Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hedge Rows, 484 First Neck Lane

This property is immediately north of The Mallows (with striped awnings, currently owned by television news anchor Chuck Scarborough) and immediately south of Mocomanto, two of at least 10 summer cottages built by the Betts family in the late 1800s. It was located at 484 First Neck Lane and known as "Hedge Rows" but no longer survives. Another home enjoys the site today (beige stucco), overlooking Lake Agawam and owned by David Bohnett. David is the head of his own foundation which strives to "[improve] society through social activism." He previously co-founded an Internet-based media and e-commerce company which was publicly traded on NASDAQ and subsequently acquired by Yahoo!Inc. He is also the Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, a trustee of amfAR and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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.

In 1892 Sarah sold her undeveloped property to Walter George Oakman Sr. (1845-1922), a contemporary to the Betts brothers, and he built a summer cottage.

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.

In 1904 the property was acquired by Alvin W. Krech (1858-1928) who supposedly gave the premises its name, "Hedge Rows," and whose family continued to own the home for the next 51 years. A self-made man, Alvin William Krech was born in Missouri and began his career working for a flour mill but ultimately became a well-known figure in the banking and railroad industry as well as a supporter of the New York Metropolitan Opera and Philharmonic Society. He died suddenly in 1928 of a heart attack while at work. At that time he was the Chairman of the Board of the Equitable Trust Company.

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

Help Save "Antiquity!"

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

The Residence of Mrs. Sarah Lewis

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

The Residence of Samuel Longstreth Parrish

This beautiful Shingle Style home, at 409 First Neck Lane, is currently known as “White Fence” and was designed by McKim, Mead, and White for Samuel L. Parrish in 1889. Featured in the monograph of the well known architectural firm, “The Parrish house illustrates the synthesis of American federalist, Long Island vernacular, high Victorian, and Greek revival elements typical of the later wood houses of McKim, Mead & White, as well as the emerging classicism that characterized all of the firm’s work after 1887. The house is a symmetrical two story structure with a hipped roof and an entry porch which spans the entire front fa├žade and culminates at each end with a round gazebo, above which each second story window is slightly projected. The driveway used to be a half-circle allowing visitors to arrive at the center of the front porch between paired Tuscan columns and a gabled roof with a circular shingle pattern detail. Straight above the entry the eye is drawn to a paneled dormer with paired 8 over 1 double hung windows flanked with Tuscan pilasters and topped with a Chippendale inspired swan-neck pediment open at the top where a turned urn is then inserted. The rest of house’s roof is embellished with brackets at the eave and hipped dormers.

Samuel Longstreth Parrish (1870-1932) is perhaps one of the most recognized historic names in Southampton Village, and rightly so. He was very active in Village life and a great patron of many community endeavors and organizations, the re-envisioning of Shinnecock Hills including the creation of Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, the Art Village, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and of course, the Parrish Art Museum (originally, The Southampton Museum of Art). Samuel was from a Philadelphia Quaker family and was a lawyer who moved to New York in 1877. According to David Goddard, in his wonderful new book, Colonizing Southampton, “Lawyers had become an important professional status group in New York by the 1870s where previously they had gained little serious attention. Now they were closely linked to the ascendant classes that controlled industrial, merchant, and finance capital and had become indispensable in facilitating the legal complexities and dealings of increasingly large corporations.”

Samuel bought the property along with his sister Hetty and his mother Sarah in 1888 from Edward P. and Mary F. Huntting for $5,400. Sarah lived in the house for five years or so until her death in 1895 after which it was rented as a summer cottage until being purchased in by new owners in the 1940s. Samuel himself lived in the Captain Rogers house, now the headquarters of the Southampton Historical Museum.

A carriage house (#395 First Neck Lane) also survives on the property and has since been converted into a residence in its own right. Not long ago, it was approved for demolition because it is not visible from a public right of way but so far it still survives, and hopefully one day soon that will no longer be an acceptable reason to destroy an historic resource.