Updated: Aug 26, 2022
There sits at 80 Main Street adjacent to the Chamber of Commerce in Southampton Village a tiny little building known as the Pelletreau Silver Shop. Located in the middle of the business district, the quaintness of this building which dates back to 1686 attracts the attention of passersby. It is presently owned by the Southampton Village and is one of four historic sights maintained by the Southampton History Museum.
In 1686 a house with a tiny hip-roofed shop attached to the north side was built on the east side of Main Street by John Woodruff Jr.
Sketch of the Old Pelletreau House circa 1686, with the shop on the left-hand side.
In 1728 when the homestead and shop were owned by Samuel Woodruff, the shop was then occupied by Stephen Bouyer, a merchant. There is a strong possibility that he lived in the house at the time. Francis Pelletreau, a merchant himself, arrived in Southampton in 1720 and purchased the Woodruff property in 1728, occupying the shop until 1737.
Francis’s son, Captain Elias Pelletreau (born in Southampton, 1726), was sent to NYC in 1741 where he apprenticed with Simeon Soumain for 7 years, where he was taught the art of goldsmithing and silversmithing. Elias became a freeman in 1750 and returned to Southampton shortly after, and it’s within the shop attached to the house where he pursued his craft. He worked making silver objects and gold jewelry, selling his work in New York City through William Ustick.
For six years during the Revolutionary War, Elias and his family were refugees in Connecticut. British Soldiers occupied the property during that time, and they did not wish to live under British rule. When Elias returned he found extensive damage to the buildings, and would occupy the shop until his death in 1810. Up until his passing, many of his patrons included Mrs. Elizabeth Beekman and William Butler, General William Floyd (signer of the Declaration of Independence), Brigadier General Nathaniel Woodhull, and Honorable Ezra L’Hommedieu (delegate to the Continental Congress).
John Pelletreau, the son of Elias and a goldsmith/silversmith himself, occupied the shop until 1822. John’s son Charles was also listed as the property owner alongside his father. Charles’ brother, William S. Pelletreau (also a goldsmith/silversmith), would also own the property until 1863. However while owning the property themselves, neither Charles nor William are listed as occupying the shop.
The Pelletreau family were owners of the property for 138 years from 1728 to 1866 when it was sold to Josiah Foster. From 1866 to 1878, the buildings stood empty. In 1878, Josiah tore the house down and a new house was built in its place among retail businesses that were replacing homes in the neighborhood. The shop was spared and turned end-wise to face the street.
In later years, the building became the shoe shop of Noah Ellsworth and his son Samuel.
Photo of the stand-alone shop in October, 1926.
Photo of the shop from across Main Street, 1927
In 1940 Herman Maurhard purchased the property and buildings, restoring the shop and turning it into a gift shop. At some point the house was torn down once more, but the shop was once again spared.
Photo of the shop with an "Unusual Gifts" awning over the window, with the date of the shop's initial construction above the doorway
From 1950-55 the shop became Robert Keene’s Bookshop, with Mr. Keene living in the back of the shop for four years. In the late 1950’s it once again became a gift shop.
The shop as Keene's Book Shop, prior to its restoration, circa 1950’s
Additional photo of Keen's Book Shop from across Main Street during this time
When Mr. Maurhard died, the property was donated to the village. In the mid 1960’s, a second restoration took place to convert the shop into a replica of the original building. This was completed in 1966 under the direction of Henry DuPont and the Southampton Colonial Society. It then received the title of “The Pelletreau Silver Shop”, becoming open to the public on weekends during the summer months as volunteers would discuss with visitor the history of Elias Pelletreau and his trade.
The Pelletreau Silver Shop after its second restoration
To this day, this 1686 trade shop is the oldest continuously-opened trade shop in the Americas.
The Pelletreau Silver Shop as it is today