Monday, May 28, 2012

Lots of Activity on Walnut Street

There is a lot happening on Walnut Street these days. It must be one of the shortest streets in the Village, but there are several properties either for sale or applying for permits. Walnut Street is a very charming little village street, with very light traffic and great historic character, located just behind (east) the Main Street downtown area. If you are someone who likes to tool around town on a bicycle, this is the street for you! Several of the properties along Walnut Street however, are having work done, or are in the process of getting approvals for work. Numbers 71, 57, 54 (above right), and 64 (above left) are some of those properties.

Over Memorial Day weekend I drove down Walnut Street on my way home after enjoying breakfast with my family on Main Street. I couldn’t miss that the lots of numbers 54 and 64 had been completely cleared and wondered what was going on. I’m not quite certain of the answer but have learned that, along with 67 Meetinghouse Lane, all three parcels were considered one, having been merged over time, and owned by Donald D. Flodin. 1895 Map Below.

Donald was a Southampton Village resident for 25 years and passed away in 2010. Now, the lots are being re-subdivided (October 2011 ZBA). I don’t know what the plans are beyond that, but two of the three homes are definitely historic and all of them are located within a historic district, supposedly requiring the most restrictive review process. 54 Walnut maintains the highest degree of architectural integrity (beautiful two-over-two double hung windows, nice overall proportion, attractive wrap-around porch, porch columns, and porch brackets), while 67 Meetinghouse Lane is the oldest structure.  The history of these parcels, and the man likely behind their original development, is – not surprisingly – very interesting. 1902 Map Below.

Walnut Street was laid out sometime between 1873 and 1895, and it appears that the developer of these three parcels may have been Henry Post Norton (1860-1908). He was a native of Bridgehampton, and one of three children born to Chauncey Warren Norton (1837-1925) and Harriet Scott (1842-1894). Harriet was one of four children born to Lewis Scott (1801-1888) and Sophia Fournier (1802-1888). 1916 Map Below.

“Throughout the nineteenth century,” the proprietors of the town of Southampton “were dominated by four families: the Roses of North Sea and Bridgehampton, the Fosters, the Posts, and (after 1860) the Scotts, or more precisely, Lewis Scott, again of North Sea and the wealthiest landowner and the largest tax payer in Southampton. All four had their roots in the 1650s or earlier. Roses, Fosters, and Posts had early established themselves as important families whose members were constantly in one public office or another, whereas Lewis Scott was a descendant of one of the most intriguing and disreputable figures in early colonial history, Colonel John Scott, a speculator and shape shifter of almost heroic proportions.” (Colonizing Southampton, David Goddard, 2011; For more fascinating history about Col. John Scott, see Mary Cummings’ article on Patch, here:

In 1888, the same year that his wealthy grandfather died, Henry P. Norton married Eliza (“Lida”) J. (b.1861). Her surname is unknown - Jagger maybe? They did not have any children together and after Henry’s death in 1908, Lida remarried, becoming Mrs. G. Barr. Sadly, Henry died just shy of his 50th birthday. What makes this even more sad, besides 50 being a young enough age (at least today), was that he was to inherit in the neighborhood of $50,000 and potentially other land holdings, from his deceased grandfather Lewis upon his 50th birthday! What an odd age to set for an inheritance, right? But even though he died just shy of his 50th year, as it turns out, he inherited anyway, just not all of what he would have if he had lived.

As you can imagine, there was a great fight that followed between Lida, the [greedy] widow, and the surviving Scotts and Nortons for Henry’s inheritance. After settling the debate about whether or not Lida had been, actually, Henry’s wife, she was awarded a portion of his inheritance. Ultimately, a separate provision in Lewis’ will allowed for Henry to receive the income from the $50,000 while ‘waiting’ to turn 50 (Wouldn’t it be great to be rewarded for turning 50?), and then throughout his lifetime. “In other words, it was contended that the gift was absolute to Norton upon the death of his grandfather and that the time for the payment of the balance was simply deferred.” The judge agreed. (Sag Harbor Express, April 6, 1909) She also got the properties on Meetinghouse Lane and Walnut Street, as evidenced by the map produce by Belcher & Hyde in 1916.

As previously mentioned, 67 Meetinghouse Lane (immediately above) was built first between 1873-1894, then 54 Walnut Street (2nd above 67 MHL) about 1895, then 64 Walnut (above 67 MHL) sometime after 1932. As this is a multi-family zoning district, all of them were eventually cut up into and used as apartment buildings.  All of them, have also had many additions and changes made to them over the years. However, I would hope, at the least, that 54 Walnut Street, and 67 Meetinghouse Lane would be rehabilitated rather than demolished. They both maintain great architectural harmony within the neighborhood, are good sizes by today’s standards for year-round or summer homes, and help narrate the evolution of the village. They have survived many years and many lives within them, and they have many more years – with some ‘TLC’ – to offer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Before & After 9, 10 and 11

Here are some new 'Before & After' images of changes around town for you. I am refraining from making any comments about whether or not these are improvements or tragedies and will defer to you all to have your own opinions, without my influence.

Today's 9th 'Before & After' is at 260 Hill Street. Above is a photo of the front of the house taken in March of 2011. It is a common house type from the 1920s-30s that occur all over the village, but which are quickly disappearing. Some have been renovated and added onto instead of being demolished, so the type won't completely disappear altogether, which is good.

Below is the new house at 260 Hill Street. It is not quite finished, but I thought I'd snap a quick photo before the hedges go in along the front!  I haven't included any context, which I believe one should always take into consideration when opining about whether any work of architecture is a success. I will try to find the time to add photos of the houses on each side in the next day or so.

Today's 10th 'Before & After' is 200 Little Plains Road. Below is an image of the home taken in April of 2011. The house to the immediate south (right) was its virtual twin, and others in the vicinity share a lot of similarities.

Below is a photo of 200 Little Plains Road taken this past February. Again, it's not quite finished, but the overall form is complete enough, in my opinion, to determine whether or not this is an improvement.

Finally, today's 11th 'Before & After' is at 31 Huntting Street. Below is a photograph of the street view taken in August of 2010. This is the same type of house as the first (9th) example above, at 260 Hill Street except its front porch has not been enclosed. My old neighbor, who moved away to Florida awhile ago, used to live in a very similar house, before it was torn down and replaced. (Hmm, I see that doing a 'Look-Alikes' about this house type might be interesting one of these days!)

The photo below is 31 Huntting Street under renovation, and nearly complete except for landscaping, taken in January of this year. It's hard to tell it's the same house, isn't it?

The house's hierarchy is confusing - it's as if the front twin gables are fighting with the larger side gable for superiority. The attic level shed dormer is too high, and the three-over-one light cuts are interesting, but two-over-one would have been more traditional and contextually appropriate. It's nice that they chose to renovate though, instead of demolish.

I guess I couldn't resist inserting a bit of my own opinion in there somewhere! Ha! Oh well.

Stay tuned for the next post, about the thrilling discovery of an old surviving village schoolhouse on Halsey Street!