Sunday, December 18, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Here I am again posting about a house that is not in Southampton Village, but I just can't help try to save some of these historic treasures that will be torn down before year's end. Unfortunately, the demolition of historic architecture is a natural part of the evolutional change of the Hamptons environs, at least thus far, but it pains me so nonetheless.
186 Crescent Lane is a historic home that was relocated from the Halsey farm (Green Thumb) just north on Halsey Lane sometime between 1916-1936 (1938 aerial below). It is a lovely traditional home that retains a significant degree of integrity, with original windows, siding and other details. I particularly like the board shutters on the west side and the charismatic bay windows.
The front and rear (facing Mecox Bay) of the house are painted yellow, while the sides and gambrel-roofed one-story wings are white. The site is breath-taking, but that's probably what's also sealing its fate. Proving that others believed this structure to be architecturally significant as well, the home was featured in American Home in May of 1936.
Because the house has been moved it is difficult to determine its age with the use of historic maps but a quick tour of the interior and its framing would probably confirm a mid-1700s construction date. The style and scale of the home reminds me of those that march along Remsenburg's South Country Road as well as the Foster house on First Neck Lane in Southampton Village.
Meetings with a widely employed building moving service have confirmed that this historic structure can be relocated. Wouldn't it make a lovely Christmas gift??? It may not fit in one's stocking, but the skeleton keys to the old front door certainly would!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
There are few known surviving images of Hedge Rows, most of them post cards, and none of them featuring the home. The image at the top of this post is an enlarged detail of one of the many postcard views across Lake Agawam published in the early 1900s. Eric Woodward, a local architect, has an immense and invaluable collection of these postcards for which us 'history types' are constantly appreciative.
Charles Wyllys Betts (1845-1887), a lawyer in the same firm with his famous patent lawyer brother, Frederic Henry Betts (1843-1905), bought a 4 acre stretch along the western shore of Lake Agawam, then known as the Town Pond, from Albert J. Post in 1878 for $750. He and his brother bought practically all the acreage at the southwest end of Agawam Lake, even along the Atlantic in the late 1800s and created a quasi-compound of summer cottages for themselves and family members. At the very same moment which C. Wyllys bought this parcel, his brother's wife, Mary "Louise" Holbrook Betts (b.1847) purchased the lot immediately to the north - another 4 acres - from Mr. Post for $900 on which she promplty had Mocomanto built.
Nine years later C. Wyllys died and bequeathed his parcel to his sister, Sarah Eliot [Betts] Foster (b.1841). Within a year's time, Mrs. Frederic H. Betts, Sarah's sister-in-law, had an agreement drawn up ensuring that no structure would be built on Sarah's parcel east of her Mocomanto. See, Mrs. Betts was accustomed to her lovely view to the southeast, across the little inlet on Sarah's property, to the Dune Church at the foot of the pond. The Betts family was instrumental in the establishment of this church (several Tiffany windows in memorial to the Betts family survive) and Mrs. Betts was even known to ride in an authentic Italian gondola to worship services in the mornings. She didn't want anything interfering with this vista. Sarah likely didn't care, she lived in Buffalo after all.
The home's architecture was in the Colonial Revival style with some Folk Victorian or Queen Anne influence. It was a two-story structure with hipped roof and dormers. it had symmetrical side-flanking chimneys and windows with shutters. Its most decorative feature was its full-width one-story porch which even extended beyond each end of the home and was decorated with gable ends and fretwork. Interestingly, the rear of this house faced northeast, almost directly at Mocomanto, rather than across the pond or toward the ocean.
Walter G. Oakman Sr. was described as a "railroad man" due to his involvement with just about any and all railroad companies that existed in his lifetime. Ultimately he also became the Chairman of the board of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York as well as other notable board appointments. Sadly though, when he married his wife, Eliza "Bessie" Conkling in 1879, her father, a New York senator, did not attend the ceremony of his only child, or give her away. The New York Times reported, "It is understood that he was opposed to his daughter marrying Mr. Oakman, who is a worthy gentleman, but possessing no great wealth." How shallow and ultimately short-sighted, for he did quite well for himself and his family. Perhaps his fortune even eventually rivaled the Senator's!
Walter and Bessie had two daughters and a son together. Their son, Walter Jr., was wounded twice during the World War, awarding him a Distinguished Service Order for gallantry.
The Krech family must have witnessed Hedge Rows' demise. As this post stated earlier, the home no longer exists but it isn't known exactly why. According to aerial views available online, it disappeared sometime between 1941-1954. I'm guessing from fire rather than a storm or neglect. Time will tell.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The image above is of a rare and valuable 1740s home named "Antiquity" at 9 Quantuck Lane in the Village of Quogue. Unfortunately, this historic structure's days are limited. Any old house lovers out there with some vacant land?
According to the Southampton Town Historian, Zachary Studenroth, "Deacon Thomas Cooper (1710-1782) built the original house in the 1740s at the northeast corner of Quogue Street and Lamb Avenue. In 1834 the house on 100 acres was acquired by John F. Foster, and by the late 1800s it was sold to Mrs. Josiah P. Howell, who added a large, 3-story wing and rn it as a boardinghouse known as the Foster House. The large wing was later destroyed by fire, and the original house was moved to its present location on Quantuck Lane, where smaller wings were built to the side and rear."
The Cooper homestead (Antiquity) is significant not only because of its age, but also because it is one of the earliest homes to have been built in Quogue, because of its large size, and because of its association with early Quogue settlers (Coopers, Fosters, Herricks and Howells). The house is a full 2-story, 5-bay house with center door, center chimney and flanking windows making it one of the largest surviving homes of the Colonial period in the area. It retains a very high level of integrity and is in very good condition despite the fact that it has been virtually abandoned for many years now (just look at the fireplaces and the beautiful floors!). Interestingly, the main volume of the house is in much better shape than the later additions that were added.
But here's the problem: the current owner of the property, which is 3.5 acres, wanted to subdivide the parcel into two halves, tear down Antiquity, and then build a house on each of the newly created lots. However, because the local codes require a minimum lot size of 2 acres in this area, the owner needed a vairance to subdivide the property. Also, many in the village were voicing their concern about Antiquity's demolition. So the owner said he woudl either pay for Antiquity to be moved to someone who wanted it on their property, or renovate it turning it into one of his two houses, as long as he was given permission to subdivide his lot.
Well, Quogue said no. (Grrrr!) Sounded like a win-win solution to me. Antiquity gets saved either way (and to the benefit of the identity and character of the community) and the owner gets to subdivide his property. As another interested party put it, "the downside of losing such a historic property outweighs the downside of letting [the owner] split the acreage. I would have thought the property could have been split with specific square-footage limitations on the two new lots....," right?
Now, as there is not longer any incentive for the owner to save Antiquity (a name that Mrs. Howell gave to the house), he has rescinded his offer to pay for the relocation of the buiding. He remains however willing to give it away, and will also contribute an amount equal to the cost of having it demolished toward it being moved, but that's where his offer stops.
If something doesn't happen very soon, the 1740s homestead, a Southampton Town, and especially Quogue treasure, will be lost before the end of the year, so that the owner will not incur another year's worth of real estate taxes.
Can anyone help? How much more is the cost to move the house than to demolish it? I know there's a lovely young couple nearby that would love to have the house, but without financial assistance to first partially clear their wooded lot, then move the house, they can't swing it. Can anyone help them with the clearing? Maybe then the owner of the house and Dawn House Moving can work something out? I can't be the only problem-solver out there; I know "where there's a will, there's a way!"
I know we all here these stories over and over again. We live in a time, and/or a place which doesn't seem to have a strong attachment to the rich history of the area, or not enough anyway. I have to say though, I'm really surprised this is happenning in Quogue, a village in which a significant amount of its historic structures survive, without governmental requirement. I would have thought that of all places, Quogue would have a much stornger desire to protect Antiquity. Is this a sign of what's ahead for Quogue? Of a changing mentality there? Goodness, I hope not.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
In January of 1888 Mrs. Sarah Lewis purchased property at 134 Wyandanch Lane from Mr. & Mrs. James A. Hildreth and had a fine home built which still exists today. It is a beautiful two-and-a-half story Shingle style home painted white with cedar shingle siding and a Colonial style entry with paired Tuscan columns and an elliptical gabled arch. The fanlight (transom) over the entry door mimics this elliptical curve nicely. The house has a gambrel roof with gorgeous proportions, first and second floor bay windows, and marching attic levle gabled dormers with half-round windows. Glancing down its axial driveway, it is a lovely sight. The home and grounds are well-maintained and command a nice view of Old Town Pond to the rear/east.
Mrs. Sarah Holmes (Edwards) Lewis (1810-1895) was the widow of Reverend John Nitchie Lewis, but more importantly, the great-great-grand-daughter of Dr. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a reverend, theologian, and noted missionary to Native American Indians. His portrait is above. According to Wikipedia, "Edwards is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian, and one of America's greatest intellectuals. Edward's theological work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theoloical determinism, and the Puritan heritage. Recent studies have emphasized how thorougly Edwards grounded his life's work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset." He was also the author of several books, including The Life of David Branerd. Shortly after becoming president of Princeton University (then known as the College of New Jersey) he died, supposedly from small pox. And, oh yeah, he was also Aaron Burr's grandfather (3rd Vice-President of America).
Rev. & Mrs. John Lewis had seven children, one of which was Sarah Edwards Lewis (1843-1928). She was also the subsequent owner of the home. Naturally, given her paternal and maternal backgrounds so rooted in religious missionary work, she became a noted member of the First Presbyterian Church here in the Village as well as a Shinnecock Indian aide. She never married.
You have to wonder if given the families association with the Indians, there is some connection with how the street got its name? Or Lewis Street for that matter?
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
There used to be a summer estate named "Hawthorne House" (pictured above) right where a new home has been constructed on Meadowmere Lane. The new home is a virtual copy of an historic estate named "Ten Acre" which still survives and is located just north on Ox PastureRoad (photo below).
George Leary (1869-1942), an engineer and builder of drydocks, was the president of Morris & Cummings Dredging Company, established in 1823, which was said to be the oldest in the country. It built navy piers in Norfolk, Virginia, docks on Staten Island, and dredging work for Chelse Piers and South Brooklyn. There was even a steamer ship named George Leary which collided with a propeller boat in 1865 but did not sink.
George was married to Julia May Crofton (d.1935) "who was honored with the title 'Lady of the Holy Sepulchre' by Pope Benedict XV for special services to the Catholic Church," and was also frequently referred to as 'Countess Leary.' In 1927 George and Julia went through a very public separation and battle over infidelity, property, and wealth, but eventually made amends.
A descendant of George and Julia recently found this blog and contacted me. (I just love when that happens!) The Crofton-Leary family is ripe with entertaining stories which are bound to make it into this blog one of these days. Or maybe a book?
Naturally the Hawthorne estate included accessory structures. The carriage house was located, logically, right along Meadowmere Road, and was similarly clad. Later it was covered in stucco and altered as it was converted into a home (photo below). The carriage house no longer survives.
Built circa 1940, perhaps this was the caretakers home, appropriately situated next to the manicured gardens. Below is an image of it today. Driving by a thousand times, you wouldn't be inclined to stop and say, "Oh yes, that was the caretaker's cottage to George Leary's Hawthorne House." You'd be more likely to say, "Look at that sad little house surrounded by mansions."
What gave it away? One day last fall I was visiting a friend that was in town for a week or so, and she was staying in this house. I went to meet her one morning, and when I pulled into the driveway I was immediately struck by the moldings surrounding the entry door and the windows in the center. They are very elaborately carved, with fluted pilasters on each side, panels below, and dentil moldings above. A little elaborate for a non-descript ranch. Then it dawned on me: this is the Hawthorne House's caretakers cottage. And I tell you, it hasn't changed a bit. I'm sure that won't last much longer, especially as the rest of the property's history has been obliterated. And to this day I haven't found out why the Hawthorne House was even demolished. I know I'll figure it out one day.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
First, one Saturday while out perusing garage/yard sales (a great way to tour historic architecture), I came across 187 Meetinghouse Lane, just two doors west of #205. Huh. Almost an identical twin, except that its porch hasn’t been altered, the panes in the triangular window are slightly different, and the second story window over the first floor bay window projection has been replace over the years. #187 also has a few rows of scalloped shingles in the front gable end, whereas #207 seems to have had its shingles either replaced or covered over with new shingles at some point.
Then, on my way home one day, I passed a house I have passed a hundred times: 180 Halsey Street. But for the first time I noticed it was just like those two houses on Meetinghouse Lane. Huh. This one however, is the mirror image of the first two, and also has its front porch intact. But like the others, some of its details have also changed over the years.
Some of you are probably saying, “So what? There are lots of “lookalike” (even facsimile) houses in the Village.” And you would be right. But I can’t help imagining that the builder of all these houses may have been the same person, and if one of the owners, or their neighbors, knows who built one of these houses, they probably know who built the others too. That would be interesting to know, at least to me.
But yes, the same design for a house is often built repeatedly, even way back when, and especially today.
The earliest surviving house in Southampton Village is a salt box, which was the form of most of the East End’s earliest surviving homes. There are also a significant amount of Sear’s kit houses (sold as “Sears Modern Homes” on the East End. “Over 70,000 of these were sold in North America between 1908 and 1940. Shipped via railroad boxcars, these kits included all the materials needed to build a house. Many were assembled by the new homeowner and friends, relatives, and neighbors, in a fashion similar to the traditional barn-raisings of farming families.” (wikipedia)
Even today we can find volume after volume of house plan books sold at Barnes & Noble and Home Depot alike. I even remember a client from back when I worked as an architect that came to the office and asked us to build them a house just like they found on page x of a catalog they had, except with a few tweaks of their own.
It wasn’t always, and still isn’t, that architects are behind the construction of every structure. While I believe good architects are beneficial to every construction project, it’s true that many people disagree
and feel that costs can be saved without them. But if many of the Village’s most gorgeous and historic homes didn’t have an architect behind them, then the quality of builders in those days must really have been extraordinary and inspiring to say the least.
The first American architect was Benjamin Latrobe. “Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe (May 1, 1764 – September 3, 1820) was a British-born American neoclassical architect best known for his design of the United States Capitol, along with his work on the Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. Latrobe was one of the first formally-trained, professional architects in the United States, drawing influences from his travels in Italy, as well as British and French Neoclassical architects such as Claude Nicolas Ledoux." (wikipedia)
I think I’ll start a series of ‘Lookalike’ posts, as a sort of quasi-study of architectural prototypes both here in the Village and elsewhere in the Hamptons. I guess that make this post “Lookalikes #1.”