Saturday, November 17, 2012

159 Meadowmere Lane - Demolished

Front/South Elevation
The house pictured above has been demolished. It was built in 1897 on Hill Street as the rectory to the Catholic Church and was moved to the northeast corner of Halsey Neck Lane and Meadowmere Lane sometime in the 1960s when the church embarked on building a newer, larger convent for its clergy.


View in 1902 - #159 in the middle of the two church structures.
During the local Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation’s (ARB) review, on March 26, 2012 (see video here: http://www.southamptonvillage.org/boardVideo.asp?flv=ARB_032612.flv), the historic consultant didn’t know of the building’s history and, in fact, estimated its date of construction as circa 1930. Oops, try Queen Anne.  Despite the attorney’s straightforwardness regarding the building’s history, once they all learned that the building had been moved from its original site, they all seemed to agree the house had suffered a fatal blow to its integrity. This, of course, is ridiculous. Across the East End of Long Island, buildings were moved so frequently, so much more than anywhere else in New England, that it’s not at all indicative of a building’s lack of worth, but just the opposite. Here in Southampton, buildings of all different sizes, shapes and uses were considered so useful and practical and adaptable, that they were moved commonly and constantly, even across the ice and to/from other states! It may be a commonly held position in the field of historic preservation in general that once a structure has been moved from its original site it no longer retains any integrity whatsoever, but not in Southampton, and many historic preservation professionals will confirm that. Back to this house, it was built as a house for clergy, then moved to continue being a house. I'll bet if I looked into its ownership, I may even discover that who moved it was an highly regarded member of the congregation.
Side/East Elevation
Also interesting during the ARB’s review, everyone kept referring to the house as a “Four Square.” Wrong again. The Four Square style began to be prevalent all over the country about 1915. Yes, this building shared many similar features: a square plan, a hipped roof with dormers, but it was anything but a Four Square house. It was Queen Anne, a very popular style from about 1880 to 1910 locally. The fact is, its age, architectural detailing, and association with the Catholic Church were plenty to confirm its historic significance and deserving of preservation. Not in this village though, where not even the slightest bit of research seems to go into the review of properties before they are demolished. It took about 10 minutes to bless the demise of this building. Ugh!
Close-up of detailing in decorative gable.
And here’s the kicker: the original garage is safe. Also moved from Hill Street, always associated with the house, and also built in 1897, the garage will be converted into a pool house. Why would parties who have absolutely no value for historic structures whatsoever save the garage? Because it’s in a pre-existing non-conforming location and is probably larger in size than a new accessory structure is allowed to be. So in the end, the garage is more valuable than the rectory. Amazing.


I saw work being done on this site awhile ago and wrongly assumed that the Village of Southampton pretty much had its act together and would never let this historic resource be compromised. When I found out that the building had come down, I actually cried.
I’m at a loss for words. One thing’s for sure, if you own a historic structure (no matter where you live) and you have not protected it, don’t expect anyone else to either. And don’t come crying to me when it’s gone.

For more information about the history of the house, see an old blog post here: http://shvillagereview.blogspot.com/2010/05/6-did-you-know.html.

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