"A Long Time Coming":

Archaeology and History of the Native and African American Community of Setauket

Click here to visit the "A Long Time Coming" Facebook page

Click here to view the 2013 FIELD SCHOOL flyer


"A Long Time Coming" (ALTC) is a research initiative of the Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association, Inc., a nonprofit community-based preservation organization in Setauket, NY. Working in collaboration with Montclair State University's Center for Heritage and Archaeological Studies and Education Works Co., ALTC is investigating the archaeology and history of Setauket's Native and African American community, especially in the area designated as the Bethel-Christian Avenue-Laurel Hill historic district.

The ALTC project began in 2010 and has led community workshops and presentations, archaeological excavations, collected oral histories, and completed documentary historical research.

In 2013 the ALTC project will be excavating at the site of the Jacob and Hannah Hart house (pictured above) as well as working withe community members to document the history and meaning of Bethel AME Church of Setauket (pictured below).

Based on a principle of approaching the history and culture of the community through unconventional methods of study and research, ALTC is community-driven and dedicated to interpreting in fine detail the Native and African American community's settlement life and family history in Setauket. The project has been enthusiastically received by the community members, prompting the idea that there is great strength to be gained from better understanding the diverse culture and history of this place. We hope that this result will allow the project to become a model for the study of other historic Afro-American communities on Long Island.

We are grateful for the funding support of the New York Council for the Humanities, Montclair State University, Hofstra University's National Center for Suburban Studies, and Hofstra's Provost and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We are grateful to the many community members who have shared their stories and other resources as well as to the students, teachers, librarians, neighbors and friends who have lent their support in many different ways.


"A Long Time Coming" Co-Directors:

Robert E. Lewis, Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association, Inc.

Dr. Judith Burgess, Education Works Consulting

Dr. Chris Matthews, Montclair State University


Press Coverage

June 8, 2011 Times Beacon Record article on the project

June 8, 2011 Times Beacon Record Editorial

July 2, 2011, Newsday, Joye Brown

July 11, 2011, Three Village Patch

January 29, 2012, Newsday, John Hanc

Winter 2013 Suffolk County Archaeological Association Newsletter


2013 Summer Field School

Montclair State University and Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association are offering the opportunity to work with ALTC project directors in an historical archaeological field school. Field school participants will contribute to three research projects.

These include excavations at the Jacob and Hannah Hart site, a late 19th-century home associated with one of the community’s most well known and highly regarded families, as well as excavations at the Thompson House site, a locally prominent 18th-century farmstead. In both cases the fieldwork seeks to collect data on the early history and development of Setauket’s Native and African American community in the contexts of both slavery and freedom. The third project is a community-based historical study of Setauket’s Bethel AME Church, which was founded by community members in 1845 and remains a vital community institution. This project will draw on archival and oral history research. 

Registration is limited to 12 students.
Anthropology 470, Archaeological Field Methods (4 Credits)
For information on tuition and fees, please contact Montclair State University Summer Programs, http://www.montclair.edu/summer/

Click here to learn more about our 2013 Summer program


2011 Summer Internship Program

During summer 2011, Hofstra's Center for Public Archaeology led a paid internship program for Hofstra students to contribute to the "A Long Time Coming" project. Interns worked with project staff and community members to help to construct a deeper and meaningful history of the Bethel-Christian Avenue Laurel Hill historic district by excavating at the Jacob and Hannah Hart home site and research and interviewing community members about several properties in the historic district.

Click here to learn more about the 2011 projects


2010 Community Workshops

With the support of the New York Council for the Humanities, ALTC staff organized five community workshops during Fall 2010 to explore the history of the Christian Avenue community and to introduce community members to the techniques and methods of archaeology, material culture research, genealogy, and oral history. ALTC participants did initial interviews with community elders and shared some of the meaningful objects and photographs that embody the community's past. Artifacts collected from the Ernest Hart cabin allowed participants to engage with archaeological materials first hand. Scroll down to see several photographs of these workshop activities. A newsletter detailing the workshops is also available below.

Click here for 2010 Workshop Newsletter

Click here for 2010 Community Workshops Photo Gallery


for more information: matthewsc@mail.montclair.edu or (973)655-3063