Monday, November 29, 2010

Dawn House Movers

No, this isn’t an advertisement. I have never worked with this company before although I wish I had. Not long ago there was a cottage nearby I desperately wanted to move to my property but after speaking with these savvy experts, quickly realized it would not be possible for various reasons. Trust me, I don’t give in easily, so they had their work cut out in convincing me.

Nonetheless I wanted to highlight them in a blog. Not only are they experts in their field across Long Island, they are also preservation heroes. While they’re not in the business of doing favors, because of them and their way of thinking creatively and working as problem-solvers, many more structures have been saved that would otherwise have been lost to date. They have even, occasionally, done historic moves for free! Here is one example:

The Yaphank Historical Society and The Suffolk County Parks Department worked together to restore the Mary Louise Booth house. The first step in the restoration was to have the house moved down East Main Street in Yaphank and onto Suffolk County Parklands with DHM completing the move flawlessly. The house was built in 1823. “Mary Louise Booth was born in this house in Millville (Now Yaphank) in 1831. Her father was the village schoolmaster. At an early age, she showed proficiency in languages. At age fourteen, she moved from Millville (Yaphank) to Brooklyn where she taught school and continued her studies. In 1859, she published the first comprehensive history of the city of New York. She also translated over 40 volumes from French. In 1867 she was invited to become the first editor of Harper's Bazaar. The magazine became a huge success. As editor, she published the fiction and essays of popular authors. Articles on interior decoration and fashion also played a part in the magazines popularity. Its circulation rose to 80,000. Mary Louis remained editor of Harper's Bazaar until her death in 1889. Mary Louise Booth is perhaps the most nationally recognized person to have lived in Millville (Yaphank). It is very important that her birthplace be recognized and preserved."[1]

By the way, the photo at the top is the Sagaponack house, built in the 1930s, now owned by the Peconic Land Trust. This has been in the papers a lot, and is also well-documented on DHM’s website.

“When you partake in a house moving or raising project, you are helping to preserve our history today, for tomorrow, as well as continue the on-going effort to make a "Green world.” DHM
[1] Karen Mouzakes, Yaphank Historical Society

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Westlawn/Littlecote," 107 Great Plains Road


107 Great Plains Road is well-known to some because it was a “Designers Showcase House” in 2003. I went on that tour years ago. The Designers Showcase Houses are always fun to see. Each interior designer gets their own room or space in which to create whatever their minds come up with, sometimes far-fetched, but usually breath-taking and clever.

This lovely symmetrical home, known originally as “Westlawn,” then “Littlecote,” is a 2 ½ story 6 bay singled house with five decorative dormers across the front that have pilasters supporting pediments and round-top windows, and a two-story round bay on the east side. The dormers mimic the pilastered and pedimented entry, which is flanked by large bay windows on each side. Not all of these features are original however. Below is a photo from the April 1921 issue of Architecture magazine.

You can see lots of differences, besides all the ivy. First, there were large barrel-vaulted (or “hooded”) porches where the bay windows are now, the entry had a much more elaborate broken pediment top with urn ornamentation, and the dormers had shutters.

The house was designed by F. Burrall Hoffman Jr. (1882-1980), an architect educated at Harvard and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and perhaps best known for Villa Vizcaya, the historic mansion in Miami. Most references state the house’s construction date circa 1900 but I would say it was more likely in the early 1890s because of its appearance on the historic F.W. Beers map of 1894. It still may have very well been built for Charles H. Lee though as he purchased the property in 1891.

But let’s back up a little. The property was originally owned………………..okay, by the Indians, then bought by the original settlers, and so on. At some point the property was owned by Albert Hildreth, then by Augustus E. Halsey and his wife, and then by Charlotte N. Schermerhorn.

Charlotte N. [Benton] Schermerhorn (1844-1903) was the second wife and widow of Alfred Schermerhorn (1819-1878). He was connected with the bank of New York and served in the Civil War. They had three sons: Alfred Egmont, Charles, and Colford. Alfred Egmont was a member of the Southampton Village Board of Trustees, a member of the Board of Governors of the Southampton Hospital, treasurer of the Meadow Club and Secretary of the Southampton Club.

Charlotte sold the property to Lucie C. Lee, wife of Charles Henry Lee (1855-1921) in 1891. Charles and Lucie [Whitney] (b. 1855) were married in 1880 and had five sons and two daughters and homes in Hempstead, and Manhattan, as well as Southampton. “Mr. Lee, whose home in the city was at 24 Gramercy Park, was a grandson of the Gideon Lee who was mayor of New York in 1830 and founded in 1804 the original Lee & Co., which sold out to the United States Leather Company in 1893. Charles H. Lee soon after became head of the Andean Trading Company, and later re-established his own leather business.”[1]

The next owner was Edward Tiffany Dyer (1849-1913) who was married to Edith La Bau (1854-1919), a grand-daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Edward was a member of the Union, Country, and Colony Clubs, the Metropolitan Club of Washington, and the Sons of the Revolution. Mr. Dyer was in the wholesale commission business for many years, a member of the firm of Otherman, Dyer & Southwick. Edward’s father, Henry, was a noted physician.

Edwin Willis Shields was born in 1866 in Iowa. In 1896 he married Martha Deardorff who was born in Indiana in 1878. They had two children together: a son and a daughter. The 1920 census shows them living in Kansas City with five servants. Mr. Shields was a successful grain merchant. “Edwin W. Shields was president of the Simonds-Shields-Lonsdale Grain Company and a resident of Kansas City for over forty years. He was known nationally as an authority on grain. In 1910 he built his beautiful home "Oaklands" at 5110 Cherry Street in Kansas City. It was among the first homes to be constructed in that part of the city. It is Elizabethan in architectural style and contained many furnishing and works of art from that period. Today the home is the administrative headquarters for the Bloch School of Business and Public Administration on the UMKC campus.

After the death of Mr. Shields in 1920, his widow Martha resided in the home for another 30 years entertaining guests and displaying the extensive art collection including the works of old masters and 17th century tapestries. Mrs. Shields was a trustee of the Kansas City Art Institute, and a trustee of the Philharmonic Orchestra Association.”[2] Their home, "Oaklands," is now the administrative building for the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Rebecca Bolling Littlejohn (1873-1961), a Southampton based collector and former chairwoman of the Parrish Art Museum, owned the house next. She assembled the core of 19th and 20th century American art collection at the Parrish Art Museum in the 50s. In 1961 (upon her death) she bequeathed her collection (hundreds of works) to the museum.[3] She was married to Robert Malcolm Littlejohn (b. 1874, who was listed on census documents as a bank clerk in 1910 and an importer in 1920. They had one daughter, Charlotte Townsend Littlejohn who was married in 1929 to Edward Norris Rich, Jr. in St. Andrews Dune Church.

I am currently reading At Home; A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (I highly recommend it.) In the introduction, the following statement is made which has really stuck with me: “Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”

Property Owners (present to past):
Great Plains Realty Co. Inc. (Emmet Blot, Madeleine Blot; 1983-present)
Estate of Cecile J. Johnson (1982-1983)
Estate of Harold F. Johnson (1954-1982)
Rebecca Bolling Littlejohn (1926-1954)
Edwin W. & Martha D. Shields (1919-1926)
Henry Lyman Dyer
Edward Tiffany Dyer (1909)
Charles & Lucie Lee (1891-1909); of Orange, New Jersey; $4,200; less than 7.75 acres
Charlotte M. Schermerhorn (1881-1891); 7.75 acres; $2,400
Augustus E. & Harriet Halsey, vacant
Albert Hildreth, vacant

[1] New York Times, Jan. 2, 1921
[2] Elmwood Cemetery Society, Kansas City, Missouri
[3] New York Times, Nov. 6, 2009

Monday, November 22, 2010

Definitions & 67 Layton Avenue

Here are the Secretary of the Interior’s definitions for restoration, demolition, renovation, preservation, etc. I find them very handy and I’ll tell you why after.

Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project.

Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.

Rehabilitation is defined as the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.

Restoration is defined as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.

Neither our Village nor our State codes include these definitions and they should. They should even go a step further as far as I’m concerned. For example, out here, if you improve the area of your house more than 50%, it is considered ‘New Construction’ rather than ‘Renovation.’ The definitions above could also benefit by the inclusion of percentages.

Here’s where I’m going with this. My observation of the dismantling of 67 Layton Avenue (photos sprinkled throughout this post) has me left wondering exactly how much of the original house has been saved except the skeleton? All the original materials are gone, inside and out. All of the chimneys are gone. There is a new foundation, will be a new east wing and a lot of new framing sistered together with the existing framing. It’s akin to dramatic reconstructive surgery. It’s still the same soul but……………or is it?

The 67 Layton Avenue project was labeled an addition/renovation project. Looks like new construction to me. They might as well have just demolished and replicated it, right? During the ARB public hearing the applicant said, "We know we can't demolish it." But they might as well have. It saddens me that a circa 1890 house was treated this way, with little to no oversight or sensitivity.

The RESTORATION of the Nathaniel Rogers of House in Bridgehampton is finally underway. Throughout the working drawings percentages of new vs. original are constantly called out. 40% new siding here, 30% new something there. Our codes would really benefit from having more definitions in them, with percentages and parameters to distinguish one activity from the other. It would also prevent, I hope, the stripping down of historic – landmark worthy – resources.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Bon Acre," 75 First Neck Lane

This lovely 2 ½ story home clad in shingles is located toward the top of First Neck Lane. Among it’s wonderful architectural features are a double-gabled porte-cochere, a round turreted tower, an immense two-story northern porch, and widows walk. This house is anything but boring to the passerby.

The Reeves family owned this parcel along with a great swath of land along First Neck and Ox Pasture Road since the late 1600s. 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] Edward Reeves, one of the sons of Henry and Emily Reeves who owned the Kirby House on the northwest corner of First Neck and Ox Pasture, probably inherited this parcel from his uncle Albert (see 1894 map image). He and his brother also owned many other properties in Southampton Village and enjoyed being landowners.

Sometime between 1894 and 1902 Dr. Porter Flewellyn Chambers (1854-1922) bought the property from Edward Reeves and built a house. Dr. P. F. Chambers was a gynecologist from Georgia that practiced with Dr. Theodore Gaillard Thomas (who is credited with starting the Southampton village colony development) for ten years in New York. Dr. Chambers married Alice Ely in 1893 and they had three children. He and his family were very social in Southampton and New York and mentioned frequently in the society pages. Dr. Chambers also served as one of the presidents of the Southampton Village Improvement Society. He owned #426 Gin Lane prior to building “Bon Acre.”

The property was owned by the Chambers for at least 70 years, before Dr. Flewellyn’s daughter finally sold it in 1967 to Mrs. Patcevitch.

Chesbrough Lewis Patcevitch (1913-2005) was a New York social figure and quasi-philanthropist. While she had been married four times, she became a widow of Iva S. V. Patcevitch, a former president and chairman of Conde Nast Publications, after 30 years of marriage. “A native of Perrysburg, Ohio, the young Chesbrough Lewis was a cafe society beauty photographed by Horst and Avedon.”[2] Her daughter, Chessy Rayner, was a highly regarded decorator and fashion writer and editor who died of cancer at the age of 66 in 1998.
Property Owners (present to past):
Barbara Lowy (1997-present)
Herbert & Lilian Fisher (1993-1997)
Paul H. Cohen (1973-1993)
Eleanor V. [Cernadas] Rutherford (1968-1973)
Chesbrough Patcevitch (1967-1968)
Alice Chambers Prosser (1949-1967)
William Ely Chambers & Ambrose Ely Chambers
P.F. Chambers
E. C. Reeves




[1] The Early History of Southampton, L.I., New York, with Genealogies, by George Rogers Howell
[2] New York Times, Jan. 10, 2005

Monday, November 15, 2010

143 Years Ago (1867) - Part I

The Southampton Press published a series of articles titled “Southampton Sixty Years Ago,” beginning in December of 1927 and written by Benjamin C. Palmer. Here is an excerpt of the first in the series.

“…..one must judge from their own viewpoint as to whether the old town has [evolved] into better or worse conditions……the world at large knew very little about the place way out here in the woolly wild extreme of Long Island and very little was cared by the outside world until Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas [photo at top], a celebrated New York physician, and the Hon. Salem H. Wales one of the Park Commissioners of New York discovered it and put it on the map….
There were several ways to get here if one happened to be in New York and wanted to come here, one could walk, drive a horse, or swim, but the practical way was to either take that wonderful innovation, the train from Hunters Point to Riverhead, hire a rig and drive over, or better continue on by rail to Greenport, take the little ferry boat, Water Lilly, to Sag Harbor and thence by the “Safety, Speed and Comfort” stage owned and run by Al Robinson, one of the jolliest [drivers] that ever held the lines over a spanking team, that could get over the road at four miles an hour if the going was good……..Once on Main Street one soon found there were three stores, the post office and store of Charles Parsons who left most of its management to this genial and gentlemanly clerk, the late Henry F. Herrick, who later became his successor, said store standing where Herrick’s hardware store now stands [photo below].
A few yards further North a low wooden building covered the general merchandise of Lewis Hildreth [photo above] the nucleus of the present fine department store known as E.A. & H. Hildreth. Mr. Hildreth, the father, was quiet, thoughtful, even serious, and a most worthy citizen of the isolated town whose honesty of purpose and whose religiously fair dealings formed a standard foundation for the business he was to bequeath to his sons who became, after his demise, his successors. [His widow went on to build 75 South Main Street.]

Almost directly opposite stood the third of these three leading stores, Josiah Foster & Co., all of whom catered to the wants of urban and suburban residents of many miles around..…… Mr. Foster built a very a ttractive residence [photo above] just North of the store which in common with most of the homes on Main Street was built very close to the sidewalk [now at 383 First Neck Lane]. On the North corner of Job’s Lane stood the Academy where the younger generation who had graduated from the district schools took on the finish of their education before they entered into the more serious occupation of going out to compete in the world about them.
Diagonally across the street from there, Southeast corner of Main Street stood as it does today, the stately wooden edifice of the Presbyterian Society [photo above], the Pastor in charge being the Rev. Dr. Hugh Wilson……
On the corner North, stood the residence of Capt. Albert Rogers [photo above], perhaps one of the most attractive and substantial residences in the village, this property in later years was sold to Dr. John Nugent, but now and for many years back has been owned and occupied by Mr. Samuel L. Parrish. Last Spring it was moved back to its present position and attractive stores were built on the street front. Just North of Capt. Rogers property stood the second building of the Presbyterian Society. It had been sold to a prosperous North end farmer, Frank Bishop, who meant to convert it into a barn. He started to move it then becoming shocked by the thought of converting a former church edifice into a barn he secured a plot of ground of Capt. Rogers and ran the old church in there. Later it was sold to the Methodist Society which had become established here in spite of much opposition and had [evolved] into such a strong financial condition as to pay a pastor the princely sum of $600 per year. [It eventually became the Village Hall, and today is the Brown Harris Stevens building.]

When Capt. Rogers built his home the cost seemed to be the height of extravagance to his more frugal townsmen, but that didn’t phase the Captain, who was more than pleased when the Methodists became settled North of him and expressed himself in language dramatic and forceful, “that now he couldn’t help but be good with a church on either side of him.” The last two houses in South Main Street were directly opposite each other and are now there “Hollyhocks” on the West side [known today at the Thomas Halsey house, photo above], and the home of Mr. Isaac Foster, on the east side, father of our present Edward H. Foster, Esq. of Post Crossing [photo below].
“Hollyhocks” was owned by quite a character named Nichol White, who had a small farm, but had little taste for farming; he was noted for tramping the beach with his gun watching out for ducks, “Bunkers” and incidentally whales and if you saw a man on the top of a tall Dune, wildly swinging his coat, you could safely bet that that was “Nick” and he had seen something……..
When some of our relatives from away visited, we used to hook up the old mare and drive them around town to see the sights. One was the palatial residence of Wm. R. Post, Esq. [photo below] which is now standing on the East side of Main Street in good repair. Some years after Mr. Post died, Mr. L.E. Terry bought the property and has since resided there.
Dr. Hallock, who for many years, until the coming of Dr. John Nugent, was the only doctor available for many miles around, bought the property just South of the home of Edward Cook Reeves and his brother, Albert; the house thereon was of antiquated style, he had it built over into Gothic form when it became one of the residential sights. While out on this drive we would go clear around the lake to see the last or only house of Mr. Charles White [photo below] on First Neck Lane, corner of Ox Pasture Road, which is still there on the same foundations…….

There were no hard sidewalks or oiled roads and traveling in muddy weather would have been impossible for automobiles. In the evenings “the gang” held forth at the Post office and it was not beneath the dignity of many of the younger and some of the older men to go barefooted. The natives were a thrifty, hard working manly set of men, putting twelve to fifteen hours a day in their fields or fishing, honor reigned supreme among them, and every man’s word was his bond – unless he was spinning a fish or a whale yarn – then watch him. Every third man was a Captain, and rejoiced in the cognomen, Captain of a whaler, or perhaps a Bunker crew but a Captain nevertheless from the feet up.

More than ninety percent were religious. They worked hard six days, but found the church door on Sunday. No wonder Southampton has prospered…….”

Photos of the Foster House and Herrick's courtesy the Southampton Historical Museum.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Before & After #3: 106 Meetinghouse Lane










Here is another before and after for you. This new multi-family house replaced a circa 1840s house that was associated with the Southampton Mackie family. The new house was designed by Eileen Bennett, a local architect. A few houses away is the still surviving and original house at #90 (see below). It makes me wonder if Ms. Bennett was inspired at all by number 90? I prefer the volume of #90 (which isn’t possible these days due to the Pyramid Law), the more substantial moldings, the chimneys, and the front porch. There is something generic about the new #106, and its volume seems strangely shallow.




How can I spin a negative into a positive here? Well, it is a multi-family unit, and we sure do need more of that in the village.



Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Sunnymeade," 49 Ox Pasture Road

This house is located on the north side of Ox Pasture Road, just behind (to the west) of the Kirby House, which I’ve written about previously. I think the design of this house can be described – thus far anyway – as timeless. It’s an old house, but if it were newly built today it would fit right in without being associated with or considered an historic design. It’s a collection of classic vernacular elements assembled in a balanced symmetrical composition which is always appealing. It is registered as an Historic Place by the State and Nation.



Historically referred to as “Sunnymeade,” this house is three stories with a wrap-around porch on three sides. Tuscan columns support the porch with broad overhanging eaves concealing the porch beam. It has a gambrel roof, paired front dormers, and is entirely clad with natural cedar shingles. It is 8,000 square feet, with seven bedrooms and bathrooms, six fireplaces, a play room, media room, reading room, study, living room, dining room, kitchen, and laundry room. Originally, it was a farmhouse which has been added onto extensively. The interior layout has been changed, the kitchen was expanded into where there was an attached garage, the porch columns are not original, many of the doors and windows have been replaced, the west side porch is not original, the full basement was added, and the entire rear section was an addition.

There was a little garage with gambrel roof on the property that was moved to First Neck Lane at some point and, I think, still survives. There was also a barn which burned down in 1956. The swimming pool, installed in 1964, was one of the first in the village.


The original farmhouse was most likely built for Albert Reeves (1807-1890) circa 1870. The Reeves family owned this parcel, all those adjacent to it and more since the late 1600s. 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] Edward and his brother Albert Reeves, the sons of Henry and Emily Reeves, who owned the Kirby House next door, inherited the property from their uncle Albert. They also owned many other properties in Southampton Village and enjoyed being landowners.


Edward and Albert Reeves sold the house and property to Daniel Shepard Havens. Often referred to as Captain Daniel Havens, he had three wives and eight children during his lifetime. Interestingly, all of his wives were Fannings, all sisters, and all daughters of the farmer and Reverend Nathaniel Fanning. His third wife, Jennie, was twenty-five years his junior. The Havens were notorious landowners in addition to owning lumber yards and a coal business. The Fannings also owned a lot of property, some of which the Havens could have acquired by gift or inheriting. Ullman R. Havens was one of Daniel’s sons. Another had to have his arm amputated after almost shooting it off himself during a hunting outing in 1874.



Shepherd Knapp De Forest (1867-1929) was the director of the 10th and 20th Street Ferries, and the Queens County Bank. He was a member of the Union, Racquet and Tennis, Southside Sportsmen’s, and Westminster Kennel Clubs. He and his wife (1st wife Josephine Louise Laimbeer died), Kate Rogers Newell, were avid art collectors and loaned some of their significant Japanese pottery to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They had one daughter, Margaret. Shepherd De Forest was related to the Knapp family, who built “Tenacre,” the wonderful John Russell Pope designed home further west on Ox Pasture. The de Forests had the rear addition built by C. Elmer Smith circa 1910. Mr. Smith was a popular village resident and builder. He worked on the hospital, the home of Mrs. Stephen H. Pell, the Southampton Bank, and the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. He was the mayor of the village from 1913 to 1918 when he died during the flu epidemic.



Annie R. [Williams] Gilbert (1864-1927), widowed by the time she bought the property, was active in Southampton Village society in the summer seasons. Her late husband, Riley Miles Gilbert (b. 1854) was associated with the steel trade. They married in 1893 and had three children, Annie, Francis, and Miles Jr. Annie was a member of The Colony Club, the Colonial Dames of America, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.


The subsequent owner was Virginia Beggs Carnegie (1878-1952). She was the wife of Thomas Morrison Carnegie Jr. (1874-1944), Andrew Carnegie’s nephew (his brother’s son). “Thomas Morrison Carnegie, Jr. was the fourth son. As with most Carnegies, he was not very tall. He had light brown hair and blue eyes. He was a very gentle person and I think, a dreamer, so quiet in his ways. He was devoted to his wife, Virginia, and boys, Tom and Carter. He rode, played golf and tennis, and shot like his brothers, but gardening was his great hobby."[2] In 1904, Virginia bought a house named “Clyden” nearby, on Coopers Neck Lane. When she acquired this property, she was still the owner of Clyden, but four years later gave it to relatives.


John Bacon (1909-1994) and Lois Frances Barstow (d. 2002) Aspegren bought Sunnymeade in 1951. Lois was a twin. Her father and grand-father were with the Standard Oil Company, her grand-father being one of the directors, and one of her two brothers owned the Interstate Tank Car Corporation. That company was a former subsidiary from Aspegren & Co., from John B. Aspegren's father. That father was also president of the New York Produce Exchange. They were prominent in Newport, Rhode Island as well as in Southampton.


Ox Pasture Road was created circa 1677. It was referred to as the Ox Pasture Division, creating the north and south sides, the southern boundary being Great Plains Road, and the northern boundary being Hill Street.


Special thanks to William Rabbe, an Aspegren grandson, for most of the photos in this post.


Owners (present to past):
John J. & Linda Powers (2010-present)
Steve & Alexandra E. Mandis (2006-2010); Money Man
John B. & Lois Barstow Aspegren (1951-2006); Newport and Southampton Socialites
Virginia B. Carnegie (1928-1951); relative of the well-known philanthropist
Annie R. Gilbert (1921-1928); rented Foster House in 1920
Shepherd K. & Kate R. de Forest (1909-1921)
Charles Higbee (1893-1909) (briefly owned the right/east third of the property; a descendant of Thomas Sayre, one of the founders of Southampton)
Ullman R. & Ida W. Havens (x-1893/1909)
Daniel Shepard Havens (c. 1890-x)
Edward Cook Reeves & Albert H. Reeves (x-x)
Albert Reeves (prior to 1873)


[1] The Early History of Southampton, L.I., New York, with Genealogies, by George Rogers Howell
[2] http://www.anusha.com/pafg353.htm

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Gates of Southampton Village

Southampton Village is home to a wonderful assortment of gates. I know this may seem a cliché subject, what with all the gate calendars in the world, but you can’t help but notice them as they are practically everywhere around here, on large and small properties alike. While some may interpret them as elitist symbols of social status, I think of them as being like earrings: lovely accessory embellishments adding a bit of sparkle to one’s public appearance. Some are solid and foreboding saying anything but “Welcome.” Others are light and open with creative scrollwork highlighting their pride and craftsmanship. Others may be contemporary and sculptural testing the boundaries of gate design, and at the opposite spectrum exist rustic gates made with undressed twigs from the property.

The preponderance of the appearance of gates in Southampton Village is relatively recent, I would say about 1920 is when they really started popping up. Of course there were gates before, on very prestigious estates, and on farms to keep animals contained, but by 1940 driveway entry gates were definitely a trend.

Since I began attending the Village Architectural Review Board meetings in late 2008 the board has been relatively open-minded about gate styles and materials, with a few exceptions. Gate posts that have lights are a particularly sensitive subject, and the board prefers gates that are more transparent than solid (so that now we can have a better view of parked cars!). The percentages of transparency aren’t dictated in the codes of course. It’s strange that this board can be so picky and firm about gates and balconies, but then completely spineless when it comes to a house’s appropriateness or harmoniousness within its context. Then again, they’ve been sued for the latter, which might explain things.

I once wrote about balconies because I was frustrated that this board was – in effect - trying to eliminate an historic architectural feature prominent in this village since the 1800s. I am not frustrated by their gate tendencies but would myself prefer that gates weren’t even regulated by the ARB. Why not just open it up and let creativity flourish? How about glass gates (tempered of course) and ranch style gates and blue or pink gates? How about a Zaha Hadid designed gate, or a custom McKenzie Childs gate? How about a gate competition sponsored by the Village every year? In an area rich with architectural marvels, modern and historic, a design competition would be perfectly at home and appropriate. The ARB has a lot of other more pertinent issues to focus on, particularly appropriateness. Let’s let gates have more opportunity for expression.