Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.

~Daniel Webster

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Free Buildings

I have just added a new list feature to my blog and hope anyone reading this will remember it and help me to spread the word. It is a list of structures that can be had for free if they are moved from their present locations. Houses, garages, sheds, you name it, as long as they are in good enough condition to be moved, I want to know about them. We all know that the larger they are, the more expensive they are to be moved, but big, small, new, old, in the Village or on the North Fork, I don’t care, I want you to tell me about them. Just use the contact button near the upper right hand corner and tell me what it is and where it is and I will put it on the list. If this list becomes well-known, it will provide people with wonderfully green and sustainable options for adding onto their homes or adding accessory structures to their properties. Who said new is better? A lot of the new architecture out there doesn’t even come close to matching the character of older structures. Remember the cute little shed with the glazed sliding barn doors and cupola at 43 Osborne Avenue? Gone. I have received more than one comment asking where to find such structures, as well as more than one request to list a structure. It just didn’t occur to me to provide this type of “bulletin board” feature before and I would direct people to let local Architectural Review Boards know about them. Like that would do anything, right? And what about areas without Architectural Review Boards? So here you go folks, let’s build a “free buildings” list and cross our fingers that they can be happy new additions to other people’s properties. Like the old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!” By the way, here is a great link to a happy house moving story, and a lot of great “house-mover” references:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

“The Corner, Rosemore,” 136 Great Plains Road

This home, on the southeast corner of Cooper’s Neck Lane and Great Plains Road, was built in 1900 by Dr. George E. Brewer. It’s in such excellent shape; it certainly doesn’t look that old. It has an octagonal tower feature that responds to its corner location, and reminds me of old train stations due to its big brackets at the eaves (which by the way are NOT in regular rhythmic locations) and craftsman-like color scheme. Its first story is clad in cedar shingle siding while its second story is finished with an off-white stucco.

Dr. George E. Brewer (1861-1939) was a noted surgeon, anatomist, and anthropologist as well as the son of a physician. His obituary was published in the New York Times on Christmas Day, 1939 and contains a ton of information about his noteworthy career. He married Effie Leighton Brown (d. 1925) in 1893. They had two sons, Leighton Brewer, and George E. Brewer Jr. During his ownership, the house was known as “The Corner,” not to be confused with “The Corners,” on the northwest corner of First Neck Lane and Ox Pasture Road.

The second owners of the house were Morgan and Rose O’Brien. Combine Rose with Morgan and you get “Rosemore.” Morgan J. O’Brien (1852-1937) was a lawyer and former presiding justice of the Supreme Court, Manhattan. He was born in New York City and was the son of a merchant who immigrated to America from Ireland. His obituary was published by the New York Times on June 17, 1937 and is, again, full of notable professional accomplishments during his lifetime. In 1880 he married Rose M. Crimmins and in 1930 they celebrated their 50th anniversary, a milestone that seems more and more rare these days. They had nine children: five daughters and four sons. One of their daughters and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. William F. Cogswell, would be the next owners.

I am fortunate enough to know the grand-daughter of the second owner of this house (Cynthia Cogswell Johnston Eaton) who has spoken about it with me here and there over the past few years. She also loaned me her copy of an August 2008 Hamptons Magazine which included a small feature of the house when it was under renovation by Charles Rich LLC. Before renovation in 2000, the house had been in disrepair for some time, had been insensitively added onto, and painted all white, with a black asphalt roof. Cynthia mentioned that the third story of the tower used to be where her Uncle had his office and had a wonderful view to the ocean. It’s so nice that the house has only been owned by three families, and the current family has owned it 53 years (even though there was a 28 year period in the middle of neglect). That has definitely contributed toward the vitality of the structure.

Property Owners (incomplete):

Scott C. & Kelley L. Johnston, Liber 12015 of deeds, page 345, 1/21/2000
Katherine M. Blaine, Liber 11331 of deeds, page 92, 10/18/1972
Estelle O’Brien Cogswell, Liber 7606 of deeds, page 302, 6/26/1964
William F. Cogswell, Liber 2303 of deeds, page 456, 8/16/1943
Morgan J. O’Brien
Rose M. O’Brien, Liber 1463 of deeds, page 287, 10/17/1929
George E. Brewer
Sophie Kilbreth and son James T. Kilbreth, Liber 492 of deeds, page 109, 5/4/1900

Monday, May 17, 2010

6. Did you know..............

This house used to be the rectory to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church on Hill Street and it is now a private residence on the northeast corner of Halsey Neck Lane and Meadowmere Lane. It is still wonderfully intact (except that its front porch is gone) and still has its original garage also. This structure was completed by the church in 1897 for a total cost of $4,315.46 (see photo below, from the Parish’s Archives, circa 1902). It was moved to Meadowmere Lane sometime in the 60s.

On the other (west) side of the framed Catholic Church in the 1902 photo, one can just barely make out a house (recent photo at bottom). This structure still survives also and was originally the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Frankenbach who was the Superintendant of the Meadow Club in the late 1800s, and later owned a florist business. When the church acquired that property circa 1925, the house became the church’s convent. It was also moved sometime in the 60s and has become another private residence located way down on Captain’s Neck Lane, the last house on the east side of the street, facing Taylor’s Creek.

I never would have known the story behind these houses merely by looking at the buildings or researching the property deeds, and am grateful to Laureen Donnelly, longtime neighbor to these two homes, for enlightening me, and who also gave me a great book about the history of the Sacred Hearts church published in 1996 upon its centennial anniversary.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gaming the System

R.I.P. “Moorlands/Windswept.” The beautiful and architecturally significant historic house at 477 Halsey Neck Lane, at Boyesen Lane, which was built for the noted author Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen circa 1893 and was briefly being considered to be designated a landmark not long ago, is gone forever (see circa 1957 photo below). This is not really the fault of Southampton Village’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review (aka the ARB) either. In June of 2009 that board voted 3 to 2 approving the house to be restored, added onto, and relocated to the center of the property after four months of public hearings. The original proposal for this house was a total transformation leaving it unrecognizable, so the end result was a nice compromise, right? Guess not. Over the winter the house was boarded-up and moved onto its new foundation, but as of May 6th it’s gone. Only the first story remains, and much of it looks new. The original architecture, materials, and details now only remain in our photos and memories.

I can’t help but wonder if the owners, architect, and builder weren’t just “gaming the system?” We’ve seen this before on Wooley Street, on Culver Hill, on Lewis Street, and other places. But there don’t seem to be any consequences, and that’s a big problem. Even on Lewis Street, where the project was delayed and the owners ultimately had to pay a $15,000 fine, so what? Big deal. That’s not enough to hurt and evidently it’s not nearly enough to discourage these actions.

What’s done is done. The house is gone. We can’t bring it back and replicating it is not the answer. Now it’s about the penalty. In order to set a precedent that these unethical demolitions will no longer be tolerated, the owners, the architect, and the builder should all pay a price. Fines seem to hurt the most but they need to be much much larger and maybe a probationary period for the architect and builder where they can’t directly or indirectly participate on projects inside the village boundaries for awhile would also be appropriate. Maybe there can be a sort-of "no fly" list for the architects and builders, and maybe the builder's insurance certificate can be effected. There have to be penalties and consequences.

Why do we have we have zoning regulations and a building department if you can pay a fine, endure a delay, and ultimately circumvent the whole process? If you feel compassionate at all about historic preservation in the Village of Southampton, please write the Village Trustees respectfully demanding the implementation of tough penalties for illegal demolitions of historic structures.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Sugarman Estate, 170 Meadow Lane

This is one of my top two all time favorite houses in the Village of Southampton ……… thus far (see real life photos below). Some of you may be incredulous, but my respect for great modern design is equal to my passion for preservation and historic architecture. I still have yet to find a modern interior I find comfortable enough to live in and this is no exception.

This is the home of Jay Sugarman and Kelly Behun. It was designed by Sawyer Berson and the engineer was Robert Silman Associates. Ms. Behun is a hotel design consultant; Mr. Sugarman is a real estate investment firm executive. I found the rendering above on Sawyer Berson’s website. This is the beach view. Isn’t the grassy lawn funny? The rendering is cute though, in the way it shows the airiness and transparency of the home. I prefer the photo below however. This is the true way the home is perceived from all who traipse their way to Cooper’s Beach in the summer. It’s never viewed from the same elevation but is up high as if it’s not already on a theoretical pedestal complete with halo.

The house’s walls are white plaster and French limestone. The rest is glass, including the railings, and interior woodwork. There was an open house shortly after it was completed which I almost got to go to…...almost, with someone who had received an invitation but actually chose not to go?!?!?!?! Many may recall the seemingly lengthy construction and the steel structure that loomed over Meadow Lane, but it sure is a beauty now. Below is the front view, which is impossible to photograph because of its proximity to the street, but you can see it looks a little more like a computer rendering in the way the driveway and landscaping is sculpted. The house is next to (west side) a surviving Norman Jaffe house.