Greenport Village Board favors making cemetery a historic landmark over Front Street

In a discussion of recommendations from the Greenport Historic Preservation Commission, village trustees favored making Green Hill Cemetery a historic landmark at a work session Thursday. 

The village’s Historic Preservation Commission approached the board in November to outline preservation priorities, following a review of a historical resources survey accepted by the state.

“Greenport is the crown jewel of the North Fork. The historic homes, buildings, neighborhoods and waterfront, the character of Greenport, are the main reasons people come here to visit or settle,” committee chairperson Karen Doherty said at the time. “The people who grew up here, who raised families here, who have ancestors and deep family connections to Greenport, are entitled to a town they can recognize. There are generational layers of stories and histories associated with the different buildings on Front Street. It is important to the social fabric of the community that this architectural and historical legacy be preserved.”

She outlined three priorities for preservation:

• Priority one should be to designate both sides of Front Street from Main Street to Third Street as a local historic district.

• Priority two should be to designate both sides of Front Street from Third Street to Sixth Street a local historic district. 

• Priority three should be to designate Green Hill Cemetery as a local historic landmark or approve its nomination to the state and national register of historic places, and add it to the current historic district. 

Trustees said designating areas along Front Street historic districts calls for further discussion, but agreed that the cemetery should receive the designation. The nearly 200-year-old grave site is the second oldest burial ground in the village, featuring an “intact collection of funerary art” from throughout the period and providing information about former residents of the village, according to the 2020 historic resources survey

“It’s got a lot of history to it,” trustee Mary Bess Phillips said of Green Hill. “I think it would give a broader opportunity for maybe some funding for it, or projects to go in there to take care of some of the tombstones and some of the area. And if we are going to talk about any of it, that’s the one I would like to talk about first, is Green Hill Cemetery.”

Mayor George Hubbard said he’s not in favor of making the whole village part of the historic district because it could change the village character, but he also supports making the cemetery a historic area. Trustee Peter Clarke expressed support for prioritizing Green Hill Cemetery as well, although he said, “priority two does not bother [him] greatly.”

“There are a great deal of historic structures that are in that distance just on Front Street that I think do warrant protection,” he said. Priority one, however, is “a tough one,” he said, with some buildings that may not qualify as historic.

Mr. Hubbard pointed out that the HPC is “asking really for guidance,” and wants to know where the trustees stand on their recommendations. Ms. Phillips noted that priorities one and two warrant a “much broader discussion,” which is why she’d like to focus on the cemetery.

“It is something that I think we all would agree to. I think it’s to their advantage, it’s something that they would get their teeth into as well. And I think it would show that we’re hearing them,” she said. “We still need to discuss one and two, but three gives them the idea that we are hearing you, you did a lot of work, and we appreciate it. And you know, I would just love to see Green Hill Cemetery become a site that is true to the memory and respect to those families that are in that cemetery.”

Village attorney Joseph Prokop suggested voting to move ahead with a discussion about the cemetery and responding that the other two recommendations are under advisement. Mr. Hubbard tasked the village administrator with putting that together and said priorities one and two can be discussed again at a later date, although he doesn’t see it happening in the near future. 

Administrator Paul Pallas said he’d start looking into the process of obtaining historic designation for Green Hill Cemetery.