Friday, January 28, 2011

The Aesthetics of Snow

We sure are having a snowy winter thus far and that’s fine with me; it beats just plain greyness. I enjoy the imagery that goes along with the changing of each season, and during winter every fresh snowfall brings beautiful scenic corridors and wonderful white nuances with it. During our last snow day, I took a stroll around my neighborhood photographing beautiful snowy sites and views.

The house at the top is 57 Moses Lane. It's a classic four-square with little nuances making it unique unto itself. I love the porch that wraps two sides and the assymmetrical second story windows, as well as the third story dormer with a pair of little square windows and the fact that its clad with shingles contrasting the clapboard on the rest of the house. It's predominant white & black color scheme make it a perfect photo on a snowy day.

This is a bird house belonging to #375 Moses, in the back yard. I've always admired it, and it has been home to many bird families!

This is a close-up of #57 Moses Lane's porch. The view of the hanging bird feeder amongs the Tuscan style porch columns and snowy branches makes a lovely winter composition.

This is 375 Hill Street from the corner of Moses Lane, nicely framed by the snowy foliage. It used to be burgundy, but is now beige, with white trim and dark green shutters. The accessory buildings in the back are a dark green, with touches of the old burgundy. This home used to be associated with the Post family.

This is a side gate at the 375 Hill Street property. Surrounded by the snow and arborvitae its texture and contrast are visually pleasing.

This is the accessory structure to 405 Hill Street. I'm not sure if it is an old structure formerly associated with the Post family or not. Regardless of its age, I love its plainness and simplicity and yet it isn't generic in the least. Coupled with the snow and grey daylight it too is a beautiful sight.

An exterior light fixture draped with snow at the Guberman property on Harvest Lane. Mounted on the outside trim of a recessed doorway and framed by the painted shingle cladding, the snow, textures, and contrasts make a nice combination.

A window of a Harvest Lane cottage. This property has a beautiful cherry tree, now lined with snow and framing the view of the shutter clad window with quaint clover cut-out.

While this post hasn't been packed with historical information, a trendy review, or news of current happennings, I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the snows creations.........before the salt and plows begin the transformation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Last night the Village Trustees unanimously approved the Local Law 1 of 2011 which introduces a substantial civil penalty for the illegal demolition of historic structures. All parties involved in the demolition will be required to pay up to the estimated cost of restoration or replacement of whatever is demolished to the maximum practical extent. Take that! In addition, part of the building department process will involve educating owners, contractors, architects, etc. of these new codes prior to issuing permits, and the criminal fines were raised from $100 to $5000. Yipee!! Now we have penalties with real teeth. Thank you petition signers, letter writers, and Village Trustees! This new code will not only protect our village's architectural treasures, but also send a strong message that this community's heritage is imporatant and valuable and that the blatant disregard of our codes will not go unpunished.

If you are wondering why I keep showing the same photo at the top of these "demolition consequences" updates, it's because it was the illegal dismantling of this house, known as "The Moorlands" on Halsey Neck Lane, last May which prompted these new penalties to be considered and adopted. While that house is gone forever (and a loose replica rising in its stead), at least something positive as resulted. I am personally delighted, and hope you are too!

So now what? I have a long wish list as you can see along the right side of this blog, but I think 'Neglect' should be the next item to tackle. There are far too many structures in our historic districts abandoned and falling down. Let's see if we can do something about that. I'll probably need your help, so please stay tuned!

Monday, January 24, 2011

143 Years Ago, Part III

Continuing along with this historic series, here are excerpts from the third 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.

“In our last article we stated that Southampton was discovered and placed on the map by Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas and Salem H. Wales, Esq. To make that plainer we might add that through them it became an established summer resort attractive to men of wealth, who built and who are still building residences of a substantial order and making it their home town in the summertime.

But others came before them, either by accident or through some friend, and were known as “Boarders.” They were catered to by quite a number of the village people, who were only too glad to increase the size of their family by an additional member who was wealthy enough to pay seven dollars per week during the summer season, and some of these transitory additions continued to come for some years, and some even bought land and built homes for summer use.

The home people were thrifty, money was scarce……….So the young men were forced out and away from home in order to find the way to a livelihood. Many went bass fishing in the fall for the New York market that brought cash if fishing was good. Some went to New York and a few took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west, but the leading inducement was to go whaling. Many went. Some made good voyages, worked up from before the mast through the various officerships, became captains and returned home to establish homes and become substantial citizens. That is how we use to have so many captains here.

One we recall….was the renowned Mercator Cooper, Capt. of the whaler "Manhattan," which went out from Sag Harbor. It was he who ran across a crew, 28 we believe, of shipwrecked Japanese sailors in the Pacific Ocean and sailed with them right into the Japanese port, delivering them safe. Japan was then, in 1845, a pagan nation and all ports closed to strangers. This was a brave Christian act on the part of Capt. Cooper and Southampton people have always been proud of the fact that he was a native and resident here. His home was in that colonial building on the hill top west of Windmill lane now occupied by Robert R. Kendrick, [now Cooper Hall, part of the Rogers Memorial Library] who married Miss Howell, grand-daughter. The captain died in 1872.

The old Post house just south of the Methodist Church was the best equipped boarding house in the old days, owned by the late Albert J. Post. His sister, wife of Captain Hubert White, parent of our present smiling Town Clerk, held forth as the general manager and gained a well deserved reputation. This house was built in 1684 making it one of and perhaps the oldest house in the village today.

Across from the Methodist Church stands the old time residence of Capt. George G. White. Capt. George and Mr. Albert were great friends, but Capt. George was unfortunate according to Mr. Albert and he “orter know,” for Capt. George was one of ”them air” Democrats, and they had many a heated debate as to the pros and cons, but Mr. Albert always won out when it came to election because he was a Republican, while the poor Capt. lost out because he was a Democrat. We can see in the pages of our memory pictures of Capt. George – tall, slender, active, wiry and well tanned by the weather exposure. We can see him striding down Main street with a flash of fire in his eye going to town meeting; probably no man in town was more conversant with the town’s rights, roads, water fronts, rights of way, than he. He visioned the gradual absorbing of these rights by people who had no right to absorb them and he was up in arms to defend them for the people and he did. When Capt. George spoke in meeting everybody listened to his impressive truths. When he was called home to his fathers, Southampton lost a loyal citizen, one who would have made a most efficient official. What a pity he was a Democrat, but he was born so and couldn’t help it.”

Ha! Stay tuned for Part IV.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Village Police Headquarters and Justice Hall

Lately I seem to be getting really caught up in the history of the village and various homes, so I thought I’d take a break and post about something more contemporary.

This is the Southampton Village Police Headquarters and Justice Court, completed in 2002. It is a fine piece of architecture and civic pride located up on a hill on Windmill Lane behind Waldbaum’s grocery store. But if I had designed it, it would have been completely different.
First, it would have had more of a face to its Windmill Lane elevation, the principal public elevation that God knows how many people drive by every day. As designed our view is essentially of a garage, something even the ARB frowns upon when reviewing residences. Second, it would have been clad predominantly in wood rather than stucco, faux stone and metal. Those materials are not foreign to our village, but they are on such a large scale here. I can’t even think of another building of the same scale and materials, except maybe the new building on Hill Street near the movie theatre, but I’m sure no one would care to be compared to that. I wonder if the new Fire Station, while still smaller, will be a better comparison? It however, seems more Post Modern to me, while the Village Police Station and Justice Hall has more of an Arts & Crafts feel.

Granted, it’s always easier to criticize than to create, so it’s easy for me to sit here and say how much better the building would be if…………and I also recognize that it is much more difficult to design something creative and clever, than to copy any existing architectural style. I am merely ruminating about one of the few more contemporary pieces of architecture in the village. After all, Rogers Memorial Library, just south of this building, and built not long before, is a successful contemporary shingle-style structure (image below). I think even the new downtown area design guidelines by Ehrenkranz, Eckstut & Kuhn would have rendered the police building ‘not-in-keeping’ with the village. They suggest that all new development retain the character of the old and conform to one of two prevailing building typologies existing or built over the last 100 years: masonry mercantile buildings, or large gabled houses. This building does not fit into either category, but it sure provides ample space for our police and justice court system, which I know was desperately needed.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Finally!! News About New Demolition Consequences!

At long last I have an update for all of you loyal readers and petition signers regarding new village legislation pertaining to stronger illegal demolition consequences. Bonnie Cannon was nice enough to email me a heads-up that the next Village Trustee meeting’s agenda included discussion about this very subject. (After eight months I admit that I was beginning to feel a little blown-off; Patience is a virtue!) So the Village Trustee meeting occurred last Thursday night and I am delighted to announce that the wait has been worth it! (After all, as I learned, Rick DePetris is inundated with the constant endeavor of amending out-of-date or inarticulate village codes.) Thursday night Rick DePetris announced he was finished drafting a new section of 65, number 611 D, and read it aloud to those attending the meeting. The revised code states that ANYONE and EVERYONE involved with the illegal demolition of an historic structure in our village will be required to pay a fine up to the equivalent to restore and replicate what was demolished. And this would be a civil penalty in addition to a criminal penalty of up to $5,000 and/or 15 days in jail. Terrific news, right?

But here’s the catch. While the Village Board seemed unanimously in favor of this proposed legislation, it has been scheduled for a public hearing at their next meeting on January 25th, at 5pm. So to all of you 80 petition signers, if you are as passionate as I am about enacting this legislation, and about advocating for further needed legislative amendments, (not to mention staying strong as a group of people with a powerful voice) please come to that hearing and voice your support (or submit a letter to the village clerk if you cannot attend). Let’s not risk this opportunity to protect our historic architectural treasures!

And thanks again to all the petition signers. I am often a one-man army. But with your assistance, my voice was much louder, and the results have been more fruitful than I could have accomplished on my own!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

330 Captain's Neck Lane; Another Home of Edward C. Reeves

Once again, here is a house built by Edward C. Reeves. I’ve written about at least three other beautiful homes built by Edward and his brother Albert. 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 “Kirby House” on the northwest corner of First Neck and Ox Pasture, bought this property from Walter F. Clayton in 1899 building the house sometime before 1902. They also owned many other properties in Southampton Village and enjoyed being landowners and building houses. They sure built nice ones!

This two-and-a-half story shingle style home, with hipped roof, Queen Anne style windows, and prominent original turreted corner tower has an incredibly long list of owners and I don’t think I quite reached the earliest. Just look at the dates below; there was a constant turn over until Edward Reeves obtained it. He must have then either then lived in it with his wife and four children or rented it out until 1916 when it was sold to Rose M. O’Brien.

Rose was the wife of Morgan Joseph O’Brien, an Irish-American Supreme Court Judge who was the son of a merchant and was described by the Manhattan club as “everybody’s friend.” They were married in 1880 and upon their 50th wedding anniversary the Pope sent them a blessing. Prior to his death in 1937 at the age of 85, where his estate was divided equally among his nine children, he had set up a trust for his wife consisting of his household and personal effects as well as 2,000 shares of the Chase National Bank, 480 shares of the Guaranty Trust Co., 2,800 shares of Manhattan Co., 100 shares of William Bradley & Sons, 50 shares of the American Tank Car Co., 200 shares of Drug Inc., 200 shares of the Underwood Elliot Fisher Co., 200 shares of the Whiterock Mineral Springs Co., 100 shares of the Bethlehem Steel Co., 175 shares of the Lawyers Title and Guaranty Co., 347 shares of the International Business Machines Co. (IBM), 100 shares of the Borden Co., and bonds from many other companies. In 1914 the O’Briens owned a country home in Hampton Bays (known then as Good Ground), in 1926 they owned the highly notable and extravagant “Villa Mille Fiore” on the southwest corner of Great Plains and Coopers Neck, and in 1929 they owned “The Corner” across the street to the east. In 1917, after only owning #330 Captains Neck Lane for about a year, they sold it to their daughter, Genevieve Fox, who went on to own it, along with her daughter, for 67 years, except for a five years span right in the middle when the house was owned by her brother-in-law. Of all the ownerships, hers was the longest, and it stands out among so many who owned it for such a slight length. I find, more and more, that owners of fine historic homes really value and cherish them, and hang onto them as long as possible.

A later owner was David C. Walentas. “Mr. Walentas is the founder and principal of the Two Trees Management Company and is credited with establishing the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn.”[1] (Read an interesting interview with him here:

The current owners are in the financial industry. Ms. Rockafellow works or worked for Credit Suisse, and Mr. Lopez-Balboa works or worked for Merrill Lynch. His father is or was “a senior managing director and the chief financial officer of the International Capital Corporation, a subsidiary in New York of the American Express Bank.”[2]
Property Owners (from present to past):
Francisco Javier Lopez-Balboa & Carolynn H. Rockafellow, 1998 – present
David C. Walentas, 1988-1998
Vincent Brett, 1987-1988
Thomas H. Clyde, 1984-1987
Genevieve Fox, 1943-1984
Dr. Henry & Rosalie James, 1938-1943
Genevieve Fox, 1917-1938
Judge Morgan J. and Rose M. O’Brien, 1916-1917
Edward C. Reeves, Nov. 1899-1916
Walter F. Clayton, Oct. 1899
Wesley C. Bush, 1898-1899
Ensign O. Beale, 1898

[1] New York Times, 1/24/2010
[2] New York Times, 12/3/1989

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ARB Update

The Jan. 10th Southampton Village ARB meeting was cancelled last night. It is not rescheduled, the agenda for the next meeting on the 24th will just be combined with last night's agenda.

I'll be posting about new applications on soon!

Monday, January 10, 2011

9. Did You Know.................

Did you know that Wyandanch Lane got its name from an Indian? Naturally, as the Indians were here first, there are many Indian names on Long Island and all over the East End. Wyandanch was the chief – or sachem - of the Montauks. The Montauks (Montauk means “uncertain”) were the largest tribe on the eastern end of Long Island, but because of constant attack by the Pequots, a much larger tribe from Rhode Island, Wyandanch befriended the colonists in 1637 to help conquer them.

Once, Wyandanch brought an Indian from the Pequot tribe to the settlers and turned him in for murdering a member of our colony. That man was promptly taken to Hartford to stand trial.
Unfortunately, Wyandanch’s ties to the settlers weakened his reputation among other Indians. Coupled with the selling of all of their land (rather than preserving an area like the Shinnecocks), Wyandanch and the Montauks eventually ceased to exist.

The great Wyandanch died in 1659. Today Wyandanch Lane, here in Southampton is just another fully developed street of houses. Not really a fitting tribute to this friendly ancestral father.

The image above is Stephen 'Talkhouse' Pharaoh, a descendant of Wyandanch.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Thanet House," 143 South Main Street

This home was built in 1913 for the son of Dr. Theodore Gaillard Thomas (1881-1946) who is considered a co-founder of the original village summer colony. Referred to as T. G. Thomas Jr., he became, naturally, a real estate agent. Shortly after his brother’s death in 1918, he married his sister-in-law, Louisa Carroll Jackson who was a descendant of two signers of The Declaration of Independence and 15 years his senior. Guy Thomas was an adopted nephew/son.

Some say the house was built by Dr. Thomas for his son T.G. Jr., but I disagree, as he had long since passed away by then (1903). In any case, the property used to include the area south of, and including, Linden Lane as well as all of the land behind it to Lake Agawam.

Prior to buying the property and having his summer home built, Mr. Thomas rented the cottage belonging to Mrs. Henry Sayre which stood on the lot. Many believe that house was relocated rather than demolished before Mr. Thomas’ new home was built. (Ah, the good ole days.) During the rest of the year, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut in another beautiful home shown in a post card image above that I found and acquired via the internet. I find it interesting that although the homes are completely different styles and materials, their basic and central forms are the same: two story, three bay, central hall/entry, gabled structure with three gabled dormers and two symmetrical interior chimneys.

“Thanet House” has gone through considerable transformations over the years. Originally built to look Dutch, despite the Arts & Crafts movement at the time, the windows used to have diamond pane divisions and “party” type end walls with chimneys as book-ends to its north and south facades. S.E. Gage has been attributed as the architect. Once the party-wall-ends were removed the house had a stucco finish with exposed timber frame detailing before at some point being entirely re-clad in brick. The interiors are rumored to have wonderful original paneling and frescoed ceilings.

The next owners were Primrose and William Gaynor. Primrose was the niece of Andrew Carnegie’s wife. In 1932 she married William C. T. Gaynor, a doctor. They divorced and he remarried a Vanderbilt, only to divorce again in 1957. He then married a third time very shortly after his second divorce, to Mary McBurney Philbin Dickerson, a widow.
When the Wrights bought the property it was apparently a mess and a bargain. Penny Wright, the Program Director of the Rogers Memorial Library, has fond and vivid memories of growing up there. Kenneth Wright was a good friend of Fairfield Porter’s, the highly regarded American painter who lived just up the street.

Bruce C. Hackett was a former managing director of Saloman Brothers. He died in March of 2000 at the age of 61 from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Now known as Katherine Blount Pace, the current owner is the daughter of Winton Malcolm Blount who was the Postmaster General of the United States from 1969 to 1972. He died in 2002. The Blount family is from Alabama and an integral part of Birmingham’s history, where there is a Blount county and town known as Blountsville. Mrs. Pace is presently referred to as a community leader by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and active with the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Property Owners:
Katherine Blount Miles, 2003-present
Bruce C. Hackett & Joann Harrington, 1987-2003
Elizabeth Wright, 1985-1987
Dorothy E. Wright, 1960-1885
Primrose Whitfield Gaynor Elsworth, 1950-1960
Dr. William C. T. & Primrose Whitfield Gaynor, 1940-1950
T. Gaillard Thomas, 1913-1940
Annie M. Sayre, prior to 1913
Photo Credits: Historic Thanet House Post Card Image Courtesy Eric Woodward

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Should Any of You Be Interested............

I will be giving a presentation to the Westhampton Beach Historical Society at their Annual Meeting this Sunday, January 9th, at 1pm. It is open to the public and will take place in the Community Room of the Westhampton Free Library. I will be speaking about the Town Landmarks & Historic Districts Board, pending Town preservation legislation, and preservation issues in general, as well as showing some great images of historic structures both lost and saved over the last several years.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Let's Put a Cap on Density

I was in Miami over the Thanksgiving holiday and made some observations. Miami is a wonderful place for many reasons beside its sunny climate, but Wow, is it dense! I drove through many neighborhoods noticing man styles of architecture (all adjacent to one another – there is no stylistic consistency) but also that there are no yards and all parking is in the front. Zoning codes allow for the maximum coverage on each property across the board. Even the mansions consume their properties. You have to drive at least an hour south or west to find homes that aren’t 10 feet from each other and have real yards.

The Village of Southampton has become increasingly dense since it was settled in 1640. That was the way it all started. The king gave the land which we took from the Indians, then it began to get divided up among the settlers, then given to heirs and sold to newcomers, and so on, continuing to this day. Shouldn’t there be a limit? Shouldn’t there be a point at which we decide it’s full here? Aren’t there even limits to area available for parking and septic systems and energy consumption and other infrastructural components?

Where once there were open views of scattered homes, farmland and animals grazing, there is now street after street of buildings, mature trees and hedges galore. There are very few large properties, few undeveloped lots and not many more to be subdivided. Zoning codes have already changed to allow for dense lot development. A common quarter acre (R-20) property can presently be consumed by between 4300 and 6000 square feet (Section 116-11.2) which easily allows for a large home, a garage, a pool, a pool house, porches, patios, and other accessory structures, leaving no real yard area, parking in the front, and very little space between houses, just like Miami. In my opinion the architectural harmony has already become compromised via less historic and more exploratory and/or generic building projects, properties are clearly being built-out to the maximum allowable code-wise and the codes are overly generous. Just like Miami.

What next? What if zoning codes change again to make more subdivisions possible? It’s not as if the village boundaries will expand (although I would love them to include the Art Village) so that growth can sprawl outwards. The aesthetic stewardship of this Village is on a pointy precipice.
Rather than to allow any further deterioration of the historic fabric, spaciousness and architecture of this village, rather than to give too much freedom to people needing too much to be satisfied, the time has come to put a cap on density. And for all of you laughing that this is a ridiculous idea, putting a cap on density will only lead to increased property values, tourism revenue and interest in vacationing and living here. The more ardently we preserve the special character of our village, the longer it will remain beloved and desirable………………and protected.
There is a general belief that the places people love the most are the quickest to be ruined. I don’t want that to be the case here.

Historic photos courtesy The Southampton Historical Museum and Eric Woodward.