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: http://southampton.patch.com/articles/john-scott-was-a-charming-charlatan-2#c).


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.

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