Thursday, July 29, 2010

Southampton Village Windmills

Above: The Old Mill House, Postcard Courtesy Eric Woodward Collection (Thanks Eric!!)

There are Windmills scattered all over the Hamptons. Actually, I think there are 11 remaining on Long Island, but have you ever noticed any in Southampton Village? Most have been “removed” now; relocated to other areas for others to admire. One remains down on Gin Lane (which is not on any windmill list), another is at the college, and another is now all the way out in Wainscott.

Above: Windmill at Southampton (Stony Brook) College

Historically windmills were bought and sold and moved around quite often. In addition to being very attractive machines, windmills provided a good living for millers and were a very necessary and practical part of live. They were gristmills, grinding grain into feed for animals and flour for people. When there was no wind some of them had engines to spin their domes around to do the grinding, and before that oxen would pull them around.

Familiar Southampton historian, William S. Pelletreau, write about the Wainscott Windmill in The Bridgehampton News on Oct. 30, 1915:

“This mill was originally built on the west side of Wind Mill Lane or the west street, of Southampton village, a little ways south of the North Sea Road. At this point there was an old fort built during the Revolution and on its site were erected three wind mills. One was blown down, another was burned down in 1812, and the wind mill now under consideration was built on the same site in 1813. The owners were Jeremiah Jagger and Obadiah Foster, and the cost was $304. As we were born in a house not very far distant, this mill is one of the recollections of our early childhood. The miller at that time was Obadiah Howell, well known as ‘Uncle Oby.’ About a quarter of a mile south of it, at the junction of Hill street and Windmill Lane, was another mill, standing on Mill Hill and for many years a very conspicuous feature of the landscape. This mill was owned by Capt. Barney R. Green in 1849, and he conceived the idea of purchasing the north mill and having it removed to Mill Hill by the side of the other and having one miller tend both. This was done about 1850. The miller was Richard Dunster. When the wind was regular, it was all well enough, but when the wind was ‘flawey’ or blew a gale it was amusing to see the miller running like a shuttle to and from each mill. It was soon found to be impracticable, and about 1852 Captain Green sold the mill to parties from Wainscott, and it was moved to that place.”

Above: Wainscott Windmill

Here’s a great link listing all 11 Long Island Windmills, their locations, and a little bit about them: There’s also a great book called “Windmills and Water Mills of Long Island,” part of the Images of America series by Arcadia Press. It would make for a great weekend of sightseeing. Many of them host tours.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

40 Sanford Place & Design Guidelines

There is a little brochure available for free in the Building Department called “Southampton Village Historic District Guide for Homeowners” which village officials themselves have admitted to being something “they don’t use anymore.” Nonetheless, these types of guidelines are desperately needed, and they are needed for the entire Village, not just the historic districts.

While I was scouring through codes across the country to provide to the Village during my recent meeting re: demolition penalties, I came across an INCREDIBLE example of design guidelines for the Village of Rosalyn Harbor ( They also have numerous other guidelines and helpful publications available on their website! How refreshing!

Anyway, Roslyn Harbor’s “Guidelines for Additions & New Construction” are great because they verbally and visually describe features that are and are not appropriate. I especially love its diagrams depicting additions that would or would not be suitable, like on page 3 shown below.
The photos at the top are of 40 Sanford Place. The new house in the middle was approved by the ARB last summer, and the photos on the left and right show houses that exemplify the architecture and character of the rest of the street. Do I like the design of 40 Sandford Place? No, but that’s not my point. My point is that this new house is not in keeping with the rest of the street due to its volume and massing. It may comply with all zoning codes, but it is not harmonious with the rest of the street. There are loads of other similar examples being approve throughout the village; take Pulaski Street for instance.

Guidelines like Roslyn’s would be very useful in our community, acting as a tool for the ARB and helping to keep new construction both harmonious and appropriate. Let’s recommend this to our Trustees.

Monday, July 19, 2010

383 First Neck Lane: "Foster House"

This house has an AMAZING history which you would never know just by driving by. You may think it looks old and wonder if it’s historic……..…………..You bet!

I haphazardly researched this house when I was researching the carriage house associated with Samuel L. Parrish’s mother’s house just south of #383. But I had no idea it was as significant as it is. Recently the owner phoned the Historical Museum inquiring about the history of the house and mentioning that there was a framed letter in the house by Samuel L. Parrish describing the history of the property! Turns out, in 1916 William S. Pelletreau also wrote the property’s history for The Southampton Press. Eureka!

This house used to be on Main Street where the bank is now located. The original owner of the lot was Thomas Burnett in 1684. After that “the lot fell to his youngest son, Mathias Burnett, who moved to Easthampton, where he was a magistrate and very prominent citizen. He divided the lot into three parts, and sold them to three different men.” After a number of owners of all three lots, by 1807 Josiah Foster owned the whole parcel and built a house on it in the same year. “The house, when built, was by far the most stylish and modern in the village.” Josiah Foster was from Quogue. He married Abigail “Nabby” Jessup who was well known to be the “head” of the family. Josiah, while “an easy going man, [was] perfectly willing that his wife should take the lead and keep it, as she did.”[1] She set up the post office in the house known as “Foster’s Tavern” which became a popular stopping place for the mail stages until the arrival of the railroad. The house was also an inn where Daniel Webster, James Fennimore Cooper, and William Onderdonk were known to have stopped.

In 1916 Josiah Foster sold the lot to Alexander Cameron who intended to develop it for business. Hearing that the house was ‘in the way’ Samuel L. Parrish bought it and moved it to the property he owned on First Neck Lane. “Before moving, the back buildings were cut off from the main part of the house, and each was moved separately. Mr. Grosvenor Atterbury ( of New York was then employed by me to remodel the interior of the main part of the house, and at the same time to add new back buildings in architectural accord with the Colonial design of the original structure. The old back buildings now stand on the rear of the lot, having been converted into a housekeeping garage.”[2]

Samuel Parrish ultimately subdivided the property (the southern half is where his mother lived; Samuel lived in the Art Village) and in 1924, sold the “Foster House” (on the now northern half) to William Otis (1866-1946) and Annie Margaretta Dumaresq Gay of Boston. Before the purchase, they rented “Kilarney,” another First Neck Lane cottage. Mr. and Mrs. Gay had seven children, four daughters and three sons, all also of Boston. Records indicate there are still members of the Gay family living in Southampton.

William Otis Gay was a banker – a founder of the Boston investment firm W.O. Gay & Co. – and before that was in the textile industry. He was also an avid yachtsman and owned a sloop named “Athene” which he raced and a yacht named “Simoon.” “He also was the first commodore of the Southampton Yacht Club, which was founded in 1937.”[3] His brother Walter was a well-known painter.

The Gay children inherited the property and sold it to Alfred Corning Clark, the heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, in 1953. He died at the age of 45 in 1961.

Renters (incomplete):
1918 William Ross Proctor
1919 Charles E. Mitchell (“An American banker whose incautious securities policies facilitated the speculation which led to the Crash of 1929.” Wickapedia)
1920 Mrs. Riley Miles Gilbert
1921-2 H. H. Benedict
1923 Julian M. Gerard

Property Owners (incomplete):
Anthony & Camille Stillitano, Liber 12344 of deeds, page 402, 9/20/2004
Robert M. Rubin, Liber 11100 of deeds, page 37, 7/10/1990
Robert M. & Katherine Kerna Rubin, Liber 10628 of deeds, page 227, 6/21/1988
R. John Punnett, Liber 8902 of deeds, page 161, 10/23/1980
Estate of Alix R. Plum, Liber 6154 of deeds, page 248, 5/18/1967
Rodney T. & Gael M. Wood, Liber 5318 of deeds, page 133, 2/14/1963
Alfred Corning Clark, Liber 3609 of deeds, page 70, 11/9/1953
William O. Gay Jr., Sophie M. Gay Griscom, John Gay, Philip D. Gay, Dorothea E. Gay Davis, Anne Gay Sharretts, Collette D. Gay Irving
Annie M.D. Gay, Liber 1120 of deeds, page 93, 12/4/1924 (wife of William Otis Gay)
Samuel L. Parrish

[1] W.S. Pelletreau, The Southampton Press, Nov. 23 and 30, 1916
[2] Letter by Samuel L. Parrish, March 1921
[3] NY Times, June 14, 1946

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Demolition Penalties - Update

I had my meeting today with the Chairpersons of the Village. Those in attendance were John Foster (Chief Village Building Inspector), Bonnie Canon, (Village Trustee) who chaired the meeting, Paul Robinson (Village Trustee), Beau Robinson (council to the ARB, and present in the place of their Chairperson, Curtis Highsmith), Pat Corrigan (Chair of the Planning Board), Siamak Samii (Chair of the Planning Commission), Rick DePetris (council to the Trustees), and me.

So how did it go? Who knows? It was a pleasant meeting and the discussion regarding the amendment of the penalties section of the Village Code was a good one. I was told that discussions had been occurring outside of public hearings and that it had been learned that the Village can have penalties much larger than the existing $1000. I then presented five pages of information I had gathered as well as some other ideas. Basically, with the help of a friend, I scoured codes accessible online across the country and even abroad and shared those that were the most strict with this group. I also suggested that the definitions of “demolition, renovation, restoration, contributing, and historic” could be an integral part of this process. Other members brainstormed with me and had other interesting ideas. It seemed everyone there was on the same page more or less and truly interested in making these amendments as soon as possible although I was reminded that “it takes time” and that the ultimate amendments to be implemented probably wouldn’t satisfy everyone (namely me – no one said that, I was just thinking it).

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I remain hopeful yet grounded and remain thankful that I am participating in the discussions. Stay Tuned!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

146 & 140 North Main Street

Driving around the Village of Southampton, being constantly overwhelmed with how much there is to research and document, especially when I see “For Sale” signs, aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Any research hounds out there want to help?

So here again I’ve always been curious about the little yellow house next to the Catholic school on the east side of North Main Street (#146), just south of the railroad tracks. I’ll tell you, North Main is one of the most historic streets in the Village, that’s for sure. Anyway, after a bit of research I discovered that #146 was previously owned, and potentially built, by the same owner as the house to its south, #140, just north of Eel Pot Alley, and so I’m writing about both.

On the 1873 map of the area there is a building shown that is very likely one of these two houses, and it’s said to be owned by S. Jackson. This was probably Septer Jackson, a wealthy farmer born in East Hampton. In 1840, Septer married Mehetable Bellows of Hampton Bays and they had four children: Eliza, George, Mary, and Sarah. Septer died between 1873 and 1880, and his son George took over the farm.

The owner of #146 in 1894 was Chauncey Warren Norton (1837-1925). Interestingly, he also owned other sizeable properties further north on North Main Street at the time, but on the west side of the street. Chauncey was born in Brookhaven – like his mother and father - and died in Bridgehampton. He was a house carpenter, which makes me wonder if built one or both of these houses. He married Harriet Scott, who was from a wealthy Bridgehampton farming family, and they had three children who were all born in Bridgehampton. In 1870 and 1880 he and Harriet and their children lived on her family’s farm in Bridgehampton. Harriet had died by 1898 and Chauncey married again, this time to Arabella Fournier in 1899. She was four years older than Chauncey, from Bridgehampton, and the daughter of Peter Fournier, the northern property owner on North Main Street.

In 1894 Chauncey bought #140 from Henry Terry who was the owner of the infamous Irving Hotel on Hill Street (on the southwest corner, where the condominiums are now). According to census information, in 1880 Henry was a farmer, but in 1896 he was known as a hotel keeper/proprietor. He grew up in Riverhead; his father, Daniel, was a wealthy farmer; Terry was an early Riverhead family name.

To summarize, it is likely both houses were built in the late 1880s or early 1890s in the Queen Anne Style which was prevalent from 1880 to 1910. The “Little Yellow House” – or #146 - is clearly more ornate than #140, with its sunburst pattern woodwork above its entry, decorative shingles in the front gable end, and gable end window with Queen Anne style a muntin pattern, but I also love #140s stained glass gable end (attic) window and its ‘missing’ left 2nd story window.

Monday, July 5, 2010

210 Meadow Lane, by Norman Jaffe

Norman Jaffe built this contemporary home on Meadow Lane, between Cooper’s Beach and the Sugarman home I wrote about previously. It sits on 2.3 acres and has seven bedrooms and bathrooms. It may be for sale as images of it (with lots of interior photos) are all over the internet (i.e. It was built in 1986 and was one of three houses by Jaffe on Meadow Lane, but one was tragically torn down in 2003. Even so, the Hamptons are blessed with many surviving Jaffe houses.

Once upon a time people may have been upset by the disappearance of old Southampton homes on the beach for one reason or another and I can sympathize, but I happen to like that the styles now vary widely on the dunes. Yes, there are some pretty ugly ones out there, but there are some wonderful pieces of art/architecture too. Some people can’t understand how I can be such an extreme contextualist within the village proper and yet love the expressions of more contemporary styles on very large parcels or along the ocean. It’s not that I’m against contemporary architecture anywhere in the village, I just don’t often see anything I consider to be of a high quality. And along the ocean and on larger lots, it’s easier to be sculptural and therefore more open-minded. When a contemporary interpretation of a traditional house arises on an acre lot or smaller it’s much less likely that it will be sensitive to its surrounding; it’s a much more difficult design.

But I digress. Back to the amazing house at 210 Meadow Lane.

Norman Jaffe (1932-1993) was born in Chicago to poor immigrant parents. After serving in the military abroad, he studied architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. He studied afterward at the Art Student League of New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. Afterwards he worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Phillip Johnson. In 1973 Jaffe moved to Bridgehampton (like many of us, after visiting a lot) and opened an architectural firm there. He has designed more than 50 houses in the Hamptons, many of which were built and still survive. In 1991 he was made a Fellow of the AIA and reported to be making a cool half-million in design fees. In August of 1993 he took a swim and never returned.

I once studied with someone that worked for him, who now works on Shelter Island and who has absolutely no recollection of me for reasons I will not proclaim. For the record though, I am not easily forgotten.

Jaffe’s architecture is inspiring and timeless. Again, there is a lot of information out there about him, on the internet, in books, even his son Miles continues to practice architecture, art, and other disciplines in Bridgehampton. Do a Google search to learn and see more.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day

For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?

~Ralph Waldo Emerson