Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rosko Place

To write about this subdivision is a bit of a departure for me, but with all of the miscellaneous bits of information (and accusations) flying around out there I couldn’t help but dive into it on my own. I am not an investigative journalist, or a lawyer, someone with great land use knowledge, a title insurance provider, or a planner. So what did I do? I did the best I could at gathering as much information as possible: all three of the filed subdivision maps, one of the abstracts, a lot of deeds, and all of the covenants, restrictions, and declarations I could find. What did I conclude? It seems that Evelyn Konrad, a Rosko Place resident who has been arguing – in her own unique way- that recent real estate development in that area is illegal, is right. Gasp!

Rosko Place used to be a potato field owned by Leo Rosko (1921-1996), who lived at 320 Hill Street (also known as 33 Old Field Road - photo at right), on the southeast corner of South Rosko Drive and Hill Street. He developed the land into a 24 acre housing subdivision in three phases, in 1960, 1966, and 1972 (filed maps 3211, 4563, and 5756 respectively). But when he did, all of the original parcel’s deeds included ten covenants and restrictions. They are as follows: (recorded 9/28/56)

1. Not more than one dwelling house for the accommodation of a single family only shall be erected on any lot with one outbuilding or accessory building which shall be a garage for use in connection with the dwelling and which may or may not be attached thereto. No other accessory buildings of any nature shall be erected, except a children’s playhouse in the rear yard at least 25 feet from any property line.

2. No portion of any building shall be erected on any lot nearer than 50 feet from the road or street line upon which such lot faces. In the case of a corner lot the owner may elect which street line shall be considered the one upon which such lot faces. In the case of a lot which is less than 175 feet in depth this setback restriction shall not apply but that contained in the then Zoning Ordinance of the Village of Southampton shall apply.

3. No rooming house shall be permitted or operated upon the premises. This shall not preclude the letting of one room to guests during any of the seasons nor the letting the entire premises for single family occupancy on either a seasonal or annual basis.

4. No livestock, poultry or live-creatures raised for milk, meat, eggs or any other animal products shall be housed, maintained or kept upon the premises.

5. No plants, whether for food, or ornamental, shall be raised and grown upon the premises for sale. This shall not preclude the planting and raising plants, whether for food or ornament for the personal use of the owner or then occupant of the premises.

6. In order to preserve the character and value of the subject property in general and that of individual purchasers as well as the investment of the undersigned parties and their successors in interest, prior to erection of any buildings on any part of said property the plans and elevations and locations on sites shall be approved by Leo Rosko or the designee hereinafter referred to, including, but not by way of limitation, drainage, plumbing and sewage disposal. Neither cost nor square nor cubic footage shall be arbitrarily controlling factors in the matter of approval, but rather esthetic suitability of plans and elevations to the individual site and to the area as a whole and sound building such as is currently found in usual first-class house construction and no plan so conforming with their requirements shall be arbitrarily rejected.

7. All plumbing equipment requiring drainage shall be connected to a proper sewage disposal system which in no event shall be the cesspool type but shall consist of a proper septic tank or similar sanitary device.

8. The undersigned Leo Rosko hereby reserves and is granted to himself or his designee hereinafter mentioned the right to modify and amend the foregoing provisions hereinabove set forth EXCEPTING AND PROVIDED, however, that no such modification or amendment shall alter or modify the provisions above set forth concerning use of premises and character of such use, required area in plots individually conveyed or held and/or subdivided and such right is hereby expressly reserved so that the aforesaid provisions may be altered, waived or modified in accordance herewith by a written instrument duly executed by the foregoing person and recorded in the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office.

9. The covenants and restrictions above provided shall run with the land.

10. The designee above referred to shall be one appointed by said Leo Rosko or, in the event of his death, by his personal representatives, by a document in the nature of an amendment to this Declaration in proper form for recording and recorded in the County Clerk’s Office, to be effective until revoked by a like document similarly executed and recorded. The power given to the personal representatives shall terminate five (5) years after the date of death of said Leo Rosko.

To summarize, only one house, one detached garage, and one children’s playhouse can be built on any one lot; the front yard setback should be 50 feet, and Leo Rosko must approve all plans and elevations.

But there is also another term, a legal one called “constructive notice.” This term means that if you drive into a subdivision and there is an obvious aesthetic (such as there was, all houses were of a certain size, height, style, setback, etc., like Levitt Town), then that also acts as a sort of unwritten code. The complete term is “Constructive Notice of a Common Plan and Scheme." Leo was the one reviewing and approving all of the designs and therefore the subdivision ended up with a bunch of houses that looked a lot alike, and that was the intent. Those parameters (one-story, certain square-footage) add to the restrictions of the area.

So this “constructive notice,” along with the covenants and restrictions, provide the aesthetic guidelines for the neighborhood. And these are binding with the land unless all the property owners get together and persuade the developer to declare them void. They might not be referenced on each and every deed, but that doesn’t make them irrelevant. They run with the land. They are mentioned in the very first deeds of each parcel in the subdivision, and sometimes later ones, but even when they are not, they always apply unless they are voided via declaration.

Through my research I never found that Leo ever appointed a replacement (or designee), nor was a declaration ever made voiding the covenants and restrictions. But they don’t disappear upon his death because they are binding with the land. So what does this all mean? It means they are being ignored. That’s the only way one can explain the transformation of eight out of sixty-seven once homogenous houses into very different ones. For the most part, they are lovely, but that’s not the point.

There are also some people who claim their property is not a part of the subdivision but that’s untrue. The original photo of the property as a potato field (see photo from 1954 at top) and the filed subdivision maps make it very clear what is and is not included (i.e. 99% of the properties within the development, that do not face Hill Street or Halsey Neck Lane).

Ms. Konrad has written many letters to the editor and made many board appearances over the past several years regarding the illegality of this work, and occasionally there is a letter from an owner or builder of one of the new houses claiming she is wrong. Regardless of what your opinion of Ms. Konrad is, now you have the facts. I found them on my own; no one gave them to me and no one paid me to research or write about this. But it’s frustrating to learn that wrong-doing is occurring at some level. The covenants and restrictions, and “constructive notice” are being plainly ignored. I would love someone to explain this to me. Any takers?

p.s. Photo at top is an aerial of Rosko Place circa 1954. House was Leo Rosko's. Aerial at the bottom is circa 2007.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

“Mon Repos, Clyden,” 92 Cooper’s Neck Lane

This lovely Shingle Style home, with a five bay layout and gambrel roof was built in 1899 for Alonzo Castle Monson (1822-1902) and named “Mon Repos” which means “my place of rest” in French.

Alonzo C. Monson was the son of Marcena Monson and Eliza Castle Monson. He graduated from Yale in 1840 and from Columbia Law School in 1844. After Columbia, when he was twenty-three, he was a postal clerk where his brother- in-law, Robert H. Morris, was the New York postmaster, and his brother, Marcena Monson Jr., was the assistant postmaster. He used to have his initials written on the stamps of 1845 to deter counterfeit; those stamps are quite valuable today. Four years later “he had migrated to California, one of the original forty-niners, and within three years took the bench in the geographic heart of the gold rush, Sacramento County. The San Francisco Alta claimed, “No more capable or efficient judge ever sat upon the bench in California.”[1] In 1857 he started his journey back east and sailed on the S. S. Sonora after losing his house and his money in a famous poker game. He was lucky to survive the trip. At Panama he transferred to the S. S. Central America which headed straight into a hurricane. By the evening of Thursday, September 10th, “ the seas were so rough that most people were sick in their cabins. Judge Alonzo Castle Monson later recalled that "the evening games of cards and other pastimes for diversion and amusement usual in the cabin were dispensed with." This must have been a disappointment to the judge, an inveterate gambler. Earlier during the voyage, Commander Herndon had been Monson's partner at whist; but on this night the commander had more important matters on his mind.”[2] “As the storm worsened …, a leak developed and soon water was rushing into the boat. The water extinguished the fires in the ship's boilers, and this in turn caused the ship's pumping system to fail. All able male passengers began a systematic bailing of water out of the ship, but it was to no avail; after thirty frantic hours, the boiler fires would still not light and the water level continued to rise.
Knowing the situation was hopeless, Captain William Lewis Herndon managed to hail a passing ship, the brig MARINE, and one hundred persons, including all but one of the women and children aboard, were safely transferred to the other ship. Time and conditions would not allow for any more transfers, however, and shortly after 8 p.m. on September 12, the CENTRAL AMERICA began making its quick descent to the bottom of the ocean…..In all, 153 persons were rescued, while approximately 425 lost their lives. Also lost were hundreds of bags of mail and the $1,219,189 in gold.”[3]
“Mr. Monson was at one time President of the Knickerbocker Club and was one of its founders. He was also a member of the Metropolitan Club and the Alumni Association of Columbia University. He was also Vice President and Treasurer of the American Jockey Association when it thrived years ago and was connected with August Belmont’s racing interests.”[4]

Judge Monson never married and did not have children. Upon his death he left his entire estate to his grand-nephew Monson Morris, who was also the executor of his will, and to his grand-nieces Miss Helen Van Cortlandt Morris and Caroline S. Reboul.
Judge Monson’s sister, Ann Eliza Morris, was married to Robert Hunter Morris, mayor of New York for three consecutive terms as well as his postmaster position mentioned previously. “[Their] father was fond of entertaining, and many noted persons were guests under his hospitable roof. Charles Dickens was once a guest at the old mansion [at 32 Varick Street], as were Commodore Perry and Gov. Marcy, who was afterward Secretary of State.”[5] They had no children.
In 1901 Judge Monson purchased the large lot on the southwest corner of Cooper’s Neck Lane and Great Plains Road with the intention of building a new house but he died less than a year later at the age of eighty. That property would later become the site of the enormous “Mille Fiore,” summer cottage for Mr. and Mrs. Albert B. Boardman.
Carnegie Ownership

It is commonly believed that this house was built for Margaret Carnegie, only daughter of Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist and industrialist, but there is much evidence to prove that a misconception. First, the property was developed by Judge Monson (the previous deeds show diagrams of the land as vacant). Second, Margaret Carnegie was only two when the house was built. I know wealthy people have done stranger things, but Andrew Carnegie was not a “showy” person which makes it unlikely he would embark on such an impractical use of money and build a house for his two-year-old daughter. Last, it is well known that Margaret spent her summers in Scotland at Skibo Castle with her parents, so why would she have a summer house in Southampton?
The subsequent owner was a Carnegie however, but it was Virginia Beggs Carnegie (1878-1952). She was the wife of Thomas Morrison Carnegie Jr. (1874-1944), Andrew Carnegie’s nephew (his brother’s son). She and her husband presumably re-named the house “Clyden,” after the Clyde river in Scotland near Dunfermline, Fife, where Andrew Carnegie was born.

“Thomas Morrison Carnegie, Jr. was the fourth son. As with most Carnegies, he was not very tall. He had light brown hair and blue eyes. He was a very gentle person and I think, a dreamer, so quiet in his ways. He was devoted to his wife, Virginia, and boys, Tom and Carter. He rode, played golf and tennis, and shot like his brothers, but gardening was his great hobby." [6]
In September of 1922 the house was burglarized. “Mr. and Mrs. T. Morrison Carnegie were the victims of the second robbery. It is believed that a thief entered the house through a window on Monday night while the family were at dinner. Mrs. C. C. Beggs, mother of Mrs. Carnegie, discovered the robbery. She went to her room and found a handkerchief on the floor that had been in a drawer. It was then found that jewelry estimated at about $4,000 was missing. Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie lost, among other articles, a diamond wrist watch, a gold ring set with a large diamond, a gold bar pin, a gold mesh bag and a number of smaller pins.
Mrs. Beggs’s loss included a gold watch, set with diamonds, valued at $1,000; two rings set with diamonds and rubles and a gold mesh bag.”[7]

The third owner was also a Carnegie. Florence Nightingale Carnegie Perkins (1879-1962) was the seventh of nine children. Her parents were Lucy and Thomas Carnegie (Andrew’s brother). Known by her family as “Aunt Floss,” she married Frederick Curtis Perkins, a lawyer, in 1901. She spent most of her life on Cumberland Island, a beautiful spot in Georgia owned by the Carnegie family. “Floss was unpredictable, edgy, a flighty sort of woman. She smoked long before it was acceptable for women. Family members said they didn’t know how Frederick put up with her. A story says that she once papered a bedroom in the Grange in dollar bills and that her relatives made her take it down because it defaced government property. She would invite her grandnieces and grandnephews to the Grange “to see my husband,” whose ashes were kept in a ceramic urn near a downstairs fireplace. When she tantalized them with tales of candy-filled closets, the youngest ones believed her.”[8] She outlived all her siblings and passed away at the age of eighty-two.

Among subsequent owners were the Mayos and Marinoviches. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mayo were very socially active in Southampton in 1934. Mrs. Mayo was formerly Katherine Sutherland, daughter of Senator Howard Sutherland of West Virginia, and Paul Mayo was the Professor of Politics at the University of Denver. Before they bought “Clyden” they rented the very historic house named “Dune Ward” on the northeast corner of Meadow and Cooper’s Neck Lanes. In 1934 they had a daughter, Daphne Sutherland Mayo who eventually acquired the property. She married Mato L. Marinovich who was from Yugoslavia and was a doctor.
Property Owners (incomplete):
Roberto A. DeGuardiola Jr., 12/27/2001, Liber 12160 of deeds, page 346
Henry R. Pearson, 2/9/1995, Liber 11714 of deeds, page 73
Daphne S. Mayo Marinovich, 4/3/1959, Liber 4610 of deeds, page 397 (via Estate of Severn)
Coleman C. Perkins (son of Florence Nightingale Carnegie Perkins), 2/16/1925, Liber 1126 of deeds, page 357
Frederick Curtis Perkins & Florence Nightingale Carnegie Perkins (daughter of Thomas Morrison Carnegie),
Virginia Beggs Carnegie (wife of Thomas Morrison Carnegie Jr.), 10/5/1904, Liber 557 of deeds, page 497; interesting coincidence: Elizabeth D. Beggs owned 242 great plains (twining property) nearby 1902-1911.
Alonzo C. Monson, 10/6/1898, Liber 473 of deeds, page 165
John F. & Mary E. Fournier, 3/8/1897, Liber 455 of deeds, page 72 (vacant land)
Katharine Paris Bacon (1823-1917; wife of Francis M. Bacon), 10/18/1886, Liber 298 of deeds, page 354
Charles S. & Ellen A. Halsey

1902 Estate of Judge Monson
1916 Mrs. T. M. Carnegie
1926 Mrs. T. M. Carnegie
1932 Mrs. T. C. Perkins

Cottage Lists:
1899 Judge A. L. Munson listed; no cottage name
1900 Judge A. C. Monson listed; no cottage name
1901 Hon. A. L. Munson listed; no cottage name
1902 Chas. I. Hudson rents “Monson Estate, “Mon Repos”
C. C. Beggs (Virginia Beggs’ father) rents Mrs. Harris’ “Breakers Ahead”; no mention of “Clyden” or T. M. Carnegie
1903 Eric B. Dahlgren rents “Mon Repos, estate of A. H. Monson”
C. C. Beggs and Thomas M. Carnegie rent Dr. [H. Holbrook] Curtis’ cottage; no mention of “Clyden”
1904 “Mon Repos, estate of A. H. Monson, Cooper’s Neck”
C. C. Beggs and Thomas M. Carnegie rent Dr. Curtis’ cottage; no mention of “Clyden”
1905 Thomas M. Carnegie is listed at the estate of A. H. Monson “Mon Repos” on Cooper’s Neck (June, Seaside Times); no mention of “Clyden”
“Thomas M. Carnegie, Clyden” (October, Seaside Times)
1906 Thomas M. Carnegie listed as Summer Resident at “Clyden;””Clyden” not listed on Cottage Directory;“Mon Repos, estate of A. H. Monson, Cooper’s Neck” is listed on Cottage Directory.
1907 No mention of “Mon Repos;” T. M. Carnegie, Jr. is listed at Clyden (Seaside Times 6/5/1907)
1908 Thomas M. Carnegie listed as renting “Clyden” from the estate of C. C. Beggs (Seaside Times, 8/20/1908); False
1908 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1909 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1910 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1911 H. C. Brokaw listed as renting “T. M. Carnegie’s Clyden”
1911 T. Morris Carnegie listed as renting Mrs. Kilbreth’s “Keewayden” on First Neck Lane
1912 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1913 T. Morris Carnegie listed as renting J. L. Breese’s “The Little Orchard” on Hill Street
1913 Mrs. Shearson listed as renting “T. Morris Carnegie’s Clyden”
1914 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1915 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1916 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1917 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1918 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1919 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”
1920 “T. Morris Carnegie, Clyden”

[1] From Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder
[2] America’s Lost Treasure; The S. S. Central America
[4] The New York Times, January 1, 1902
[5] New York Times, April 10, 1900
[7] The New York Times, Sept. 15, 1922
[8] Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses by Charles Seabrook

Thursday, April 8, 2010

5. Did you know........

There are many places in New York State that require a form called an "SHPA Determination."
SHPA stands for “State Historic Preservation Act."

An SHPA determination is a structural-archaeological assessment which determines whether or not any registered, eligible or inventoried archaeological site or historic structure will be impacted by any proposed construction. This form is not used in the Village of Southampton but should be. I came across it while doing research on the internet in reference to a variety of New York areas: Saugerties, Shirley, West Monroe, Windsor, Johnson City, Sanborn, Poestenkill, Amityville, and Riverhead. The oldest references were from 2000 which means this form is not new.

One of my “wish list” items for Southampton Village (and the Town) is that it be much more difficult to tear down a historic structure. Right now, in Southampton Village, a permit is not required to tear down anything that was built after 1926. That’s bad. There are many wonderful pieces of architecture here built since then that our community should (and I think does) value (i.e. Westerly, built in 1929 which, by the way, is rumored to have been recently subdivided – separating the cottage and main house properties – and purchased by Tori Burch in January).

If a property was built prior to 1926, a “Demolition Evaluation” form (see an earlier post about that form here: must be completed by the architectural history consultant to the ARB, Zach Studenroth, before it can be demolished. So if he has no issue with demolition, and if the ARB doesn’t question him (and they rarely do), it’s done. Contrary to what people may believe, I have a lot of respect for Zach, but I think he is easily persuaded when it comes to demolition. Since I began following the ARB’s activities, I have only seen him really fight to save a structure once, and that was Dr. Lesesne’s property on Hill Street. I do not know the history of the property…….perhaps it was developed by an early Southampton settler, because at first glance (well, it’s gone now I think) it is not immediately apparent why one would fight so hard to save it. Rumor has it that Dr. Lesesne offended Zach which made him take a hard position against demolition but that could never be proven. But even in this one situation where he was against it, demolition was still approved.

I think the process should be more difficult. I think demolition of anything should be a multi-step process involving more than one board, one person, and one form. That’s why I love the idea of incorporating this SHPA assessment into the process. Instead of relying on our board or consultant to automatically be familiar with the history of every property in the village, especially if it wasn’t one that was inventoried in the late 1970’s and has been documented in a notebook someone may or may not look at, this would force the applicant to research the history of the property and present that information when demolition, or any type of construction/renovation/restoration for that matter, is being proposed. And if they “edit” or “sensor” any of the history, they would be held liable/accountable! Those are scary terms in this area but not impossible, and definitely needed and advisable!

I am currently trying to get hold of a blank one of these forms to learn more, and will keep you “posted.” (Bad pun, I couldn’t resist.) :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

19 Maple Street

I just adore this house (even though it’s not one of my top two favorites). This house is adjacent to Our Lady of Poland Roman Catholic Church (circa 1910) which was beautifully renovated last year. The house appears to have been built circa 1900 by the Jennings family and predates the church. John Jennings was among Southampton’s earliest settlers.

I love the scale of this house. I love the combination of painted clapboard siding on the front and natural cedar shingles on the side which was an old way of putting the expensive materials on the front or face of a building and the less expensive materials on the sides, but which also gives the house a nice variety of material and texture and keeps it from being too homogenous. It is so much more rich in character than the current status quo of cedar shingles cedar roof (if we’re lucky) and white trim. I love the parged chimneys (and their color) as an inexpensive yet attractive masonry esthetic and consider them a contemporary touch that is harmonious with the rest of the house’s traditional character. I love the sensitive additions on the side and rear that are a classic and simple way to expand the living areas of the house without competing with its main volume and still making the passerby wonder whether they weren’t a part of the house from its beginning. And I love that there is nothing plastic looking about the house whatsoever which has become a terrible current commonality.