Thursday, August 4, 2011

462 First Neck Lane, "Blue Haven"

Have you ever heard about, or noticed, “the house with the blue roof” in Southampton Village? Well it exists, on lower First Neck Lane, and it’s really not so far-fetched. It could have been fuscia afterall.

The house’s name, at least for the past 50 or so years, has been “Blue Haven.” “Blue Haven…was …a fixture on the Southampton social scene in the 50s and 60s, when Lisette and Frank Hunter (1981) painted it blue inside and out and turned [a] basement room …. into a miniature El Morocco.”[1] Mr. Hunter won the Wimbledon tennis championship in doubles (with Bill Tilden) in 1927, “owned a string of newspapers, and was president of 21 Brands for 35 years before he retired in 1962.” At one point even the driveway was blue, “which [Frank] admitted was somewhat gaudy but which he rather liked.”[2]

So the owner of a well-known liquor supplier, like today’s Constellation Brands or bigger, had a facsimile of a well-known night club in his basement and liked to adorn his property with the color blue. Interesting. I have heard of other basement nightclubs in Southampton Village, but none recently. And of course our village always has its share of eccentrics; not a bad thing.

But this property’s history goes much further back and is quite historic. It was originally developed in the late 1800s by the Betts brothers who were among the first to build summer cottages here. I believe “Blue Haven” to be a renovated version of the original home on the property (see 1902 map detail shown below) based on historic maps and aerial imagery, and because the house has similar features to all the other [six] homes they built in Southampton Village, numbers 2 (Golden Rod) and 8 (Sandymount) Gin Lane among them.

Frederic Henry Betts and his brother Charles Wyllys Betts were born in Newburgh, New York to Judge Frederic J. Betts and his wife Mary. They both became lawyers, Frederic becoming particularly successful as a well-know patent expert, and worked together in the same firm for many years. C. Wyllys passed away at the young age of 32. He was unmarried, and gave away his significant holdings of art, furniture, and land to his various relatives. It is his significant collections that is rumored to be the reason they built so many houses, to 'house' it all.

As you can see by the photos, the house is large, but low and sprawling, giving it a nice proportion and scale to its accommodating lot size. I believe, not too long ago, when its most recent renovation was before this village’s Architectural Review Board, the proposed blue tile roof was somewhat controversial. But it must have been convincing for there it is today. The blue driveway though? Gone. Now that must have been something.

[1] The New York Times, August 18, 1987
[2] The New York Times, September 18, 1981


  1. Yes, I have always wondered about the "house with the very blue roof" on First Neck. Thanks for researching its interesting history. Greatly enjoyed your article!

  2. acliffdweller@yahoo.com05 August, 2012

    Is Blue Haven still a single family home ? If so, would you know is Lisa Johnson is still the owner? My interest lie's in your commentary on the El Morocco as we also have some duplicate items from the Club. In an earlier NY Times article it was mentioned that she had 'salvage' some items from the 'basement El Morocco' in Blue Haven.