Thursday, December 31, 2009

'The Moorlands,' aka 477 Halsey Neck Lane

The house at 477 Halsey Neck Lane, historically known as ‘The Moorlands,’ was built for Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen. H. H. Boyesen was born in Fredericksvaern, Norway in September of 1848. After his formal education (at Christiania Gymnasium, then Leipzig, then the University of Norway (Ph.D., 1868)) he came to the United States. “On April 1, 1869, my brother and I arrived in New York, and, after traveling about for some months, we took up one temporary quarters in a small town called Urbana, Ohio. There I left my brother and went to Chicago, where I was offered the editorship of a Norwegian paper called Fremad, which had just been stated. In this position I remained about a year and a half, but the ambition to write was strong in me, and I soon saw that if I were to make a reputation as a writer I must master the English language. To this end it was necessary to abandon all Scandinavian associations. I resigned my editorship and accepted a position as tutor in Latin and Greek at the Urbana University.”[1] Later he was a professor of German at Cornell and then Columbia University. In 1890 he became the chair of Germanic Languages and Literature at Columbia, a position which was created for him. When he started to write, it was first for magazines. Most of his work was on the people and lore of Norway, both scholarly works and fiction. The Southampton Press published one of his stories, A Harvest of Tares, in 1897. In addition to a professor and author, he was also a well-known lecturer. H. H. Boyesen died suddenly in October of 1895 at the age of forty-seven from an aneurism. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and three sons: Hjalmar H. Jr., Bayard, and Algernon K.
H. H. Boyesen’s house was built circa 1893, and the southernmost boundary of the property, the street, was named for him. The following description is taken (and paraphrased) from Zachary Studenroth’s (historic consultant) report on the property when it was in front of the Village of Southampton Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review in February of 2009: ‘The house is two stories high, with paired attic gables decorated with curved half-timbering facing Halsey Neck Lane, and vertical half-timbering facing other directions. The massing is asymmetrical, with elements such as an off-center pedimented entryway (originally with decorative fretwork), a front open porch with a octagonal portion at the southeastern corner, and various window types with diamond shaped muntin patterns, all organized against traditional symmetry to respond to its corner location. Alternating wall treatments – stucco on the first and attic stories, wood shingle between – reinforce the decorative quality of the exterior design and characterize the house as an example of the Tudor Revival Style. The style was popular from the 1890’s until the 1930’s, and was especially appropriate to large-scaled commissions …….The house is eclectic in design, however, and therefore true to its construction period; close examination of the entryway, for example, reveals its use of dentils and modillions typical of the Colonial Revival Style. Although the architect for the house is unknown, it appears from the quality of the detailing and the balance of the overall composition and its component parts, that it is likely the work of an accomplished architectural firm….'

There was a carriage house associated with the property that survived as of 1979, but has since been demolished. One can see an impression where the structure once stood via Google Earth, in the northwest corner of the property.

In 1913, there was a fire that destroyed a large concrete and building block ‘cottage’ to the south built by the Residence Construction Company. “The origin of the fire is unknown and it seems very likely that the building was set afire. The owners of the building feel confident that is was and, we understand, suspicion has fallen upon a former employee on the job.”

The fire was not discovered until it had gained great headway and nothing could be done to save it. Good work was done by the firemen, however, in saving the cottage of Mrs. W. M. Grinnell, some distance to the north, which was covered with large sparks.” [2]

Sometime after 1940 the house name was changed to ‘Windswept.’ Circa 1923 a “rambling house of brick and half-timber”[3] was built on Lake Agawam by Polhemus & Coffin with that name for Mr. and Mrs. Albert B. Boardman (who previously built Mille Fiore on Coopers Neck Lane, demolished in the 60's), and subsequently owned by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Morton (1936), and Mr. and Mrs. Chester Dale (1939). My theory is that the Boyesen’s named the house ‘The Moorlands’ because that name embodies the characteristics that existed on the property/in the area when it was built, and still do.

The property is not inside the current boundaries of the village’s historic district; at the time it was built it was not near many other houses and was surrounded by farm fields. It is my opinion that, rather than to build nearer the prominent cottage colonists, the owner wanted a location where he could write in a more quiet and undisturbed location.

On June 22, 2009, the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation approved (3 to 2) renovations for this house which have not yet been started, although preparations seem underway. The approved renovations include relocating the house to a more central position on the property even though the structural integrity of the house was not proven. The house is currently situated more toward the intersection of Halsey Neck Lane and Boyesen Lane and its architecture addresses its corner location with its asymmetry and other features. The rest of the renovation includes a lot of additions (practically doubling its size and with an attached garage), window and material replacements (the stucco on the first story will be replaced with clapboard), the addition of window shutters, changing the curved half-timbering in the front gables to rectilinear, and some dormer tweaks, particularly the front center dormer which the architect, Timothy Haynes, believed was originally “clumsy and heavy handed.” He went on to say that no one would ever remember what the original dormer looked like or what the original materials were; a slap in the face to the original architect, and to preservation. The original front facade will still be significantly recognizable, but the additions and renovations will completely alter the rest of the house, and are not as sensitive to the existing architecture, nor as thoughtful or inventive as the original architect’s capabilities. I don’t mind that the house is being added onto; this was commonplace, even amongst the original cottage colony. But I think the design could be even more in keeping with the original architecture, I wish the curved half-timbering would remain, and I wish the house would stay in its original location. Zach Studenroth suggested pursuing landmark designation on more than one occasion during the public hearings which I doubt will ever occur, especially in this village. One can dream though.

' The Moorlands’ Owners to Date: (incomplete)

Beth Klein, 6/3/05, Liber 12390 of deeds, page 692

Lumiscope Company Inc., 7/17/2000, Liber 12056 of deeds, page 94

Allen Beeber, 7/10/2000, Liber 12054 of deeds, page 418

Lumiscope Company Inc., 5/16/1989, Liber 10857 of deeds, page 352

Allen Beeber, 3/16/1981, Liber 8973 of deeds, page 421

John E. Grimm III, 11/16/1979, Liber 8730 of deeds, page 477

Marie A. Busch, Trustee for Marie Grace Donnelly & Jacqueline F. McCracken (formerly Busch), 11/1/1961, Liber 5074 of deeds, page 470 (original house photos in this post are from her grand-daughter, Laureen Donnelly. Thanks Laureen!)

Elizabeth Lee Munroe, daughter of Elizabeth and William Grinnell, 12/15/48, Liber 2905 of deeds, page 336

George M. Grinnell, son of Elizabeth and William Grinnell, circa 1932

Elizabeth Lee Grinnell, 4/9/1926, Liber 1184 of deeds, page 195

William Morton Grinnell, (an architect) 9/26/1902, Liber 526 of deeds, page 501

Elizabeth Keen Boyesen, wife of H.H. Boyesen, 9/10/1890, Liber 334 of deeds, page 260

George F. Wines, 10/15/1888, Liber 313, page 316, (vacant property)

John F. & Mary E. Fournier, Charles A. & Anna H. Jaggar, and Maria P. Jaggar (vacant property)

Renters of ‘The Moorlands’ (partial list):

1927 Mr. and Mrs. George W. Simmons

1928 Mr. and Mrs. George W. Simmons

1931 Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Pitou

[1] New York Times, October 5, 1895

[2] The Southampton Press, April 24, 1913

[3] Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects, p. 117

Monday, December 21, 2009

Moving Cottages

"Sally, I am a recent fan of your column and have owned a small cottage in north sea for over 10 years. Since purchasing my home I have noticed countless vernacular structures of modest sizes demolished. I applaud you for keeping score of the disappearance of an element of Southampton that gives it a unique architectural character. ………. I am a fan of simple shingle and fisherman style cottages which as you note in your blog are fast disappearing. I have a dream of relocating two simple existing structures to my property that are contextual as a means of saving this type of architecture. Are you aware of a way to do this within the village or town of Southampton? …….. Would love any suggestions you might have of finding a home to rescue or a means to do so."

You know, historically, house/cottage moving was big business and a commonplace occurrence. A neighbor would decide they didn’t want their grain house, or barn, or carriage house anymore, and a neighbor would just haul it over to their property. The Southampton Historical Society was moved from its original location on Main Street. The Sayre house was moved from its original location on South Main. The May house next to the Samuel L. Parrish house (north side) on First Neck Lane was moved to that location from its original location. The Dune Church was moved to its present location. It happened all the time, that is, until relatively recently. Now it’s become very expensive thanks to overhead wires and incredibly inflated mover’s prices. Did you see that suggested reading, Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved? Her whole budget for buying the cottage, having it moved, and connecting it to her house was something like $30,000; not anymore, and definitely not in the Hamptons. There was a great article on the subject in the Southampton Press October 14, 2009 which said around here, moving a cottage/house could easily fall in the $20-35,000 range unless the building is not tall and/or the second story can be cut-off, and then re-attached, avoiding ‘wire drops’ along the moving route.

In any case, I stand up and applaud anyone wishing to relocate cottages to their properties and share those dreams myself. (I am so enraptured by all the structures that Ralph Lauren has saved and relocated in East Hampton; boy do I wish our village had such a savior!) My only suggestions are to forward your name and contact information, along with a letter explaining your desires of course, to the Southampton Village ARB, the Southampton Town Landmarks Preservation Board, and the Village, and Town Building departments (because many demolitions don’t need permission). I guess you could also hang signs here and there, at the schools, the libraries, the book store, etc. And classified ads could help spread the word too. There are so many people who would gladly give away their structures rather than seeing them torn down, I’m sure one of those avenues would prove fruitful for you; you’ll probably have a whole litter to choose from. Kudos! And Good Luck!

p.s. The image above is the little accessory structure at 43 Osborne Avenue, doomed for demolition. Isn’t it just precious? With a little 'TLC,' wouldn’t it make the cutest kids playhouse?

Friday, December 11, 2009

2. Did You Know....................

Many of you may already know this, but the existing Town Hall used to be the High School. There was a lovely article in the Southampton Press on August 15, 1912 detailing the proposed design and showing a front elevation, the first and second floor plans, and a building section. Its proposed cost was $100,000 and a vote was held on September 13, 1912 to approve the bond not to exceed $116,000. There was a competition held for the high school’s design and twenty entries were received. First place was awarded to Hewitt & Bottomley, second place was awarded to Alfred Hopkins, and third to F. Burrall Hoffman. In the center of the building, on the second floor toward the rear was an auditorium with balcony which sat five hundred, and toward the front was a large study hall, similar to the main reading room at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, except equipped with 160 individual desks. The plans were carefully laid out to provide the boys and girls with separate lunch rooms, locker rooms, playgrounds, and entries to and from the exterior, the gymnasium, and their respective spaces. Boys areas were on the eastern side, girls areas were on the western side.

After construction began, and as is typical, the builders discovered that the $116,000 was not going to be enough, and proposed to the village that either they reduce the plans by eliminating the auditorium, or increase the budget by $40,000 to allow for the auditorium. There was some public griping by the ‘summer residents’ questioning the need for such a large auditorium and the fact that $156,000 would result in a higher cost per student than anywhere else on Long Island. Ultimately, the votes passed and the school was built with the auditorium.

While the building is no longer the high school, it stands largely in-tact on the exterior, with the exception of some minor alterations on the rear. The interior has been changed significantly.

Monday, November 30, 2009

One Squabble Lane

On November 9th, an exciting modern house design was approved for this beach location, at the southeastern foot of Wickapogue Pond. Not to be confused with Howard Stern’s house nearby (and off of the other Squabble Lane in the village), this house will be a lovely improvement over the dilapidated circa 70’s existing house that presently sits near the dunes. While I will always be curious about the pirate flag that waves over the driveway, I can’t wait to watch the realization of this house to see if it will truly integrate interior with exterior and seemingly become one with the dune. The proposed design conjures up images in my mind of Peter Eisenman (from his Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio) and Zaha Hadid (the Ordrupgaard Museum extension and the BMW Plant Central Building, but more rectilinear), as well as some of the houses of sagaponack ( On paper, the house’s style doesn’t appear to be quite as timeless a design as Michael Haverland’s for Calvin Klein, and I sometimes wonder how houses on the ocean with such expanses of windows and railings avoid the glass becoming frosted by the relentless pelting of sand but I’m probably being infuriatingly practical. The architect presented some lovely three-dimensional renderings but I’m not sure I technically have the permission to show you those, so I rendered the rear elevation myself. The left volume is the garage below with the pool house and gym functions above, while the right side volume is the main house. The angled piece is a ramp leading to a roof terrace. The architect is a New York City firm named 1100 Architects, P.C. (

Friday, November 27, 2009

Did You Know.......

At the public hearing on November 9th, Ham Hoge commented that the board's CLG status (Certified Local Government) was in jeopardy due to the lack of board qualifications? What have I been saying all along? That the board members should have specific professional experience related to their duty, not unlike many other Architectural Review Boards across the country, and a requirement also enforced by state agencies that assist these boards in their efforts. See more about CLG's here: Well, at lease we now have one qualified member in Brian Brady. Let's cross our fingers for more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Public Notices

I have written about notices before, the ones that are required to me mailed to neighbors within a 200 foot radius of a property that is planning new construction or renovation. And so this might be a bit repetitive. But the topic has come up lately relative to some work in the Rosko Drive area and I feel inclined to weigh-in with my thoughts on the subject of notices in general.

Many times when I am attending an ARB meeting I will hear a neighbor say they didn’t receive a notice. In this case, one of two things most likely occurred. First, they could have thrown it away because it looked like junk mail. It absolutely can and often does. Any of you who have received one know this to be true. I have scanned one I received in the past to show you here. The literal requirement is as follows: (116-32 D)”With respect to applications which involve a public hearing, the Board shall cause a public notice of such hearing to be published once in the official newspaper at least 10 days prior to the hearing date, and the applicant shall cause a copy of such notice to be mailed to all property owners within 200 feet of the subject premises, as shown on the latest completed tax roll, measured along the frontage on both sides of the street, and to all other property owners located within 200 feet of the boundaries of the premises, by ordinary mail at least 10 days prior to the hearing date. The applicant shall submit proof of such mailing." So, in essence, you could receive a plain white envelope with your name typed on it and no return address and just throw it away thinking it’s junk. Or, if you’re curiosity gets the better of you, you could open it and find a very generic piece of paper with the legal notice typed in all capital letters and nothing else included explaining what it is that you’ve actually received. Some architects and lawyers (agents for the owners) will mail the notice in an envelope that shows their letterhead and accompany the notice with a cover letter of their own explaining the project, how one can look at the proposed drawings, what to do if one has concerns about the project, etc. But that is very rare. Most people would never bother to actually solicit complaints and hope to just slide quickly through the ARB process without any bother from the board or the neighbors. And many are successful at doing just that.

Second, they could have been outside the 200 foot radius. This is very likely also. Folks, 200 feet is not that far. The intention of the 200 feet is just to notify the immediately adjacent neighbors: that’s four. The rest of you don’t matter, not on the same street or anywhere else in the village – or that’s the way it seems anyway. I believe more residents should be notified. The amount of neighbors that receive notices is directly related to the size of their property. The bigger the property, the fewer the notices. So the wealthier you are, the easier you have it? I believe either a formula should be derived so that the radius is determined by the lot size, and so that a proportionate amount of residents are notified when new work is proposed regardless of zoning district, or the radius rule should be abandoned and replaced by a requirement that every person owning property on the street where the work will occur shall receive a notice, whether the street is the length of Henry Street or Halsey Neck Lane.

What about those persons within the 200 foot radius that still didn’t receive a notice? Sorry. I’ve asked that question and was told it’s impossible to prove, even if true. Leaving the neighbor powerless and without any recourse. As far as the Village is concerned, they are doing their job. They receive affidavits of mailing and posting (the sign on the property advertising the hearing) and that’s all that’s required of them.

People love mail! Even more so now because, thanks to email, real mail is usually bills. To receive a card or letter is joyous! I believe there should be a lot more detail in the endeavor of sending notices. They should be sent certified, in an envelope with the subject property owner’s name and return address, should include small copies of the proposed site plan and elevations of the project, and most importantly should include instructions on how to see proposed drawings and what to do if they have concerns. These few changes would invite more public participation into the whole ARB process and help to ensure that new work appears compatible within our historic village. And it would be neighborly too!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Updated: My Opinion: 75 South Main Street

After all of the great discussion during the public review of this application Monday night, it occurred to me that I hadn’t conveyed my opinion about the particular issue of color. I believe that an integral part of this house’s architectural character is the fact that it is painted. However, the discussions Monday night only mentioned the new owner’s desire for stained grey siding, versus maintaining the current color scheme. I believe there is an appropriate compromise that would respect the architectural integrity of the house, the Village’s ONLY surviving example of the Stick Style, while satisfying the new owner’s desire for a lighter color. That is to leave the original siding material (which is in great condition) in-tact and strip and re-paint the house (and discovering and documenting the original paint colors in the process) with a more neutral scheme, a scheme that includes beiges and taupes and greys and yes, white. There have to be at least four colors on the house, and that needs to stay the case in order to let all of the extraordinary detail shine. Would I rather the house stay the current colors? Yes because I believe them to be most closely aligned with whatever the original colors were. But there’s a house on the northwest corner of Moses Lane and Hill Street that has a lot of Victorian detailing that was once painted maroon and dark green and is now white and beige, and it looks great, and its detailing still shines! (The photo is taken in the morning when the house is awash with wonderful sunlight. It's hard to see, but the siding is a light beige, the trim is white, and the shutters are a dark green.) There’s a BIG aesthetic difference between a painted house, and a stained house. Here, I’ll be crossing my fingers for paint.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Proposed Hampton Road Fire Station

There is an important vote this Friday, October 9th, 2009 regarding the proposed new fire-station on Hampton Road. Village residents can vote at the Southampton Cultural Center between 12 noon and 9pm. A nice sketch of the proposed building has been distributed throughout the village on a flyer (see rendering above) urging everyone to vote, there have been numerous articles in the Southampton Press about the project, and there was a public answer & question event on Sept. 23rd at the fire-station (one can see the video of that event via the village’s website here: I think it’s great that the Fire Department held a public event and think that the engagement of village residents into the process is crucial to garnering support for the project.
I am very much in favor of this project, but – of course – would love to suggest a few aesthetic tweaks. I have been fortunate to see all of the elevations (I think handouts of them will be available at the library and village hall prior to the election) and can honestly say – with a bit of slight modification, nothing major – it will be a welcome improvement and much needed asset to the village. Slight design modifications are likely to occur during the next phase (design development) of an architectural project anyway. Prior to seeing all of the elevations I was concerned because all we had seen so far was the hand-drawn sketch of the building’s side elevation facing Narrow Lane. But that sketch generated other questions: What about the front, the prominent Hampton Road elevation? And is the southern portion all glass? And why is the limestone (concrete?) band on the northern wing at a strange height? Overall however, I like the materials (brick and stucco I assume), I like the roof brackets (some have called ‘outriggers’), I like the effort of including vernacular elements and the overall traditional intention of the design. I am told that the vote on Friday is only to approve the public funding of the project and that the design is only schematically developed and will still be open to public review, perhaps (fingers crossed) even to local board review.
Municipal projects are not required to be reviewed by our local Planning Board or Board of Architectural Review & Historic Preservation. While most readers of this blog understand that I have issues with the qualifications of these board members, ideally, assuming we had boards filled with qualified members, I can see no negative aspect of routing these projects through those boards. To be completely transparent with the public and allow them to participate in every step of the design, and to have the ‘experts’ that the village takes the trouble to appoint to these boards for these anyway just makes sense, right? I mean, what does it say that the Village must review all building projects, except when they’re for themselves? Why do they get a free pass? I’ll bet it would make for better architecture also. I personally think the addition to the elementary school is lovely, but don’t like the design of the connection between the new addition and the existing structure. I’ll save that critique for a future post. I have also heard comments about how the site plan could have been developed more successfully. Maybe if it had been required to go through the local review boards, it could have been an even better design overall.
I will not be sharing with you whether or not I will vote yes or no on Friday because I think you should all make your own decisions. I will share that I have no problem with the proposed cost (even though, if the fire station serves areas outside of the village, I don’t understand why town residents – or some of them – don’t also have to pitch-in), and am okay with approving the design understanding that it is still in schematic form and will be open to additional public scrutiny. I completely support the updating of the fire department’s facilities and recognize that as an important community need, but for the record, I disagree with the provision that municipal structures be exempt from local review practices.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A General Segment on the Agenda

I have been regularly attending the ARB meetings now since October 2008 (okay, I missed one) and in a number of them there have been times when members of the audience – the public – have had questions about procedures or regulations that were prompted by whatever application was being discussed at the moment, but not necessarily about them. In other meetings either the historical consultant, or the legal counsel, or the board members themselves would raise an issue for discussion, but would be quickly interrupted because it wasn’t the appropriate time to bring up the question. When is the appropriate time to discuss general issues or questions related to the Architectural Review Board applications, codes, or procedures? There is presently no opportunity for general questions and answers or brief discussions.
I think there should be a ‘General’ segment at the beginning of each ARB meeting when general non-application-specific questions or issues can be asked or discussed briefly. Take 477 Halsey Neck Lane as an example. The original application wanted to relocate the architecturally significant circa 1900 house, add on to it, and dramatically change its exterior to the point that the original house would hardly be recognizable. At the end of the review process, the house would still be relocated to the center of the property, but most of the original character of the house would be maintained, and the additions would follow the existing style of the house. However, during the review process, initiating procedures to have the house designated an historical landmark were discussed; many board members, the historic consultant, and many residents were also interested in seeing this happen. But after the application was approved, that was the end of the land-marking discussions, and there is no opportunity on the public hearing agenda’s when one could ask about whether that is happening or if the subject has been dropped and if so, why. Here is another example: currently the village is being re-surveyed; it hasn’t been done since 1979 and there are potentially many more structures that would now be considered architecturally significant or contributing. When I asked Zach Studenroth about how this was going, he explained that it was a lengthy process. I asked him via email however, and I would rather ask him during a public hearing as I know many village residents are also curious about this task, what it entails, and even if volunteers are needed.
There is a considerable lack of public involvement with this board; there are hardly any people in the audience at each hearing that don’t have an application in front of the board. Adding a ‘General’ segment could only help to improve that and to relay the message that this board is comprised of volunteers that are there to serve you and the community. Their job is to safeguard the character of the village and if I or anyone else has a comment or question about their endeavors there should be an opportunity to ask. I’m pretty sure the Village and Town Boards have segments similar to what I’m suggesting, but I’m not sure about the other Village Boards.
I can’t think of a single negative about this idea, other than it might make the meetings longer, but I don’t understand why they don’t start earlier anyway. The time each individual gets could be brief. A public segment would be a great step toward public engagement and transparency of board activities.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Two recent minor subdivisions have caught my attention. Some say these have been occurring consistently over the years, maybe even more and more so lately, but I’m sorry to say I haven’t noticed. The two that caught my attention are both Trustee Robinson’s properties. I don’t mean to single him out, but the reason they gave me pause is because they are both on corners. It seems to me that corner properties have always been larger than lots in the middle of the block. I don’t know why, but it seemed logical and just something familiar and accepted…….the way it’s always been. I’m obviously not a planner and not studied on the subject; my thing has always been aesthetics – that’s my training. But as I comment on the appropriateness of new houses and renovation/restoration projects in the village I can’t help but imagine that these subdivisions effect the aesthetic character of the village also, first by the increased density, and then because current codes allow for bigger structures, which effects the scale and volume of the area. Yes, I wonder about traffic issues close to intersections, and about how it is that more and more septic systems can be introduced in the village when a municipal system seems out of the question…………….but, as those are “above my pay scale,” I return to aesthetics. Above is a Google Earth image of the intersection of Post Crossing and Elm Street: you have the larger, more squarish, corner lots, and then the narrow lots inbetween. As I explored the village further via Google Earth it seemed to me many of these corner lots have already been subdivided, maybe half. The precedent has been set. but if the values of the Village have since changed, it could very well be a possiblitly that the powers that be could say, "Enough." On Monday Sept. 28th there is a planning board work session where these and other subdivisions will be discussed at 5pm in the meeting room at the Police Station. If these subdivisions irk you, go have a say.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Public Comment from Village Officials

I believe a consequence of being an elected or appointed Village official should be that unless they are an adjacent neighbor to an application and therefore directly affected by a construction or renovation project, they should not be able to voice an opinion about an application in front of any of the review boards (architectural, planning, zoning, etc.). They should be required to remain neutral. John Bennett once tried to argue that because I live on Moses Lane, my opinion about the aesthetic of a house on Elm Street was not relevant. I, of course, completely disagree and think that any village resident should be able to voice an opinion about any goings-on in the village, aesthetic or otherwise. But if that resident also happens to be an elected/appointed official, that person represents others in their job and with their vote and can therefore wrongfully influence their constituency’s opinions on all matters. A couple of times in the recent past, a village official has made public comments at an ARB meeting. Once seemed inappropriate to me, and the other appropriate, which is what led me to blog about it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Landmark Criteria is not Enough

If there is a request for a building to be demolished, not within the historic district(s), and built prior to 1926, Zach Studenroth, the historic consultant to the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation (ARB), is required to review the request and fill out a form at the building department named a Demolition Evaluation. On this form Zach answers yes or no to whether or not the building meets any of the five landmark criteria. Those are:

Special character/historic/aesthetic interest or value?
Identified with historic personage?
Embodies distinguishing characteristics of architectural style?
Work of designer who has significantly influenced age?
Represents established and familiar neighborhood features?

There are also two areas where Zach can elaborate: General Description and Architectural/Historic Integrity. And at the end he provides his recommendation.

My issue here is not with Zach. My question is whether or not this form adequately provides the opportunity to save a structure from being demolished. Our community’s historic fabric has been drastically depleted which makes our responsibility to protect what’s left very serious. I believe that sometimes a building might not be very attractive, and might not meet any of the criteria for landmarking, but is still very much a part of the story of the village’s evolution and therefore worth saving.

You can see samples of these old historic structures on the grounds at the Southampton Historical Museum. They are nothing architecturally really to speak of, but their function speaks to the history of the village. They create a narrative. They are tangible connections to our past. The pending demise of 106 Meeting House Lane is completely related to this argument. Oh why can’t Ralph Lauren’s fondness for historic structures extend into Southampton?

“If we do not care about our past, if we do not write history and biography, take photographs, make films, save buildings and whole towns, and protect the works, too, of the industry and science of our rich, diverse, and protean culture, then we are being irresponsible in the extreme.” David McCullough

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Inconsequential 200 Foot Radius

“With respect to applications which involve a public hearing, the Board shall cause a public notice of such hearing to be published once in the official newspaper at least 10 days prior to the hearing date, and the applicant shall cause a copy of such notice to be mailed to all property owners within 200 feet of the subject premises, as shown on the latest completed tax roll, measured along the frontage on both sides of the street, and to all other property owners located within 200 feet of the boundaries of the premises, by ordinary mail at least 10 days prior to the hearing date. The applicant shall submit proof of such mailing.” Southampton Village Zoning Code 116-32 D (2)

I believe more residents should be notified when renovation/new construction is proposed to take place in their neighborhoods, and I don’t believe the above 200 foot radius rule does that adequately. For example, it is completely conceivable that in the R-10 district a 200 foot radius could require 14 neighbors to receive notices, while only 8 would be sent notices in the R-40 district, and perhaps only one in the CR-200 district. Do you see where I’m going with this? The amount of neighbors that receive notices is directly related to the size of the property; the bigger the property, the fewer the notices. One could elaborate on that argument and talk about wealth and elitism, but I won’t go there. I believe either a formula should be derived so that the radius is determined by the lot size, and so that a proportionate amount of residents are notified when new work is proposed regardless of zoning district, or the radius rule should be abandoned and replaced by a requirement that every person owning property on the street where the work will occur shall receive a notice, whether the street is the length of Henry Street or Halsey Neck Lane. I’ll bet the Village would argue that because notices are also advertised in the local paper and because signs are posted in the front yards of the property where the work will occur they are doing their due diligence. I believe many more people pay attention to notices they receive in the mail than they do to the paper that many people don’t read, or to signs that most people don’t notice while driving by them. People love mail! Furthermore, I believe these notices should include copies of the proposed elevations of the project, which could be reduced onto two letter size sheets, cost only a few more pennies to include, and not increase the postage amount. These few changes would invite more public participation into the whole ARB process and help to ensure that new work appears compatible within our historic village.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Privacy Issues

If you can’t see the faces in the doodle above, the people in the middle house are leaning out of their double-hung windows smiling and waving at their neighbors, while the people in the houses on either side are frowning.

During the last two public hearings, the issue of privacy came up and got me thinking. A small balcony was being proposed and some ARB members (Curtis, Christine, and Sheila) are adamantly against balconies on smaller lots believing they create privacy issues for neighbors. So they will allow them, but only if they are decorative and not technically accessible (yeah right). In the architect’s effort to persuade the board to approve the balcony, part of his argument included the fact that someone standing in the house’s Master Bedroom had a much better view of anything going on in the neighbor’s yard than they would on their new balcony and so any privacy issue was not made more severe by the balcony which would be further away. To me, this is where it gets interesting. The whole privacy issue is not really even related to balconies. Either you have a clear view into your neighbor’s property – whether from the interior or exterior – or you don’t. It’s only really an issue on smaller lots, one acre and less. On larger lots, where houses are spaced further apart, privacy is obtained via distance, landscaping, and gates. On smaller lots privacy is sacrificed to some degree or even completely. I’m not sure there’s any practical way to design around it. When I was 10, I lived in a nice house on a half acre in Ohio, and I remember when I looked out my east bedroom window I could be eye to eye with the girl who lived next door whose house was probably twenty to thirty feet away. It’s like this all over America. It’s only here it seems, in the land of hedges and gates and second homes, that people want everyone to mind their own business and keep out.
Back to balconies in Southampton Village, I think they should be permitted but should be limited in size so that their use’s intensity can be sensitive to their lot’s size and their neighbor’s proximity. A simple formula based on your lot size could be incorporated into the codes to determine if one can have a balcony, and then how big it could be. I live in a small cottage and the house near me has a balcony on which someone could have a complete view of my yard. If I were to one day build a bigger house on my property, whether it had a balcony or not, I would then have a complete view into their yard. That’s just the way it goes on these little quarter acres. Hang some curtains. And if you're outside, behave.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Village-Appropriate Color

Admittedly, there are exceptions to most rules, especially when it comes to architecture. It is impossible to regulate design too much without ending up with total homogeneity. That being said, aesthetic guidelines are still extremely necessary in preventing inappropriate design within a historical context and should include guidelines regarding color to safeguard us against those who might choose paint colors based on which are on sale. So far in Southampton Village I haven’t seen too many structures whose colors make me cringe ……. except for one: yes, the one at 70 Moses Lane. So I did some research: I dug into the architecture books I’ve acquired over the years and read a variety of literature published by more serious architectural commissions in order to present you with a more educated opinion on the issue.

Paint colors here in Southampton Village seem to be chosen using three different thought processes: arbitrary, historical, and modern. There are photos of houses with color scattered around the village shown in this post to demonstrate each of these thought processes. At the top of this post is 70 Moses Lane (rear view), an example of the arbitrary approach (drive by and see the orange front door and two-tone blue porch). This is obviously the most egregious use of color when it seems they were chosen based on personal taste or whim. “When an architect wishes to introduce color effect in his design for a building, without acquaintance with the laws which govern its architectural use, his natural inclination will lead him to simulate the painter's sensibility towards color, in order that he may establish scenic value. Considered from that point of view, his design becomes a "subject," upon which color interest must be developed as a separate artistic activity from his initial impulses, which were purely architectonic. Owing to the great dissimilarity which exists between the major aesthetic aspirations identified with pictorial and architectural effect, the realization will soon be forced upon him that progress in the direction of the painter's ideals entails the jeopardy of vital architectonic values.” (1) Just as I was taught that greenery/plantings cannot be architectural crutches, the same is true of color. The architecture must be successful on its own before one can consider using color to embellish. And then that consideration must be educated. “If it pleases, it’s allowed. But should that which pleases be allowed? This awful bromide, as an excuse for anything and everything, also deserves a question mark in matters of architecture and paint. At what point does beautification becomes perfidious deception with the help of paint?” (2) In the case of 70 Moses Lane, the architecture alone is unsuccessful. When the arbitrary color scheme is added, it only makes the design as a whole worse.
Historical color application is apparent all over Southampton Village. I could show numerous examples but have chosen to show the little yellow house next to the catholic school on North Main Street as well as the former library, now a part of the Parrish Art Museum, on the corner of Jobs and Main. There are many references available that describe what colors were prevalent during any given time period which would explain why these two structures have ‘appropriate’ paint colors, and which homeowners can refer to when contemplating colors for their own structures. However, if their house is of an unknown date, of many time periods, or not of an architecturally identifiable style, color should be kept neutral and in keeping with the neighborhood. “There are many instances in which the straightforward rules about paint colors become less clear. Dealing with altered buildings, in which the characteristics of more than one style are evident, can be problematic…..In such instances, a neutral approach to paint color selection is best…….Strong colors or strongly contrasting combinations …..will generally serve only to highlight the stylistic disparities of such a building.” (3)

Successful contemporary and/or modern color application is hard to find in general but I managed to find one in the village: the former Sherry Dairy Barn at 128 West Prospect Street. This structure is an earthy grey/brown with blue/grey trim. It actually blends in with its context with the help of landscaping and its sun exposures. It helps that it’s a one-story building; if it were two-story, the color scheme would not work because it would be too much in contrast with and too noticeably different from its neighbors. While one can find loads of “color consultants” via the internet, modern architectural color is usually only written about theoretically and discussed in terms of emotion and psychology or with reference to larger scale commercial/public projects (think Mondrian, or Zaha Hadid) rather than as design guidelines for lay people. Even the most noteworthy color applications in architecture are through the lighting of the building (like the Empire State Building, or the 42nd Street Studios building between 7th & 8th). Most contemporary houses (i.e. the houses at Sagaponack) stick to contextual colors (white, grey, beige) and small doses of color as accents of minor elements if at all. Occasionally one can find a modern house with a lot of strong color, but it’s usually on a larger lot so it can have a more sculptural character and not necessarily need to take the architectural context into consideration.
I do not believe white is the best color for a house in Southampton. Nor would I suggest that natural cedar shingles are always the way to go; there are plenty of boring houses with white trim and natural cedar shingles around here to fuel that argument. I believe one should choose colors and materials for their house (or business) in Southampton Village by considering first what style their building is, then what the prevailing colors in their neighborhood are (and NOT just within a 200 foot radius), then what the prevailing colors in the village as a whole are, and all the while by consulting written resources. It should be a thoughtful process - not whimsical - respectful to its context and the personal taste of the owners. Both are always possible. “……Whenever you are filled with the desire to beautify these ... forms and structures, succumb to the urge for refinement inspired by your aesthetic sensibility of your taste for ornamentation, whatever type it may be, only to the extent that you can respect and maintain the rightness and the essential appearance of these forms and structures!” (4)
Our ARB only regulates color within the historic district, not throughout the entire district, even though their codes allow them to. Even in their "Architectural Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks," (a spiral bound black and white booklet that costs $20, that is not a technical supplement to the building codes, and that hardly anyone seems to know about) color is referred to so sparingly one wonders if they purposely avoided the subject. Many other more serious architectural commissions govern color, and many of those are listed as references in their "guidelines." As our community has become more densely built, and as our property values seem ever more important, why can't our architectural review board and their guidelines become more serious also?

1. “In the Cause of Architecture,” Leon V. Solon, 1922, Architectural Record
2. Daidalos, Ulrich Conrads, March 1994
3. Painting Historic Exteriors, Cambridge Historical Commission
4. On the New Style, Henry van de Velde, 1907

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The CVS Store

I find myself at the CVS store on Main Street for something or other at least once a week but it only recently occurred to me to write about its aesthetics. What took me so long? My opinion of its primary east facing elevation is Yuck. What was the ARB thinking? When will people learn that putting shingles (or vinyl resembling shingles) onto a building will not make it blend into a traditional context? I can’t even say the CVS store is an improvement over the IGA that preceded it. There are plenty of examples of CVS stores that have been designed to fit into a traditional context. Two images of such examples are shown, one in progress and clearly more historical than the other, but both brick. The HSBC bank next to CVS is brick, and Saks, across the street is brick, so why not continue that material? Granted, I have not dug into the file and learned how long or involved a review process this design endured, but it doesn't matter because what we all see today is what was approved by the ARB, and that design is wholly inadequate. Instead of relishing the opportunity to contribute in the improvement of the property thereby setting an example of what type of commercial architecture would be acceptable and appropriate within downtown Southampton, the ARB settled for a design that is completely bland and lacking of any quaint village character at all. In fact, it looks more like an outdated building than a renovated one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

138 Moses Lane

Here are the before and after photos of a Village House that definitely has a contemporary flair while also being grounded and comfortable in a traditional context. If I remember correctly, this house sat for awhile for sale. It was this little one story cottage with a front porch (not in the photo) on this awkward peninsula type lot…………….but along came someone with quite a vision and simply yet significantly transformed the house inside and out into a thoughtful architectural contribution to the neighborhood, and all the while renovating the existing house rather than tearing it down! The front porch and the roof were removed and a new roof with dormer added, along with all new siding, windows, etc. They didn’t have to rely on silly colors (like Pam Glazer at 70 Moses Lane) to provide stylistic and visual interest. Instead they brought back a very traditional detail of a precursor to shingle style architecture not seen too often but completely appropriate, in the way the roof bends at its edges, like an English thatched roof. I remember seeing the interior when it was finished and the entire left side of the house is an open cathedral space, from the finished basement to the roof, and the bedrooms and other secondary spaces fill the right side of the house. So they went down instead of up, to create additional needed square footage. What a success story.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The ARB Codes

Here are all of the codes pertaining to Architectural Review in the Zoning and Building Construction section (Chapters 116 and 119A) for the Village of Southampton. These arealso available online via the Village’s website: ( I am posting these on my blog because I plan to refer to them once in a while, and thought others might also be interested in reading them.

116-30 Purpose

The municipal legislative body finds that excessive uniformity, dissimilarity, inappropriateness or poor quality of the design and location of buildings and appurtenant structures, including signs, adversely affects the desirability of the immediate and neighboring areas and thereby impairs the benefits of occupancy of existing property and the stability and value of both improved and unimproved real property in such areas, prevents the most appropriate development of such areas, produces degeneration of property and destroys the proper relationship between the taxable value of real property in such areas and the cost of municipal services provided therefor. It is the intent of this Article to establish procedures and design criteria necessary to avoid such results and to preserve and enhance the character, historical interest, beauty and general welfare of the municipality and to ensure that the location and design of buildings, structures and open spaces in the municipality shall aid in creating a balanced and harmonious composition of the whole as well as in the relationship of its several parts.

116-31 Board of Architectural Review and Hitoric Preservation.
[Amended 12-9-1983 by L.L. No. 12-1983; 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989]

A. The Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation is hereby created to replace the Board of Architectural Review. The Board shall consist of five Village residents who shall serve for three-year terms. Members of the Board of Architectural Review presently serving as such may be appointed to the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation for the time remaining in their present terms. Initial appointments to the Board shall be made for terms so that one member shall serve for three years; two members shall serve for two years; and two members shall serve for one year.
B. The municipal legislative body may remove any member for cause after a public hearing.
C. If a vacancy shall occur otherwise than by expiration of a member's term, it shall be filled by an interim appointment for the remainder of the former member's unexpired term.
D. The Mayor shall designate a Chairman of the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees. Such designation shall be for one official year of the Village and shall expire at the end of each official year. The Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation shall designate a Vice Chairman and a Secretary.
E. The Board shall adopt rules of procedure as it may deem necessary to the proper exercise of its responsibilities.
F. All meetings of the Board shall be open to the public.
G. Every decision of the Board shall be by resolution approved by no fewer than three members and shall contain a full record of the findings of the Board in the particular case. A quorum shall consist of three members.
H. The Board may officially designate a registered architect to advise and take part in its deliberations, but without a vote, unless a registered architect is a member of the Board. The municipal legislative body shall fix the compensation of such registered architect and pay other expenses of the Board.

116-32 Procedure for application; public hearing

A. Preliminary plans, elevations, sketches and/or proposals may be submitted to the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation by the owner or by the architect or other agency of the owner for consultation prior to filing an application for a building permit.
[Amended 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989]
B. Every application for a building permit for the construction of any building or structure or for a sign shall be referred to the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation by the Building Inspector for architectural review. Notwithstanding the foregoing, applications for permits to make interior alterations in existing buildings and applications for construction of tennis courts and swimming pools (with their attendant fences and equipment) shall not be required to be reviewed by the Board and shall not be referred to the Board. With respect to referred applications involving one-family dwellings, two-family dwellings, accessory structures to residential buildings and signs, the Board may, at its option, hold a public hearing. With respect to referred applications involving multiple dwellings, nonresidential buildings and nonresidential structures, the Board shall hold a public hearing.
[Amended 2-28-1989 by L.L. No. 2-1989; 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989; 3-9-2001 by L.L. No. 2-2001]
C. Meetings of the Board shall be held at the request of the Building Inspector or at the call of the Chairman or of any two members of the Board and at such times as the Board may determine.
D. The Board shall provide for the giving of notice as follows:
[Amended 4-9-1976 by L.L. No. 1-1976; 1-9-1998 by L.L. No. 1-1998; 3-9-2001 by L.L. No. 2-2001; 12-12-2002 by L.L. No. 6-2002]
(1) With respect to every application referred to the Board (except sign application), the applicant shall erect a white-with-black-lettering sign or signs measuring not less than 22 inches long and 14 inches wide, which shall be prominently displayed on the premises facing each street on which the property abuts, giving notice that an application is pending and the date, time and place where the initial meeting will be held. The sign shall not be set back more than 10 feet from the street line and shall not be less than two nor more than six feet above the grade at the street line. The sign shall be made of durable material and shall be furnished by the Board. It shall be displayed for a period of not less than 10 days immediately preceding the initial meeting date. No additional posting shall be required for any adjournment date or public hearing date. The applicant shall file an affidavit that he has complied with the provisions of this section.
(2) With respect to applications which involve a public hearing, the Board shall cause a public notice of such hearing to be published once in the official newspaper at least 10 days prior to the hearing date, and the applicant shall cause a copy of such notice to be mailed to all property owners within 200 feet of the subject premises, as shown on the latest completed tax roll, measured along the frontage on both sides of the street, and to all other property owners located within 200 feet of the boundaries of the premises, by ordinary mail at least 10 days prior to the hearing date. The applicant shall submit proof of such mailing.
E. With respect to applications which do not involve a public hearing, the Board shall render its decision within 30 days of the referral from the Building Inspector. With respect to applications which involve a public hearing, the Board shall hold a public hearing within 30 days of the referral from the Building Inspector, and the Board shall render its decision within 30 days of the closing of the hearing thereon.
[Amended 3-9-2001 by L.L. No. 2-2001]
F. No building permit shall be issued by the Building Inspector on any application which has been referred to the Board unless the Board shall have granted architectural review approval for the building or structure.
[Amended 3-9-2001 by L.L. No. 2-2001]
G. The Board may require changes in plans as a condition of its approval. The Board may direct that the execution of landscape screening be made a part of a plan before approval thereof and may require that the landscape plan be prepared by a licensed landscape architect, architect, engineer or surveyor.
[Amended 5-13-2004 by L.L. No. 5-2004]
H. With respect to every application referred to the Board (except a sign application), there shall be an application fee of $100 or such other amount as the Village Board of Trustees may hereafter fix and establish from time to time by resolution. With respect to every application involving a public hearing, there shall be an additional fee of $125 or such other amount as the Village Board of Trustees may hereafter fix and establish from time to time by resolution.
[Added 12-9-1988 by L.L. No. 8-1988; amended 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989; 1-9-1998 by L.L. No. 1-1998; 12-12-2002 by L.L. No. 6-2002]

116-33 Duties of Board

A. The Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation is charged with the duty of maintaining the desirable character of the municipality and of disapproving the construction, reconstruction and alteration of buildings or signs that are designed without consideration of the harmonious relation of the new or altered building to such buildings as already exist and the environs in which they are set.

[Amended 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989]
B. The Board is charged with the duty of exercising sound judgment and of rejecting plans which, in its opinion, are not of harmonious character because of proposed style, materials, mass, line, color, detail or placement upon the property or in relation to the spaces between buildings or the natural character of landscape or because the plans do not provide for the location and design of structures and open spaces so as to create a balanced and harmonious composition as a whole and in relation to its several parts and features to each other.

116-34 Remedies

[Amended 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989; 3-9-2001 by L.L. No. 2-2001]
The remedy for any person aggrieved by a decision of the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation granting or denying architectural review approval shall be an Article 78 proceeding.

116-35 Violation of Board approvals.

[Amended 6-20-1989 by L.L. No. 8-1989]
Any violation of the approvals established by the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation shall be deemed a violation of this chapter, punishable under the provisions of §
116-40 of this chapter.