Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Home of Henry A. Fordham, 56 First Neck Lane

[This is revised from being originally posted January 31st. I did some extra fact checking and have included many footnotes as a result, but it’s not much different. SS]

This lovely home was built prior to 1873 for Henry Augustus Fordham (1836-1901). It was enlarged in 1875[1] and has been modified and expanded over the years since. Small details that are no longer present include a railing over the front porch and shutters on the gable end windows. It was also described in the 70s as being of the Italianate style, but that’s not apparent to me.

Henry A. Fordham was a descendant of Rev. Robert Fordham, the second pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Southampton who was from England and arrived in Southampton in 1648.[2] Henry was one of seven children by Daniel and Mary Fordham. Henry was very active in the Town and the Village and a member of the Democratic party. He was the secretary of the Southampton Village Improvement Association (while Dr. T.Gaillard Thomas was president), he was Secretary of the Southampton Literary Society before being elected president in 1895, and he acted as Southampton Justice of the Peace from 1892 to 1898. He married Harriet Howell Post (b. 1840) in 1860. They had daughter Helen Howell in 1866, and then Henry Post when Harriet was 41 in 1881. Harriet became ill and homebound for nearly seven years before passing away in 1888.[3] Henry then married Caroline A. Bishop (b. 1840) in 1889. In mid-September 1901, Henry and his wife were thrown out of their carriage when their horse was frightened by an automobile. “Both Mr. Fordham and wife were picked up unconscious, bleeding from cuts and bruises.”[4] Two weeks later Henry died and was buried in the Southampton Cemetery. Caroline went on to live until 1926.

During the Fordham’s ownership the house was often rented for the summer season as was and still is a common occurrence.
In 1973 the property was acquired by Fanne Wade Hearst (1916-1986) who was “a model in New York and Paris for various fashion houses.”[5] She was the third wife of John Hearst, the third son of the publishing magnate William R. Hearst. They married in 1938 and had four children together. He died “as a result of an asthmatic condition from which he suffered for 25 years”[6] in the Virgin Islands in 1958. She owned #56 First Neck Lane for 14 years until her death, dying here in Southampton. She gave the home its surviving name today, “Sitting Pretty.”

The current owners are Gary C. Udell and Cheryl L. Sterling. Ms. Sterling is or was recently the President of the Ralph Lauren Womenswear Collection.[7]

Property Owners (present to past):
Cheryl L. Sterling & Gary C. Udell, 1987-present
Fanne Wade Hearst Estate, 1973-1987
George A. McFadden, 1966-1973
Justus Eugene & Ruth V. Requa, 1920-1966
Henry P. & Charlotte P. Fordham
Henry A. Fordham

[1] South Side Signal, Dec. 4, 1875
[2] The Early History of Southampton, L.I., New York with Genealogies, George Rogers Howell, 1887
[3] Sag Harbor Express, Jan. 26, 1888
[4] Suffolk County News, Sept. 13, 1901
[5] New York Times, September 20, 1986
[6] New York Times, November 14, 1958

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