Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Help Save Pyrrhus Concer's Legacy July 14th at 1pm

A sketch of the Williams house, circa 1805. 51 Pond Lane, Southampton Village
On July 14th, at 1pm at Town Hall (116 Hampton Road, Southampton Village, 2nd Floor), the Southampton Town Board will hold a public hearing about a variety of things. One of those things will be about ACQUIRING Pyrrhus Concer's property at 51 Pond Lane, Southampton Village. The purpose of this post is to ask you to participate!

Way back in September of 2013, village residents, town residents, visitors, experts....a whole host of people (lots and lots of people, many of whom I am hoping will read this post before July 14th) came together to fight for the survival of Pyrrhus Concer's home. That battle was largely lost - but not completely. The house was dismantled and the historic fabric - dating back to 1800 - was put in storage. This past January, the owners of the property abandoned their plans to build a new house there, opening up the possibility of municipal acquisition, and so much more. The property can be properly researched and evaluated, the home can be restored and researched, and while Southampton learns so much about the property and family, the public can be educated about the Williams family, about black architecture, about local slavery, and so much more.

So on July 14th, at 1pm at Town Hall, please come speak to the Southampton Town Board as they  listen to public comment about acquiring 51 Pond Lane. Come and tell them how precious and rare this property is to local and regional history. Come and tell them that Southampton Town has the chance to remedy what Southampton Village almost irreversibly destroyed, and how the Town will become a role model to other places should they ever get the opportunity to embark on the same.

If you cannot come, consider writing a letter or sending an email to the Town Board via the Town Clerk at 116 Hampton Road, Southampton, NY 11968, or sschermeyer@southamptontownny.gov.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Good & Bad News: 500 Head of Pond Road, Water Mill

500 Head of Pond Road, Water Mill, 2010
The good news is that this house, which Southampton residents and visitors have watched while biting their nails for several years now, is NOT being torn down, but is being renovated instead ensuring that it will remain, if not technically a landmark, an iconic home in its existing location for several more years – maybe even generations.

The bad news is that A LOT of its original fabric has been removed inside and out, leaving it only a ghost of its formerly authentic, original, early 1700s self which is heart-breaking…….and honestly, it’s the Town’s fault. The Town of Southampton has a process in place that requires any work to buildings seventy-five years old or older to be reviewed by the Landmarks & Historic Districts Board (LHDB) before receiving a building permit. Shockingly (I jest), this house “fell through the cracks” depriving the LHDB the opportunity to 1) document the house before work began, and 2) (and worse) educate the owners and their contractors etc. about the significance of the home, what it’s most valuable parts are, and what the best methods are to improve such a structure (i.e. The Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for the Rehabilitation of Historic Structures).

500 Head of Pond Road, April 9, 2015
A few weeks ago I heard that the roof had received new shingles. Hallelujah! A sign of hope after years of absolute stagnancy. But today I rushed over to visit the property after receiving an alarming email from a friend. The roof hasn’t just been re-shingled, it’s been entirely removed and reconstructed. The foreman at the site said the roof was “old trees” that needed to be replaced. Ouch. Sistering the former glorious timber-frame system with new rafters would have been better, allowing the house to continue to describe how New Englanders used to build these great buildings while getting some much needed structural support after years of deferred maintenance. The chimney was entirely removed from the new attic floor up. What you see now is a plywood box instead, insulting the community into believing it survives. The chimney from the attic floor down survives, but it has been sealed off and covered up by new frame walls because it no longer operated, was crumbling and leaking.

A view of the magnificent attic/roof framing from an old Corcoran listing of the property.
Interior view of second floor. Notice one of the original fireplaces, the wide plank floors, and gunstock posts.

A surviving 1700s door handle on a board door that has been removed.
The interior trim and the board and paneled doors, some with original forged latches and pulls are all gone, and the windows are next. Yes, many of them are probably from the late 1800s, but I asked the foreman if he knew that restoring a window costs half as much and still meets energy ratings and he said no. Most people don’t realize this, and the window manufacturers sure aren’t going to tell you.
The main stair, right inside the front entrance, remains intact. Notice the moldings, the thin spindles, and the storage provided behind the paneling, a trademark of thrifty Yankees.

The original stair, right inside the front entrance, remains intact and in full glory (the icky carpet runner on top probably even helped preserve it to some degree), the incredibly wide floor boards survive on the second floor, and the original gunstock posts continue to intrude inside the corners of each room.
This house predates the creation of the United States by about fifty years and is therefore a rare and precious relic of early American history. It should have been treated like what it was, a museum quality heirloom of incalculable value for which the Town would have PAID the owner to preserve. But the owners didn’t know, and no one, including the Town despite its legislated processes, told them.

Southampton, the oldest English settlement in New York State (1640), has about twenty-seven homes that were built before 1730 surviving in various states of wellness. To see a glorious example of another early 1700s structure – a role model for what 500 Head of Pond could and should have been (and on the market for $12M), look up 853 Cemetery Lane, Sagaponack on the internet. Wow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Resurrecting the Concer House

In September of 2013 an application was made to demolish the homestead of Pyrrhus Concer at 51 Pond Lane in Southampton Village and replace it with a new home. The application was denied three months later by the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review after which the property owners sued the Village of Southampton who settled, with the stipulation that all original period fabric be able to be extracted prior to the site being cleared and a sign be erected describing the historic significance of the property’s association with Concer. The historic c.1805 fabric has since been extracted and the site was cleared. A sign has not yet been erected.
In late December 2014 the current property owners decided not to proceed with their building plans and have placed the property on the market for sale. This is an opportunity! The property should be purchased by the Town of Southampton so that 1) the Concer homestead can be re-erected on its original property and 2) archaeological investigations can be made on the property which are likely to yield additional important information. Both of these endeavors will ensure that a rare and precious historic resource directly related to Southampton slavery and local African American whalers will be preserved and made available to the public for educational purposes.
If you agree, please paste the following statement into an email and send it to the Southampton Town Clerk at: SSchermeyer@southamptontownny.gov:
Dear Madame Supervisor and Members of the Southampton Town Board:
I, [state your name], a [resident] [second home owner] [visitor] of Southampton, wholeheartedly endorse that the Southampton Town Board purchase the property at 51 Pond Lane, Southampton Village, so that 1) the Concer homestead can be re-erected on its original property and 2) archaeological investigations can be made on the property which are likely to yield additional important information. Both of these endeavors will ensure that a rare and precious historic resource directly related to Southampton slavery and local African American whalers will be preserved and American history, and Southampton Village more particularly, will be preserved and made available to the public for educational and promotional purposes, and especially when much of the same across Long Island has been largely eradicated.
And please share this post! The Town Board needs to hear from as many people as possible!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Benjamin F. Howell Residence, 195 Quimby Lane, Bridgehampton - THREATENED

195 Quimby Lane, Bridgehampton: The Benjamin F. Howell Residence
This home was built on Montauk Highway, just east of Norris Lane, in 1840 for Benamin F. Howell (1801-1855) by Benjamin Glover for $2,230. Benjamin Franklin Howell was a fifth generation descendant of Edward Howell, an original setter of Southampton. At that time the estate encompassed a farm that spanned to the north beyond Edgewood cemetery, and to the south across Montauk Highway beyond where the Bridgehampton school is now. 
The home’s symmetrical internal side chimneys allude to its construction around 1800, (the center chimney referring to construction before 1750), and in this case a copy of the original receipt of construction, dated 1840, survives, so we know its date of construction definitively. The William Corwith house at 2368 Montauk Highway, home of The Bridgehampton Museum, is a similar structure.  

The Benjamin F. Howell residence is a two-story tall, five-bay wide, one room deep home with a side gabled roof, center entry and double-hung windows. It is clad in cedar shingles with corner boards and has one and two-story rear extensions. Early surviving photos indicate that the home was originally painted white. Its front entry is paired with sidelights and a transom. 

Benjamin Franklin Howell was a son to the whaling captain Caleb Howell (1761-1841) and this house was built just west of Caleb's. The latter's, however, no longer survives (removed before 1935). The Howells are buried in the old Bridgehampton cemetery, adjacent to the Presbyterian church in the middle of the hamlet's Main Street.  

In the winter of 1982 the Benjamin F. Howell residence was purchased by Wallace and Elise Quimby and moved to 195 Quimby Lane. The move is captured in Geoffrey Fleming’s book, Images of America: Bridgehampton.
In 1874 Edward Everett Quimby (1831-1902), 43 years old, married for sixteen years and having six children, came to Bridgehampton with his family in tow to spend the summer as a renter, proceeding as such for the next 19 years. His wife was Cynthia Ensign Root who came from a musical family similar to the Von Trapps of Austria. An accomplished violinist herself, she was also a relative of the noted songwriter, George Frederick Root (1820-1895), and even more notably, of Elihu Root (1845-1937), “an American lawyer and statesman and the 1912 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.” The Quimby family was so proud of their connection to the Root family that the name continued to be used as a middle name through several subsequent generations.
E. E. Quimby was born in Maine but was known locally as being from East Orange, New Jersey. Professionally he became a successful dealer of lightning rods and a patent lawyer. Lightning rods were attached to buildings to attract the lightning to them rather than to the buildings, thereby supposedly preventing damage to them. In 1969 E. E. wrote a paper on electricity favoring Benjamin Franklin’s theories about positive and negative energy when Franklin’s theory was much less favored than his French contemporary, Charles duFay. By 1879 however, when E. E. was 48 years old, his lightning rod business was being headed by Edward H. Williams, E.E.’s named successor.
In 1893, E. E. bought 32 acres of land from the Bridgehampton Sandford family at the lower end of Ocean Road, between it and Sagg pond, and the next year he bought property adjacent to it and along Ocean Road. Six years later, the first of several eventual Quimby summer cottages was built which marked the slow realization of a family compound that included many amenities for recreational entertainment.
Wallace Lawler Quimby (1925-1996) was a great-grandson of E.E. Quimby.  He grew up in Bronxville, NY and obtained a college degree in administrative engineering before serving with the Army in the Pacific theatre during World War II. Elise was Wallace’s second wife. His first wife (his first cousin, Cynthia Ann Gilbert (Kate Root Quimby Wiley’s daughter; E.E.’s great grand-daughter) died in 1980. 

An application to demolish this home has been submitted to the Town of Southampton by its present owner, Francois deMenil (brother of Adelaide, who has been a tremendous preservation champion in the Town of East Hampton). The home was moved once before, and as I've learned in the past, there is a strong market in Southampton for historic homes available for relocation. Here's hoping someone will come forward, preferably before January 20th, with an interest in obtaining this valuable historic resource.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pyrrus Concer - His Life, His Family, His Home, and His Legacy - Presentation

Hello world. I haven't blogged in awhile. I am finishing up my second book due out in April. I will hopefully resume blogging in full force by January or February 2015. In the meantime, I will be giving a second - and much improved - presentation on Pyrrhus Concer on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at 2pm at the Eastville Historical Society in Sag Harbor. I am honored to have been asked to present and am looking forward to it. Sorry for the late notice. If you've missed all the hoopla over the past 14 months, you'll learn A LOT.