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


  1. so did Polhemus & Coffin design this house?

  2. To my knowledge, an architect has never been attributed to this house. If you know differently I sure would love to know!