Thursday, March 25, 2010

Re-Valuing Accessory Structures

I think Southampton Village’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review should refresh their appreciation for accessory structures and consider them to be much more valuable contributions of the architectural inventory of the area. In the recent past I have written about three houses that were once accessory structures to their “main” houses, all of which have been approved to be demolished: 450 Gin Lane (“Sandhurst”), 395 First Neck Lane (Samuel L. Parrish), and 80 Meadowmere Lane (“Hawthorn House”). All three of these accessory structures evolved into “main” houses sometime during their lives, which is something other than what they were originally intended to be. One was a caretaker’s cottage (I think), and the other two were carriage houses. The philosophy of the ARB has been that a structure no longer retains its architectural integrity if it has changed from its original appearance and use, and this is not – in general - an uncommon philosophy. But I disagree, especially within the context of this village. Too many of the historic houses and accessory structures in this village have been demolished only to make way for something new, and while the area is still rich with many wonderful circa 1900's architecture, we can’t lose anymore without seriously tarnishing (if it hasn’t already) the village’s preservation reputation and seeming to abandon the historic character, quaintness, and nostalgia with which it is associated and which makes it so valuable, real estate-wise, notoriety-wise, and heritage-wise.
Also, isn’t it a slap in the face of one of the preservation movement’s most successful tools – adaptive reuse – to maintain such a philosophy? It happens all the time: a garage becomes a pool house; a shed becomes a child’s playhouse; a summer kitchen/barn becomes a yoga studio; a carriage house becomes a guest house. Each time an accessory structure is used for a different purpose, it has been given a new lease on life thus giving the preservationists and sustainability cause a moment to celebrate. But have these structures consequently sealed their fate to be demolished? It seems absurd, doesn’t it?
The photo above is of the Wooldon Manor pool house. Built where Dr. Theodore Gaillard Thomas’s house, “The Dunes” once stood at the southeastern foot of Lake Agawam, this accessory structure (wonderfully featured in the fabulous book Houses of the Hamptons by Anne Surchin) now serves as a principal dwelling and has been added onto a number of times. Nonetheless, it still reminds us of Wooldon Manor – now gone – and the history of the property. Can you imagine if it were approved for demolition because it’s no longer a pool house?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Firehouse Comment

I received an email from a so-called “fan” awhile ago that I thought I’d share.
“I am disappointed-appalled, really- that you like the design for the proposed firehouse! It's just a big box with a fake pent or mansard roof around it and some hokey historical detailing. A firehouse is such an opportunity to design something new and exciting. Even though this building was perhaps a foregone conclusion and it is fortunately in a part of the village with no real sense of place or identity I think you should use your blog to promote better and more contemporary design.……..”
Don’t you just LOVE when people tell you what you should do or think? I mean, you are all welcome to start your own blogs with your own agendas and opinions AT ANY TIME!!! Please! I could make time for a lot of other valuable things in my life! You’d be doing me a favor!
Has an opportunity been lost? Yes. Is my blog about promoting contemporary design? No. The only reason I began to show good examples of contemporary design to begin with - and continue to do so - was to demonstrate how 70 Moses Lane is inappropriate and unharmonious for this village. I have yet to post about my two favorite houses in the village because one is impossibly difficult to photograph. But neither are contemporary; one is modern (truely modern, not contemporary) and one is about a hundred years old. I am rarely a fan of contemporary design only because I see so few good examples of it. But, in my opinion, contemporary design is stuck is a sort of free-for-all; there is no style du jour, just whatever theme or philosophy an architect or designer comes up with on any given day.
Back to the firehouse. There is a tight budget for this project. That doesn’t mean innovation must be thrown out of the window, but obviously the traditional route felt safer and I sympathize. I normally believe that a design must be authentic to its style, whether it is traditional or contemporary. So for me to say that I like the proposed design for the Hampton Road fire house may not be in line with that belief. And there is definitely nothing sustainable about tearing down the existing building which could have been modified and enlarged to meet the present and future needs of the fire department, but at least they are not building a palace like they did in Riverhead. Have you seen that thing? Holy cow! I think we should be relieved that what’s being proposed isn’t what a lot of America is building, which are generic commercial structures devoid of any character whatsoever. Like this

or this

or this

But I do worry. I know they have a big “green” agenda, but I worry about the effect of that on the building. Many of the building’s finishes will be recycled products but they have to be careful that the building doesn’t become too plastic looking, like the CVS store or the house shown below.

This house, by Lisa Zaloga, on Old Town Road looks very plastic. The glass in the windows looks plastic, the shingle siding looks plastic, the front door and front facing garage door look plastic, the roof is asphalt, the trim is Azek (plastic)………there is nothing natural-looking about it. These are not “green” recycled finishes, but if all the “green” recycled products make the new fire house look like a big plastic box, I will regret having ever supported it. I will hope for the best though, and don’t mind that its style attempts to be in sync with the other civic structures in the area, like the train station and the town hall. It’s traditional – contemporary and that’s a style with which a lot of people in this village are comfortable.
I think the “fan” with the comment would have preferred something more along the lines of the fire house designed by Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, shown below. I am a HUGE fan of Zaha Hadid, but can I envision something like that on the corner of Narrow Lane and Hampton Road? Actually, yes. But we are not so privileged to be blessed with one of her designs as of yet. Maybe one day……….

Monday, March 15, 2010

339 South Main Street

Here is another example of a contemporary style house that is harmonious within its context. This house is on the very southern end (not quite the southwest corner) of South Main Street, a street chuck full of wonderful historic architecture. This house was approved by the ARB (3 to 1), after a seven month review process full of neighbor and board concerns that it was inappropriate for South Main Street, in July of 1992. The architect was Peter Gluck ( of Gluck Partners which is still a prominent firm today, located in Manhattan. There is an orchard of flowering trees in the front yard, and the glazed center section of the house is supposed to act as a sort of gateway and window out through to Lake Agawam. The building materials were left to weather naturally, and the stucco and lead-coated copper sections are of natural colors so as not to be jarring or aggressive. The contemporary detailing is in the simple yet non-generic forms and the fenestration in the gable ends. The owner that commissioned the house, and who is still the owner, is Charles Stevenson (, a prominent member of Southampton and brother to Roy Stevenson, of the fabulous Stevenson’s toy shop on Jobs Lane. I am told he may actually live in the historic house to the north and use this house for more leisurely related functions (gym, etc.).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Southampton Hospital

The photo above is of the Southampton Hospital upon its completion in February of 1913. “The main building is rectangular in form, approximately 64 by 34 feet, running east and west, with an extension on the north, in which is located the operating room, and the rooms necessary for this department, such as the etherizing and sterilizing rooms, a room for the physicians, a wash room for physicians and nurses, a laboratory and dispensary.”[1] Designed by famed society architect T. Markoe Robertson, it was Colonial in style and thought of as in keeping with other public buildings in Southampton at the time. Mr. Robertson was married to Cordelia Biddle, a famous socialite of her day; his was her second marriage, her first being to Benjamin Duke, of the Duke tobacco family, and of Duke University (her son Angier Biddle Duke was also a Southampton Village summer resident). The hospital cost approximately $60,000 to build, more than anticipated (some things never change). “C. Elmer Smith was the general contractor; Duryea & Baird did the mason work; Edward E. Hammond, plumbing; Eli H. Fordham, painting; E. Grigg, electrical work; Fred H. Kampf, shades; James Guillfoyle, grading the grounds." The property of J. Hervey Topping on Meetinghouse Lane was purchased for the second hospital building, the first being on Hampton Road. Both first two hospital buildings were residential type structures.

The hospital has grown exponentially since it was originally built, numerous times, starting as early as 1928. “In deciding upon a building plan, it was necessary for the Governors to bear in mind that the possibility of growth made it essential to adopt a plan which would admit of extension without disfiguring the building architecturally, or hampering its efficient administration. This question has been duly borne in mind, and in fact sketches have been made showing wings which can be added should future conditions make such enlargement necessary.” But the actual growth of the community was beyond even their imaginations and the original hospital has been all but consumed by modern additions conceived by those with less sympathy of “disfiguring the building architecturally.” Only parts of the cornice of the original building and the first additions are left to remind us of the beautiful building that existed long ago.

[1] The Southampton Press, February 20, 1913

Monday, March 1, 2010

Captain Howell's House, a.k.a. 30 Wall Street

This private condominium building is on Wall Street, the first alley off the east side of Main Street, north of Meetinghouse Lane. It has an amazing history! You wouldn’t believe how old it is judging by its appearance because it’s in such great shape! The photo above shows the front of the building; the front used to face west, and the building was located directly to its west, on Main Street (#30 there also); it was moved sometime between 1909 and 1916.

In 1688 Lt. Richard Post lived here. Richard Post was one of our Village’s original settlers from Lynn, Massachusetts. Richard married Dorothy and they had four children: John, Thomas, Joseph, and Martha. Martha married Benjamin Foster.

Years later, Captain Charles Howell, a descendant of Edward Howell who was also one of the original settlers of our Village, purchased the house and substantially renovated it circa 1905. He married Mary Rogers (b. 1806-1867) in 1831 and their eldest son, George Rogers Howell (b. 1833), was a State Archivist for New York.

When the Methodists bought the church previously owned by the Presbyterian church built in 1707 and directly opposite their present edifice, Captain Howell sold them the south side of his property and they promptly moved their new old church to that location. It still stands there today although no longer recognized as a church. Its steeple and gable have been removed and it is now a one-story commercial building.

Henry H. Post, a descendant of Richard Post, bought the building in 1914. The building was moved back from Main Street to its present location sometime between 1909 and 1916, so whether it was done by Capt. Howell or Henry H. Post is anyone’s guess.

In the place of the original building’s location the “Arcade” building was built. For the next fifty-two years #30 Wall Street would be owned by the Schwenk family. The subsequent property owners are listed below.

The Southampton Historic Museum has a great old photo of this building when it was located on Main Street, and probably more information on the Schwenk family and the Arcade building.

Property Owners (partial list):

Malcolm Bauer, circa 1980-present

Mary S. Smith 5/24/1979 Liber 8630 of deeds, page 258

Edgar & Arlene Marvin 5/24/1979 Liber 7453 of deeds, page 161

Henry Schwenk Inc. 4/1/1940 Liber 2093 of deeds, page 64

Henry & Florence E. Schwenk 1/19/1927 Liber 1248 of deeds, page 152

Henry H. & Letitia A. Post 5/2/1914 Liber 873 of deeds, page 74

Capt. Charles Howell (will) 1/2/1890 Liber 326 of deeds, page 371

Richard Post 4/17/1688


1873 Capt. C. Howell, “Howell House,” Main Street (F. W. Beers)

1894 H. H. Post (F. W. Beers)

1895 Lodge Rooms, Main Street (Sanborn)

1902 H. Post (E. Belcher and Hyde)

1902 Shops and Lodging Rooms, Main Street (Sanborn)

1909 Shops and Lodging Rooms, Main Street (Sanborn)

1916 Shops, Wall Street (Sanborn)