Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Nestoria," 88 Great Plains Road

Edward Payson Huntting (1844-1931), a Southampton native, built this lovely home on Great Plains Road, after purchasing the property from the vast land-owning Reeves. The Reeves date back to the settling of Long Island’s East End. “The Southold tradition has it that two brothers, Thomas and James Reeves, came to this country about 1660 [from Wales] and took up a residence in Southold. About 1667 Thomas moved to Southampton.”[1]

In 1879 this parcel consisted of sixty-three acres. Yes, sixty-three. It is now less than two acres. Until sometime after 1932 it also included the lot to its east. The name “Nestoria” has been associated with this house since its creation, and is even mentioned in deed and mortgage documents dating back to 1902. It is a two and a half story multi-gabled house with Queen Anne detailing such as variegated shingles, turned posts, and decorative railing patterns. I especially love the entry porch which greets residents and guests with an angled gable.

When Edward P. Huntting was 18 years old he spent a year abroad on a whaling vessel named The Balena and kept a detailed and illustrated journal. Newsday published excerpts from the journal saying it was punctuated throughout by humor, death, and even romance. After the voyage he lived in Iowa and worked as a clerk. In 1870 he returned to Southampton at the age of 26. In 1880 he married Mary Frances Jessup, another Southamptonite; they had three daughters. Mrs. Huntting was an active member of the Methodist church. The Hunttings came from Massachusetts to East Hampton. The first son was born in East Hampton and died in Southampton, where many subsequent Hunttings were born and lived. Edward was Vice-President of the Anti-Saloon League and, according to the Port Jefferson Echo, purchased what was considered to be a bunch of portable buildings (one which was being proposed as a saloon) and had them moved to Eastport in 1901.

Chester H. G. Vail (1887-1949) purchased the property in 1925. The 1920 census lists him as a garage owner who lives on a street leading to Riverhead with other people that had occupations such as “beach house manager, blacksmith, house carpenter,” and “private estate gardener.” The 1930 census lists him as an “auto salesroom proprietor” in the Village of Quogue. Amazing that he could afford the lifestyle and expense of “Nestoria,” and in fact he couldn’t. The Suffolk County Trust Company foreclosed on the property in February of 1934. He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in East Quogue. He married Ruth L. B. King in 1901.

The next owner was John H. Overall Jr. (b. 1888) was a lawyer with his own firm and a judge from Missouri. His family dates back to the early ancestry of that state. “His grandparents in the paternal line were Wilson Lee and Eliza Ann Overall, the former an officer of the American army in the War of 1812, while the latter was the first woman in America to won and edit a newspaper. The ancestral line is traced back to Bishop John Overall, who was dean of St. Paul’s cathedral in London from 1602 until 1632 and was one of the principal translators of the bible under King James I.”[2]

[1] The Early History of Southampton, L.I., New York, with Genealogies, by George Rogers Howell
[2] Centennial History of Missouri, 1921

Monday, December 27, 2010

The New Hill Street Building

The photo above is the new 16 Hill Street building taken on December 5th and approved by the ARB in October of 2009. It has since received most of its glazing and is even further along.
So what do you think? Like it? Not so much?

I’m sorry. I really want this blog to be a good thing for this community – an asset - but I can’t help standing on my little soap box once in awhile and complaining. This building does not meet the new criteria established in the new design guidelines which Hamilton Hoge actually suggested the applicant look into (They were not yet drafted, but a conversation with the architect commissioned to produce them would have been appropriate.).

The approved design was for a stucco building that had natural, grey, and burgundy coloring and blue retractable awnings over the entry. At some point (that I don’t recall) that changed to a combination of stucco, brick, and shingles, I assume to try to make each store look even more like its own little building. But it’s unsuccessful, because overall the layout is still obviously deliberate, not to mention symmetrical.

The back (shown below) is also a curious elevation, but more along the lines of what was approved. The little cubes of each retail space line up – with a blank spot in the middle - in their pastel colors and tiny windows and look post-modern in style. Not exactly screaming with Southampton character.
Would we prefer the old Yawney dealership still be there? I don’t know, but I know some people who could have renovated that building to be a very appropriate and very cool re-envisioning for Hill Street much more successful than what has been realized. An opportunity has been lost, but this type of architecture is only temporary…………..I think. Blah.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

143 Years Ago, Part II

Continuing from Part I, here are excerpts from the second of a series of articles published by The Southampton Press titled “Southampton Sixty Years Ago,” beginning in December of 1927 and written by Benjamin C. Palmer.

“While one can believe only a small part of what he reads in the newspapers, a home recital can be believed.

……we are sticking to the job of endeavoring to make plain to the younger generation here what took place around Main Street sixty years ago.
…..Just south of the Sayre house (photo above) at Bridgehampton road [Hampton Road now] corner stands a very small building; it stood there just as it does [not] now, when the writer was one of the boys about town. Build and occupied by a good natured genial man, who came from Washington County, NY., and who was a shoemaker by trade. He was brought here by Charles Parsons, the Postmaster, who also was from the same county…….
In the old days, when horses were the only motive power along the country roads, there were inns every few miles, and nearer often, according to the amount of travel, just as gas filling stations exist today, which furnished all that was necessary for man or beast. The leading requirement for most of the travelers was rum. It appears that whiskies and stimulants of other kinds had not become so well known in those days, while rum was well established, rum of two colors – a yellowish white known as New England, and a very dark kind known as Jamaica. Every inn had built at one end a one-room apartment for men only, known as the bar room. Ladies received their refreshments in the main building. Early writers tell us that the demand for rum by the men travelers was continual and the main traffic of these was rum in astonishing quantities. A man was charged only for a measured amount, two fingers being the minor measure, and a hand, including the thumb, the maximum. Generally it was the latter measure that sold most frequently. All inns depended for a livelihood on the amount of rum sold in their bar rooms. Each finger above the two added to the cost, and the most welcome guests were those who ordered a full hand. We have said “all inns,” we have learned of one exception and that one stood on Main Street about opposite the Southampton Bank, and was run by Capt. Charles Howell (photo below). It was a neat, clean hostelry, well kept by the Capt. And his wife. It had the usual bar room attachment, but not a drop of intoxicating liquor was ever sold there. He certainly was a past master Prohibitionist; he raised two fine sons free from the taint of rum-polluted air, the oldest, Charles Rogers Howell, who wrote Howell’s History of Southampton and who also went to Albany, NY. to become the state Librarian and Historian. John, the younger, remained at home and later built and ran the bathing station at the beach…..

We recall the Capt. had a nice row of trees in front of his property. Itching posts were not plentiful, the Methodist Church [relocated, now Brown, Harris, Stevens; photo below] was close by and they had no sheds for the attendants to drive their horses under, out of wind and weather, hence the Capt.’s trees were a great temptation, affording good hitching places and affording shade to the horses on a hot summer morn.

Horses often will gnaw the bark, thus defacing and injuring the young tree; the front stoop of the house stood out to the sidewalk, and today in memory we can see Mrs. Howell, who also prized the trees, standing on the stoop and in shrill and commanding voice calling out to some forgetful Methodist, “Hey there, don’t tie your horse to that tree,” and the poor misguided Methodist had to hunt around and find another place to tie to, for he knew when he woke up, that if by chance he did tie to a Howell tree, he would find after service his horses untied and led off to crib…..”

What a kick! Hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for part III!

Monday, December 20, 2010

An Altered View

The photo above is the view of the “Tenacre” replica being built at the top of Halsey Neck Pond (on Meadowmere Lane) from the overlook at Cooper’s Beach. Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t this a drastic change of view? Do you think this view was considered when the ARB was reviewing the application? I certainly don’t remember that conversation.

The photo above is from the same point but shows a wider context. On November 22nd there was another new house approved on Meadowmere Place which, due to FEMA regulations, will be raised so that its first floor is somewhere around 2 feet above the flood plain. This will result in the house's ridge being about 42 feet above grade. Yowza. Imagine these photos with another house looming on the left/west side. Poor pond. I thought the preservation of open vistas and views had become much more important these days.

Did you know this pond used to be much larger? Above is a detail from an 1894 map showing you Halsey Neck Pond then, below, a Google Earth image of Halsey Neck Pond now. Where the tip of the pond touches Meadowmere Lane is right where Meadowmere Place now begins, the dead end street off the south side of Meadowmere Lane. Many of our village ponds have become smaller over the years and development has happily replaced what was once wetland. I know map-making isn't an exact science, but do you think this evolution has been solely environmental? I sure hope so.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"The Hildreth House," 75 South Main Street

Southampton Village is home to the oldest family owned department store in the country, Hildreth’s, which was begun by Lewis Hildreth, descendant of Thomas Hildreth an early settler of Southampton, in 1842. It was considered a general store then. “In those days, merchandise came by ship to Sag Harbor and was carted by horse & wagon to Southampton.”[1] The store sold bread, crackers, wheels of cheese, salt, flour, fruits & vegetables, sugar, coffee, tea, fabrics, butter churns, spittoons, buggy whips, scrimshaw, buffalo robes, and whaling harpoons. Lewis died in 1870 after contracting Small Pox during a buying trip in New York at the young age of 56.
Some 15 years later, Lewis Hildreth’s heirs - his wife Amanda, and her four children (Edgar, Henry, Harriet, and Charles) - purchased property on the west side of South Main Street from the First Presbyterian Church of Southampton and James H. Pierson for about $3,300 and had a home built. Until this year, this house has remained in the Hildreth family.

“The Hildreth House” has been called one of the only surviving examples of the Stick Style in Southampton Village, but it has become most widely known for its colors: deep red, deep green, and beige. It is an architectural marvel and a sight to behold with most of its embellishment and detail intact.

I will digress here for one minute. There once existed an extraordinary house on Ocean Road in Bridgehampton called “Tremedden” (photo above courtesy the Bridgehampton Historical Society) which I think bears too much of a resemblance to this house and hope to prove one day that the same architect designed both houses. His name was Carlos C. Buck. The colors were the same as well as the general forms and embellishments, only “Tremedden” was larger. Time will tell. Stay tuned.

In 1896, Dr. Charles Hildreth bought his siblings share of the property and owned it outright himself. After he died his wife and children continued to live there. Then when she died, the children (Helen, Charles, Alan, and Constance) inherited the property but moved out and rented the house until 1951, when Constance’s son, Leigh Berglund bought it and restored its original paint colors. He was born in the house and was the last member of the Hildreth family to live there.

Not too long ago, some prospective buyers of this house sought approvals to strip the paint from the house, replace the roof and wall finishes, paint all the trim white, and knock down the barn (one of the two surviving accessory structures). This resulted in quite a bit of outcry from the public and architectural community (both for and against the project) and the applicants were ultimately given approval for everything except re-shingling the walls; they could only strip the paint and stain it or leave it to weather naturally. It seems they were trying to homogenize it, turn it into just another house with natural colored shingles and white trim. But this isn’t just another house, and fortunately, these prospective buyers walked away from buying this architectural treasure before they could reap their irreversible damage.
This year a new family with young children bought the house and they love its style and history. They will be making interior improvements in order to make it a bit more comfortable and bring it up to today’s standards, and yes, they also wish to change the home’s paint colors (insert collective sigh). But they also wish to keep it “a painted lady” which is a wonderful thing. Paint is a temporary finish and this house’s so-called original colors have been well documented, both by the Berglund’s, and by Fairfield Porter, a renowned local American painter. During the 50s, Fairfield Porter, living and working a stone’s throw away, captured this house in at least two of his works (one shown above), and those will never be stripped.

[1] Hildreth’s pamphlet

Monday, December 13, 2010


All of my opinions and coverage of the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review will now be posted on Patch-Southampton ( Happy reading!

Demolition by Neglect

Repeatedly throughout this village, owners allow historic structures to fall into such a state of repair and ultimately gain approval to tear them down. It happens all the time and now the village contains precious few surviving accessory structures. The Talty’s recently received a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish their circa 1890s barn, one of the few remaining intact barns left. They supplied an engineer’s report and said it has basically disintegrated and there is nothing left to save; the roof is caving in and starting to leak and the walls are bowed/deflecting outward. Here’s the thing though: this property has been technically owned by the Talty’s since 2005, but in the family for many more years. If the barn is in terrible shape it’s because the owners made little to no effort to maintain it. Now their plans are to reproduce it almost exactly, just like they did their house not too long ago. The whole property now will consist of, yet another, bunch of reproductions.

The Town of Huntington includes great maintenance provisions within the Historic District and Landmarks section of their codes, and they’ve existed since 1984! They are as follows.

Chapter 198, Article VI, 198-40.6:

A. No owner, occupier or person with an interest in a historic landmark, or in any open space, place or structure within a historic district shall permit the same to fall into a serious state of disrepair so as to result in the deterioration of any exterior or scenic feature, including but not limited to:
(1) Deterioration of exterior walls or other vertical supports;
(2) Deterioration of roofs or other horizontal members;
(3) Deterioration of exterior chimneys;
(4) Deterioration or crumbling of exterior facade, stucco, shingles or mortar;
(5) Ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs or foundations, including broken windows or doors;
(6) Deterioration of any feature so as to create a hazardous and unsafe condition which may result in a claim that demolition, in whole or in part, is necessary to protect the public health or safety;
(7) Material deterioration of the aesthetic or scenic appearance of any portion of the open space or real property including its topographical features and earthworks.

B. An owner, occupier or person with an interest in a historic district, or in any open space, place or structure within a historic district who causes, permits and/or allows the same to fall into a serious state of disrepair shall be in violation of this section, and in addition to any other penalty imposed by law, shall be required to restore the open space, place or structure to its appearance prior to the violation.

Our village desperately needs to implement these codes.

By the way, there’s a large, GORGEOUS and intact carriage house on Gin Lane, at #88, built for Henry Barnes circa 1894. This is another example of demolition by neglect. The owners tried to have it demolished years ago but were denied (phew!). But now there it sits, slowly decaying. The photo below is of the back, or east, circa 1897 (courtesy of the Southampton Historical Museum).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

“Wahnfried,” 277 First Neck Lane

The lovely home on the west side of First Neck Lane may look quite new but it’s actually more like 115 years old. Historically known as “Wahnfried,” the home was built circa 1895 for Francis Lewis and Emma von Juch Wellman. Francis (b. 1854) was a prominent lawyer. Born in Boston, he also studied, taught, and practiced there before moving to New York in 1883. He is credited with having prosecuted and convicted many “bad guys,” includingDr. Carlyle W. Harris, Dr. Robert Buchanan, and Ben Alli (alias Frenchy). He was also a partner in a successful corporate law firm named Wellman, Gooch & Smyth.

Emma von Juch Wellman (1861-1939) was a famous opera singer ( She was born in Vienna to American parents. Prior to marriage Emma owned a country home in Stamford, CT on Glenbrook Ave. Mr. and Mrs. Wellman were married in Stamford in June of 1894. Emma was Francis’ second wife. His first wife was Miss Edith Watson who died in June 1892, less than a year after they married. Francis and Emma did not have children, and divorced in 1911. “The grounds on which the plaintiff obtained a decree “de plano” were that her husband had “addressed insults by letter and had signified to her in coarse terms his intention not to resume living with her.”[1] Francis went on to marry again about a year later, then divorce in 1919, then marry again. Emma never remarried (photo below).
William Manice bought the home from Francis Wellman circa 1900. His father was William De Forest Manice who had great holdings in Michigan that contained mines, minerals, and metals that amassed the family a fortune. He attended Columbia University and later became a senior member of the law firm Manice, Abbott & Perry. In 1894 he was New York District Attorney. He wrote a book called “The Art of Cross Examination” in 1903 which has since been referred to as a timeless legal classic. In 1888 he married Sarah Remsen. They had a son, William de Forest, and a daughter, Sarah. In 1902 he and his family had to suddenly leave their five-story brownstone at 20 East 41st street due to a fire which damaged the home to great extent. Luckily no one was injured. William died in 1914 at the age of 55. Mrs. Manice went on to marry again in 1916, to William Appleton Burnham of Boston who was also a widower.

In German Wahnfried means “where illusion finds peace.”

Property Owners (incomplete):
Matthew & Jennifer Sykes Harris (2007-present)
Marko C. & Cynthia T. Remec; Joseph Delgreco (1994-2007)
Leonard H. Sills & Leonard F. Howard (Sept. 1994-Oct. 1994)
Lydia Reeves
William Manice
Francis L. Wellman (1897)
Emma von Juch Wellman (1895-1897)
Josephine A. Curtis (1893)
Benjamin A. & Amy A. Sands, Henry Holbrook Curtis (1890)
May M. & C. Albert Stevens
Rufus Sayre
Catharine M. Brady (1886)
Emily M. Lough (1885); vacant
Margaret H. Schieffelin (1881); vacant
Salem H. Wales (1881); vacantDavid R. & Harriet F. Drake

[1] New York Times, September 22, 1911