was having the house renovated to reflect the laid-back, open spaces in her yard, part of the second floor caught fire. Ms. Nigro found the artifacts among the rubble afterward.

Among them were a tin from the 1913 World’s Fair, a photo of the Sag Harbor Elementary School, buttons supporting Theodore Roosevelt’s bid for president, an old chalkboard eraser, a deck of cards from a Riverhead pharmacy, and Southampton Town documents dating back to the 1920s. She also found a butcher’s account book labeled T.J. Dunbar—the home’s first owner.

“It was incredible,” she said, holding the photo of the Sag Harbor Elementary School. She said Alice Huntington, a daughter of the Dunbar family, was a schoolteacher in the 1900s, and Ms. Nigro believed the eraser once belonged to her.

Ms. Nigro happens to be the vice president of the Flanders Historical Society. She is working with Jo-Ann McLean, her neighbor and the current president, to find a more permanent home for the items she found. “This is what makes up a historical society,” Ms. McLean said.

The two women are trying to gather interest for their first meeting on September 23 at 7 p.m. at the David W. Crohan Community Center on Flanders Road. The group has not met in almost two years. At the meeting, they plan to discuss the Flanders Hamlet Heritage Area Report, which was released by Southampton Town earlier this year and addresses historic properties and the potential for a historic district in the hamlet.

Ms. Nigro’s home, which sits tucked behind Flanders Road on a little-known side street, overlooks Reeves Bay. The interior has a rustic, late-19th century feel, as if a character from a novel of that period could stroll between the French doors out onto the back porch at any time.

Ms. Nigro, who takes pride in the consistent style of her home, even kept the old iron bed frames for one of the guest rooms on the second floor. On the first floor, French double-doors separate the kitchen from the living room, where Ms. Nigro hangs her artwork on the wall. Large windows panel the walls facing the bay on the back porch and provide natural light into the entire space.

The second floor hosts three large bedrooms, with a balcony overlooking the bay off the master bedroom, which has wood floors and a high ceiling.

During the renovations, Ms. Nigro kept one unique feature on the west side of her front porch. An image of a sunset was carved into wood paneling at the top corner of the porch, and, during the summer solstice, the sun shines directly through the opening.

The home is a hidden gem in Flanders much like the treasures the present owner found beneath the floorboards.

Ms. Nigro and Ms.McLean expressed delight in the possibilities that will come with the revitalization of Riverside, including the idea that new businesses will trickle into Flanders as well.