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.)

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