Monday, February 22, 2010

On President's Day

"Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession." George Washington

Monday, February 15, 2010

90 Toylsome Lane

Here’s another example of how to re-interpret a traditional style in a more contemporary language. You can decide on your own whether or not you think it is successful. In my opinion, the goal when designing anything, should be for it to be “good design” at any point in time (two to ten to fifty years from now). Is this house too generic? Will it still intrigue me in the future? It’s pretty simple; it’s a barn with some dormers.

This house is located toward the end of a semi-private road off of the south side of Toylsome Lane, between Little Plains Road and Main Street. My first reaction to this house was positive. Despite my passion for historic preservation, I have also always wished to live in something modern or contemporary. That must be the painter in me, loving my visits to those sleek art galleries and their white wall-concrete floor atmosphere. But to live in, I would want something less “cold;” less “those-slippers-by-the-couch-are-throwing-the-entire-interior-scheme-off.” That’s just me.

This house is gallery like, on the exterior and interior because of its purity of forms and lack of decoration. All of its detailing is extremely restrained leaving only the volumes and minimal fenestration to provide embellishment. There aren’t many different materials, there aren’t moldings, or window boxes, or railings everywhere. But examining it further, it’s also not perfect. I wish the house were symmetrical. I wish the front were softened just a touch, to be more inviting, and not with some big potted plants on either side of the door. It’s like the deMenil gallery in Houston: it’s presented as this perfect diagram, but upon closer examination it’s not. Maybe with a cool re-imagined brise soleil to provide the guest, or delivery man, a bit of refuge from rain or blinding sun. The photo above of the south side was taken on a rainy day, but this elevation is the softest, probably because of the nicely vined trellis feature at the edge of the patio which reduces the rigid tone; appropriately so on the pool side, where lots of casual outdoor summer activities take place. Below is the front, which is not just restrained but severe.

Despite all that criticism I actually do like it, I just think it’s a design more pleasing esthetically and physically in summer than winter. Its cold character just doesn’t mesh with our gloomy Februarys.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

106 Meetinghouse Lane, Again

In October 2009 a new multi-unit house was approved to replace the little house that still stands at 106 Meetinghouse Lane. This property is not in the historic district and therefore did not require formal approval by the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation to be demolished. Instead, because it was built prior to 1926 (by 100 years or more), it only needed the blessing of the ARB’s historic consultant, Zachary Studenroth, which he gave.

Prior to the hearing a handful of people readied short speeches to plead for the structure to be saved but they did not get the opportunity to speak because the existing house’s demolition was not on the agenda, only the proposed building.

Why should the house be saved? Good question.

I was told by one person that #106, along with #96, was an accessory structure to #90 which, way back when was a farm, and that it was also a building that was highlighted on walking tours by the former director of the Southampton Historic Museum (Richard Barons) in years past and might be significant to the history of the village. According to Mr. Barons, this house is “early 19th century….with add-ons and change.” Coupled with the very similar house immediately to its west “…they are likely a pair of 1820’s mechanic’s dwellings…”

While I appreciated the information others had told me, I just had to learn the history of this house myself.

Because of the age of the house, I was unable to look at maps, find an owner’s name, and go from there. I had to start by tracing the deeds back, and was successful, all the way back to 1845.

Dr. John Mackie (1695-1758) came to Southampton from Dundee, in Scotland. He and his wife, Mehetable, had seven children, including George (b. 1737). George Mackie married Jane Howell (b. 1754) in 1773. They had three children: George Jr., Sophia, and Elizabeth. The Mackie family were prominent members of the village, owned slaves, and quartered Calvary.

George Mackie owned #106 Meetinghouse Lane (and may not have built it, it might have already existed; see owners below), among others, and at least part of the property where the Southampton Presbyterian church is located (present structure completed in 1843). He sold the church the rear (?) portion circa 1883.

George’s brothers and other relatives owned property on South Main Street. #129, the home of John Mackie, George’s older brother, was quoted in the original documentation for registering the village of Southampton as an historic place: “A small group of later seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century houses also survive on South Main Street and are representative of Long Island’s historic vernacular building tradition. Notable examples include the Mackie House at 129 South Main Street, and 85, 90, and 95 South Main Street. All of these display the distinctive characteristics of the vernacular building tradition including the three bay side entrance hall and five-bay center entrance hall plans, broad gable roofs, wood shingle and clapboard sheathing and an overall lack of decorative detail.”(

The Village of Southampton contains many historic structures but too many are disappearing. As a matter of fact, if you read the official document mentioned (and linked) above, you might wonder what, among the structures listed as contributing, still exist. I do not personally believe that the house at 106 Meeting House Lane is pretty or architecturally significant, but that’s not the point. It would be wonderful if the house were fixed-up and incorporated into a new design thereby saving one of the older pieces of the village’s history, maintaining the history of a rare and prominent family, and definitely good for sustainability’s sake. In the old days, houses weren’t demolished so quickly, they were moved and reused. You really had to convince someone to tear down a structure, not because of its historical value, but for practical reasons. If it was a perfectly useful building, why on earth would you knock it down? But we live in an age where “new, new, new” is ideal, and “old, old, old” is less than desireable.

Update 4/6/2011: The owners are fans of preservation and spent a lot of time and effort toward saving the structure but were advised by numerous professionals that its rehabilitation was not possible.

Property Owners (partial list):

James & Rosey Croake, 8/29/1911, Liber 784 of deeds, page 217 ($10.00)

Robert Miller

Oliver Foster, 11/5/1900, Liber 500 of deeds, page 324 ($10.00)

Isaac & Mary Foster, 2/10/1880, Liber 246 of deeds, page 178 ($100.00)

Benjamin Foster

George H. Mackie, 5/9/1845, Liber 41 of deeds, page 145, purchased adjacent property from John Berry ($50.00); a half acre

George H. Mackie, 5/9/1845, Liber 41 of deeds, page 143, purchased adjacent property ($50.00) from Cephas, James, Benjamin Foster, and Isaac Foster; a half acre.

George H. Mackie, 7/23/1845, Liber 41 of deeds, page 422, purchased the property ($50.00) from John Ware; a half acre (John Ware is listed as an inhabitant of Southampton in 1698, perhaps near Toylsome Lane.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

4. Did you know.......

I had been hearing unofficial rumblings about the 'Hildreth House' sale not going through. You know, the painted house at 75 South Main Street that James and Whitney Fairchild were in the process of buying, but only if they got ARB approval to remove all the paint, stain the shingles grey, and paint all the trim white? Well they did get approval, much to the dismay of many local architects and residents........and then they walked away from buying the house! I was told officially today by a friend of the Berglunds. So it's great, right? The old painted lady will remain painted. But it's not great because the damage has been done. Permission has been given to deface this house and precedent has been set that arguements regarding color will not be entertained. I pray the future owners of this house are MUCH more respectful of this architectural gem in which many of us would feel fortunate to live.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An "Historic Places" App!

For all you app[lication] fanatics, Sabra Smith, author of the blog, "My Own Time Machine," recently discovered an application that allows the user to quickly discover 'must-see' historical places wherever they may be at any given time: Pretty cool. What she is hoping to one day find is an application that allows the user to be staring at a building in the present, but download the view of that building from a previous year, say 100 years ago? But so far, that has yet to exist (and wouldn't that be an INCREDIBLE undertaking?).
I have yet to ever download an 'app' but that's besides the point. I am very happy with my 'app-less' blackberry, but find my husband enraptured with all the latest and greatest 'apps.' Knock yourselves out! And if Ms. Smith's dream 'app' ever becomes a reality, that one I'll download for sure!

Monday, February 1, 2010

State of the Union

Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation's take (as written by Pat Lally) on President Obama's State of the Union address, and how it particularly effects Historic Preservation here: It's a good read and addresses specific issues such as his proposal to freeze discretionary spending (grave to historic preservation endeavors), the retrofitting of historic windows with energy efficient storm panels rather than "replacement, replacement, replacement," and how by bringing - not just windows and doors - whole historic structures and infrastructures up to current and projected energy efficiency standards will creat thousands of jobs, and has already.