Tuesday, August 31, 2010

4 Squabble Lane

The existing house at 4 Squabble Lane is being requested to be demolished. The attorney will argue that it is not able to be seen from a public right of way which will likely seal its fate as Squabble Lane is a private road off of Wickapogue Road and the village codes don’t give authority to the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review for anything that is not visible from a public right of way.

Regardless, it is important that the history of this house be known.

Historically, the Squabble Lane area and eastward consisted of farmlands – potato fields to be precise. But in the 1920’s, on a 50-acre parcel to the east, Lucien Tyng built himself a low rambling shingled house, among other structures. The Tyngs “were a socially prominent couple known for their soirees, philanthropic activities, and patronage of the arts. Lucien Tyng….was a financier and public utilities executive. His wife, Ethel Tyng, an accomplished painter, was also recognized for her studios in New York and Southampton, as well as for her fundraising efforts to aid destitute artists during the Great Depression.” (The Tyngs later built the historic modern residence "The Shallows" on lower Halsey Neck Lane which still survives and is beautifully published in Houses of the Hamptons.)

After the Tyng’s, the house was owned by Richard Barthelmess. He was a matinee idol of the silent film era, and a big deal in Southampton Village. “At the height of Barthelmess’ screen career – and the inauguration of the Oscar awards in 1928 – he was nominated for best acting in The Patent Leather Kid….and The Noose…Before the debut of the 30s, he was still appearing in films but Gary Cooper and Clark Gable had come along by then and Barthelmess could no longer claim title to “The Most Beautiful Face of Any Man Before the Camera.” By the way, the association of this house with Barthelmess alone could have made 4 Squabble Lane landmark worthy.
In 1955 Barthelmess sold the 50 acre estate to Henry Ford II. “HF2” was married to Anne McDonnell who was the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Francis McDonnell Jr. Her father was the founder of the Wall Street firm McDonnell & Company; her grandfather was Thomas E. Murray, an electrical engineer and inventor. Anne was familiar with Southampton since childhood as her parents and grand-parents owned homes on a large section of land – originally 300 acres - in the Wickapogue area, just west of the Tyng estate.

During the 1961 nor’easter Mrs. McDonnell’s brick mansion on the beach went into the sea so she acquired an existing house – given by her daughter and son-in-law on their nearby blooming “Fordune,” estate originally built by Lucien Tyng in the 20s. She had it relocated several hundred yards away from the beach at #4 Squabble Lane. It has remained in the family to this day, and is currently owned by the McDonnell children, Louise Fayre Mynatt and Mark McDonnell, aka James F. McDonnell, Jr. LLC.

The architecture of this house is picturesque and nostalgic, but unremarkable. Its history and associations however are significant. It is historic (meaning not just old, but old with significance). I can't help but wonder what the intent of the owners is? Are they being advised that they'd be better off by clearing the land than hoping that a buyer will come along who appreciates the house and history behind it? Do they even know the history of the property? Don't they want their children to inherit the house and carry on the McDonnell/Murry presence? Are they looking to build a McMansion? Regardless, before we can do something about this ridiculous "visible from the street" code, the house should be thoroughly photo-documented. Coupled with some oral histories by the surviving McDonnell, Tyng, and Ford family members, and perhaps some of their vintage photos, it would be an appreciated and valuable archival addition to the Southampton Historical Museum Resource Center’s collection.

UPDATE 9/14/10: Someone who rented the house for a summer recently emailed me!! "The house is wonderful......The main room looks like it could have been a barn. There is also a very old system to call the maid/staff that dates back to Richard Bartlemess.......The wood floors are great wide planks and the fireplaces are quite unique."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"The Knapps Lived Here," by Ken Spooner

There’s a new book out which thoroughly documents the history of one of our beloved village estates at 275 Ox Pasture Road. “Erroneously known as “Tenacre,” Mrs. Elizabeth Knapp, whom this home was built for, originally rented a Southampton home known as “Tenacre” from about 1910-1918. She actually called this home “Cherry Creek Farm.” She died here in June of 1922 shortly after it was built and the “Tenacre” name associated with her stuck to this house like its shingles.” Ken Spooner

This house was designed in 1920 by architect John Russell Pope. It is currently being more or less copied by architect John David Rose on Meadowmere Lane for Gary Garrabrant. It is currently owned by Sophocles Zoullas, a shipping guru, whose brother Alexis P. Zoullas is listed as the owner of 90 Leo’s Lane, in the Rosko Place neighborhood, where a new house is being proposed to be built by Greg Konner of Konner Development.
The previous owner of 275 Ox Pasture was John Paulson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Paulson).

The original “Tenacre” was on Great Plains Road and owned by Mrs. Charles G. Weir. Like me, you’ll have to buy the book to learn more!

Elizabeth Knapp, c. 1910, below. What a beauty!

Monday, August 23, 2010

UPDATED: 383 First Neck Lane, "Foster House"

After this post originally appeared, a friend of the owners put me in touch with them, and they gave me and a friend a full-blown tour of their house and grounds!!! Anthony and Camille Stillitano are two very nice people and they adore their old house! Naturally I wanted to repost, with the additional photos (not interior, to respect their privacy) and information. New information is in italics.

This house has an AMAZING history which you would never know by just looking at it. You might 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!
South Elevation Below:

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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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]
View of West Entry (from cottage/garage) below:

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, immediately to the north of this property. 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.
Two or three years ago, the former Mrs. Gael Wood visited the Stillitanos and recounted her memories of the house. She is English and is now divorced from Rodney Wood. She pointed out the area which she believed to have been the original kitchen, where there used to be a fireplace, that the current main hall staircase was built on top of the original staircase, and her impression that when the house was a tavern, it was run by prostitutes!?!
View of Rear of House Below:

During our tour of the home and property, we saw original beams along the living room ceiling and many original fireplaces and mantels. We also saw the original framing of the first floor from the basement which is always breath-taking to see still surviving in its round branch shape.

The Rubins, previous owners to the Stillitanos, added on and made renovations to the house, as did the Stillitanos. Rear bump-outs and additions were made, the living room was opened up and enlarged, and a small shed dormer was added on the rear of the second floor. But all of the additions (which are all sensitive to the original architecture) occur on the rear of the house, leaving the Foster House’s integrity and originality intact in all its past and present glory. The house is absolutely lovely. Among my favorite interior spaces are the kitchen, an amazingly wonderful balance of old and new – a large room with carrera marble and modern appliances but very comfortable, functional, and not grandiose; the service stair on the north side as it winds from the basement to the attic; and the finished third floor, with its four small bedrooms and perfectly quintessential shared bath, each complete with a wonderful barrel-vaulted doghouse dormer. Up there, it’s easy to imagine the hotel function from its early days. Gael accommodated her staff on that level. Not too shabby.

Not too long ago the property was subdivided and the back half (western) was sold. On it remains one of the original accessory structures. [I am so fond of all these unappreciated accessory structures. Why are they so undervalued?] There were two, but only one survives, and only barely. It is clear that once upon a time it was a little slice of heaven for someone. Now, it is overgrown with ivy, has a small hole in its roof, and an open door welcoming raccoons and other animals. It’s easy to imagine it rehabilitated however, as a very useful and charming guest cottage to the main residence now on the parcel. It’s so sad to see it abandoned. It should not be allowable to neglect properties to the point that they fall down.
This accessory structure was built at the end of a Right of Way off of Great Plains that was created before 1916 and which likely served a cluster of carriage houses. This right of way still exists but now serves as a driveway for at least three properties. Interestingly, it extends all the way to Samuel Parrish’s property, where that carriage house still stands.
I used to be under the impression that, the fewer owners a house had, the better shape it would ultimately be in. This house proves that theory wrong.

It was truly a pleasure to meet the Stillitanos and tour this property. Recently I was also priveledged enough to tour a house built in 1739. The owner is a contemporary art lover and has filled the old saltbox with extraordinary art. More importantly however, he put a new foundation under the house, thereby ensuring that the house will bless us all with its existence for many many many more years. These experiences, though few and far between, are more uplifting than I can describe.
Garage - Cottage Below

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.” Wickipedia)
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, August 19, 2010

7. Did You Know....................

Did you know our movie theatre is Eighty-four years old?

Eighty four years ago today (August 19, 1926), this article appeared in The Southampton Press:

“New Modern Theatre for Southampton; New York Syndicate Buys Hill Street Site For New Theatre”

“The Bennett property with a frontage of about 140 ft. adjoining the Salek(?) Sales Rooms, in the Village of Southampton, was sold Tuesday, thru Wullenburg, Hall & Keller, real estate brokers of Job’s Lane, and 215 Montague St., Brooklyn, to a large theatrical syndicate of N.Y. City, represented by Harry Suchman, of Suchman & Samuels, 1560 Broadway, N. Y. Judge Oscar F. fanning of Southampton, represented the owner of the property, Mrs. Annie F. Bennett.

Plans and specifications are being prepared by Lamb & Son, the well-known theatre architects of N.Y. City, for a modern theatre to be erected on the premises at a cost of approximately $500,000. The price paid for the property was $65,000.
The theatre will have a seating capacity of about 1800 seats, with a large stage and a complete equipment of dressing rooms for the staging of theatrical performances of any magnitude. The purchasers are contemplating the production of pre-Broadway appearances of new plays, musical comedies, and comic-opera one or two nights a week, and one or two nights of first class refined vaudeville and pictures, and other nights there will be first-class, first-run pictures.
It is also contemplated to have a first-class billiard academy, and up-to-date bowling alleys. The building will be of fireproof steel construction, with stores on Hill St. The management will be high class in every particular.

The theatre itself will have luxurious ladies’ and gentemen’s retiring and lounging rooms, and the whole structure will be something that Southampton can be proud of and at the same time it will satisfy a long-felt want. The plans and specifications and a photograph of the fa├žade of the proposed structure will be on exhibition in the office of Wullenburg, Hall & Keller on Jobs Lane, Southampton as soon as they are ready, and the people of Southampton and vicinity are cordially invited to inspect same at any time. A number of theatres [have been developed by] this syndicate, and among them are the following: Blenheim(?)….1800….Webster 1500, Golden Rule 800, Benenson 1600, Boston Road 1800.”

Clearly the movie theatre has evolved a great deal from 1926, but it sure is interesting to know its history!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Missing Discussion........or Two

There is a discussion – or there are discussions - that do not occur, and need to, before most structures should be permitted to be demolished. You think I’m about to talk about protecting potentially historic structures, don’t you? Nope, this is about sustainability, practicality, saving money, and being green.

It's wrong that the Village ZBA granted setback & pyramid law reliefs to enable a new two-story house on the southeast corner of Henry & Howell Streets. Henry Street is currently one of the most charming streets in the village and this new house will impact its character and the direction of renovations/new construction forevermore. The point of this post is not necessarily to state that the existing [totally adorable] little yellow house should be saved, but it would seem significantly more appropriate to grant relief of various zoning regulations toward renovating and adding onto it rather than to grant relief(s) for new construction. Isn’t this village supposedly becoming more aware of sustainability and green endeavors? Wouldn’t they encourage/applaud one’s efforts to save and update an existing structure to meet current living trends rather than reward someone that knowingly buys something with a ridiculous building envelope by allowing them to build something completely out of character with the rest of the street? The new house is proposed to have the nicest of exterior finishes, but it won’t have half the character of the existing cottage.

I walked through this house when it was for sale and visualized its immense potential. I would happily provide those designs for free if the owner(s) were receptive to working with what’s there rather than building something new. As for the ARB/ZBA, this is not the first time they have been so receptive to new construction replacing an original (technically not historic and completely viable) structure. 32 Henry Street’s “cottage quaintness” contributes significantly to the overall likeability of its neighborhood and the village on the whole. The ARB/ZBA should require applicants to exhaust all renovation possibilities – as well as posting the house’s availability for relocation – before entertaining demolition/new construction plans with open arms.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

192 Halsey Street

As I continuously try to show sensitive examples of contemporary styles here in the Village of Southampton, I just had to show you all this house. It recently underwent a minor yet significant transformation. It’s on Halsey Street, north of Hill Street, not in the Estate district. It was and still is a ranch, or all-one-story, house. But the new owner wanted to do some updating. She is a garden lover and clipped-out images of houses which incorporated contemporary trellis like features onto them and presented those clippings to her architect, Eric Woodward (http://www.ericwoodwardarchitect.com/). He then, being a talented, local and competent architect, translated her designs into reality. The house’s renovations are now complete, except for the weathering of the wood which only Mother Nature can complete authentically. The result is a lovely brise soleil type attachment on the front of the house which will presumably have vines crawling all over it in the near future. The front faces west, which is intensely illuminated with sunlight from about 3’o’clock to 7ish these days, so this trellis feature will soften that light, and the house’s heat gain also, without having to close the curtains. It will also act to screen one’s view into what is likely the living room, providing privacy. Finally, the house is not drastically different than it was before. But with minor tweaks (and minimal expense) it has taken on a contemporary style within an historic context where the houses are relatively close together and the character of the street has been unharmed. A welcome change.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Williston House," 107 Ox Pasture Road

The photo above is of the “Williston House,” a house built for Judge Horace Russell on Ox Pasture Road, then known as Captains Neck Lane. The house still exists and seems to be in gleemingly gorgeous condition; it’s a bit difficult to photograph however because of the landscaping and gates. The photo above is taken from Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects.

This grand home, with classical detailing and a Beaux Art plan, was designed by Bruce Price and built circa 1893 for Judge Russell. It is painted all white now giving it an even more formal – even federal – character. It has a giant semi-circular front porch (which may have been on the east side originally) with fluted ionic columns and a porte cochere on the east side. Outbuildings such as a stable and guest house still exist, among others.
Horace Russell (1844-1913) was born in Franklin County, New York in June of 1843. He attended Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. He was admitted to the bar in 1866 and came to New York City in 1869. He was Republican, and after much success as a criminal prosecutor acted as Assistant District Attorney for seven years, then Judge Advocate General and subsequently Judge of the Superior Court of New York. Much of his notoriety is due to his counsel to the A.T. Stewart estate. Alexander Turney Stewart was a successful Irish American merchant who opened his first store selling linen and lace he bought in Belfast with an inheritance left to him by his grandfather. He eventually had a chain of stores named “A.T. Stewart & Co.” which amassed him a fortune.

In 1878 Horace Russell married Josephine Hilton (1856-1933). She was the youngest daughter of Judge Henry H. Hilton of Saratoga Springs, the original adviser to A.T. Stewart. They had three daughters. Judge Russell was also a member of the Union League, University, Metropolitan, Garden City Golf, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Clubs.

Upon the deaths of Horace and Josephine, the house was left to their children. They sold it to Rose M O’Brien, the wife of an Irish American Judge who was the son of a merchant. They went on to own “The Corner” on Great Plains Road in 1929.

The next owners were William R. and Henrietta Simonds who enlisted Annette Hoyt Flanders to design beautiful gardens on the property in the 1930s. The next owners were their children who sold the estate to Lawrence R. Condon in 1943, another lawyer.

After the Simonds were the Monells. Edmund Monell was the head of the Ambrose Monell Foundation, a philanthropic organization and died in 1980.

Property Owners (incomplete):
Michael Palin, Liber 12584 of deeds, page 574, 4/2/09
Michael & Caryl Palin, Liber 9573 of deeds, page 453, 6/1/1984
Mary Kennedy Monell, Liber 9553 of deeds, page 282, 4/30/1984
Edmund C. Monell, Liber 6044 of deeds, page 305, 10/4/1966
Lawrence R. Condon, Liber 2311 of deeds, page 409, 9/20/1943
Robinson Simonds & Marjorie S. Pearson (formerly Duryea), Liber 1968 of deeds, page 300, 2/14/1938
Henrietta J. Simonds, Liber 1382 of deeds, page 498, 9/27/1928
Rose M. O’Brien, Liber 1382 of deeds, page 495
Marie L. Russell, Liber 1091 of deeds, page 277, 1/23/1924
Josephine H. Russell, Liber 881 of deeds, page 540, 1914
Horace Russell, Liber 378 of deeds, page 443, 11/28/1892
Emily C. Reeves

Monday, August 2, 2010

Those Blasted Overhead Wires

If it weren’t for overhead lines I believe the demise of many structures would not have been imminent locally and nationally.

I am VERY grateful for electricity and all the other utilities we enjoy, especially the air conditioning as we endure an incredibly hot and humid summer. But boy do I wish someone had had the foresight to bury those wires and cables from the start.

Until the late 1960s, house moving (and many other structure types) was an incredibly common phenomenon. Buildings were moved all over neighborhoods, and even across bodies of water and states, without batting an eyelash, some of them many times. If you were to have proposed knocking it down, people would have assumed you were joking. It is so frustrating that this is no longer the case.

Nowadays moving a structure is rarely even an afterthought. We even hear stories that owners are actually advised by real estate professionals to “tear it down and pay the fine.” So sad.

And overhead lines don’t just prevent the longevity of perfectly viable buildings (“There’s nothing greener than an existing building.”). They are also often too close to pools and spas and need to be raised for safe clearance. Wouldn’t be too relaxing lounging in your pool with a live wire 16 feet overhead would it?

There have even been cases when those attempting to raise an overhead line for one reason or another have made the unfortunate decision to use a metal ladder! ZAP!

Farmers too have been annoyed by this modern amenity. Have a look at this entertaining booklet: http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/abeng/pdffiles/epq071.pdf.

A new friend proposed to me not long ago, that we embark upon rallying the community to bury the overhead lines in the Village of Southampton starting with the main routes and going from there. What a wonderful idea to dream about. And I thought I had lofty goals!

I was recently writing the history of the Beebe windmill in Bridgehampton: it was moved four times! Then I wrote about a house that was on Little Plains Road: it had been moved three times. Recently I posted about a house on First Neck Lane that was moved from Main Street in 1916, and not too long ago I wrote about the convent and rectory of the Catholic Church on Hill Street both of which were moved in the late 1960s. But do you hear about it much these days? Only in the extraordinary cases where either they are being moved very nearby, or when money is no option. Mostly though, you hear about them being demolished.

p.s. Some people today are using the word “remove” instead of “tear down” or “demolish.” It may sound friendlier (like to the ARB), but it’s not the same. “Remove” means, historically, “to relocate,” not to demolish.