Thursday, October 28, 2010

“Chalet de Imer,” 10 John Street

(This one’s for you, Julie! )

If you’re like me, you’ve always wondered about the little house at #10 John Street. It’s such an anomaly on the street and very interesting. I’ve also wondered about its owners when I admire the sculpture in the side yard. At last I found the time to look into this property and my research was very entertaining.

In 1894 this property was a part of larger parcel owned by Albert Jessup Post (1832-1907), along with other nearby property, as an heir of his father, Captain George Post, who “was a whaling captain who made many successful voyages, and was a man of sterling character, of extended information, and a very influential citizen…….In 1853 [Albert] was a teacher in the “North End School.” In 1858 he was elected Town Clerk, and held that office for four years. For forty-one years he was one of the Trustees of the town…….When the “New Southampton” was established in 1894, he was elected President of the village.”[1] Wow. Can you imagine any one government official these days being endeared by the public for so long???
John Street, perhaps named after John Nugent (?), was a road created sometime between 1894 and 1902. In 1909, Albert Post’s executor sold the 10 John Street parcel, at that time extending to Elm Street, to Julius Imer for $1,050. The property was a L-shape, and the part along Elm Street was eventually sold and merged with the house on the southeast corner of Elm and John.
Julius F. Imer (b. 1853) built the house at #10 John Street for himself over the course of three years. He previously lived in North Haven and then on Main Street. He was born in Neuville, a division (canton) of Bern, Switzerland (a fascinating discovery on my part, which you will understand better in the future) and came to this country in 1869. A carpenter by trade, he came to Southampton in 1892. He married his first wife, Maggie Arthur, in Manhattan in 1875, and lost her to illness in 1898.
In constructing the house he used the old timbers from a carpenter shop which he bought on South Main Street (and dismantled I assume) in 1909 from Alfred E. Schermerhorn. “The plans and details are all Swiss, taken from his memory of the old houses in the little Alpine town from which he had come and especially from the very house in which he was born……The house walls are heavily timbered, the spaces being filled in with large stones laid in concrete. The roof was intended to be thatched, but as no one could be found in this section who knew how to thatch a roof, this had to be changed and the roof was shingled….The doors are mostly from the old Cook carpenter shop, hung with heavy old hinges and provided with ancient latches. ….The owner of this wonderful house lives alone. He is his own housekeeper, but takes his meals at a neighbor’s. He has an adopted son out west and a half-brother and a half-sister in the old country; otherwise he is alone in the world………….When the house was first begun it was looked upon with suspicion and alarm by the owners of more pretentious residences in the neighborhood, but as it gradually developed under the hands of the builder, its artistic qualities began to appear till now, in its nearly completed state, it is recognized as the most picturesque structure in the village.”[2]

In 1898, the same year his wife died, Julius Imer is mentioned in the newspaper as having had a large tumor removed from his side. How embarrassing. In 1908 he is mentioned in the Town Book of Records and the newspaper for growing flax on his property, which hadn’t been grown for some 75 years since then. Apparently it had once been a very prevalent grain to grow.
He was a lover of all things old, and/or antique. His house was both made from and filled with all things old. He even possessed renderings of the 1648 Sayre house which he framed out of wood taken from the house, nailed together with nails from the house, and presented to the Suffolk County Historical Society. I wonder if they still have that?
But Julius wasn’t destined to be alone. Sometime after the summer of 1913 he married Ellen Collins (b. 1866), who was also a widow. Her will reflects her adoration for her husband. Happy endings are so nice!

List of Owners (present to past):

David Lee and Andrea V. Brown
D. Denis Anderson & William Sofield (current owner of Balcastle)
Ronald & Jo Ann Caffrey
Margaret J. Satriano Pogglioli
Marguerite V. Collins
William J. Collins
Julius and Ellen Imer
Albert J. Post
George Post

[1]Celebration of the Two Hundred and Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the Town of Southampton, N.Y., June 12, 1915
[2] Southampton Magazine, Summer 1913

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