Friday, December 27, 2013

"Cabin Fever" - Smithsonian Magazine

Completely by coincidence (or fate) I read the October issue of Smithsonian magazine over the Christmas holiday and there was a great article about Joseph McGill's Slave Dwelling Project featured inside. I found the article very interesting and very relevent to the Pyrrhus Concer house. Here's the link:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Slave Dwelling Project + Archaeology

I learned about a Facebook page called The Slave Dwelling Project while helping to save the Pyrrhus Concer house from demolition (I am currently reworking that post; stay tuned.). A representative of the National Trust told me about it. A man named Joseph McGill, who's on his way to bringing so much more awareness to communities all over our nation about their slave history, travels around the country sleeping for a night or two in homes previously owned or associated with enslaved people. It is rich with inspiring stories and education. I'm hooked. A recent post highlighted an article by the New York Times about a historic property right here on Long Island, in Lawrence, called Rock Hall. The property has always been popular, but recently, through archaeological investigation, a lot more has been learned about the original family's slave holdings, and how those slaves lived and worked on the property. I'm sure I'm not describing this to sound nearly as interesting as it is, so here are the two links: the first to Joseph McGill's Slave Dwelling Project (!/TheSlaveDwellingProject), and the second to the New York Times article about Rock Hall ( Wouldn't it be terrific if Mr. McGill visited the Pyrrhus Concer homestead one day? And I can't help but wonder how much we would learn at 51 Pond Lane from an archaeological investigation. Happy Reading.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Save the Hallock Estate (aka, the Doscher House)

37 South Main Street, present day. The residence of Dr. David H. Hallock, built in 1886.
In August of 1866, Dr. David H. Hallock bought a three-acre parcel on the west side of South Main Street from Henry and Emily C. Reeve for $1,800 with the homestead of Capt. Philetus Pierson to the south, Lake Agawam to the west, and other land of the Reeves to the north.

Dr. David Horace Hallock (1821-1887) was born in Southold, the place of origin of the Hallock family of Long Island. He was considered, however, Southampton Village’s first doctor. While practicing near where he grew up with his family, in Laurel, he was “called” to Southampton, which was without a physician. He built a house on South Main Street and the family remained in Southampton where his grandson…also became a prominent doctor.” (Southampton, Cummings, 1996) His house still survives at 37 South Main Street. It is a five-bay wide, two-story structure with a side-facing gable roof accented with decorative brackets along the deep, overhanging eaves, and a front, centered, slightly projecting, cross-gable with a steep pitch. A pair of narrow, round-top windows are centered in the second story of the front cross gable, with a round window above and the main entrance centered below. The home is now clad with painted asbestos shingles and rests on a stone foundation.

There is a terrific aerial view taken about 1900 available on the Village’s website which depicts this entire estate, from street to lake. See below:
Aerial view of the northeast corner of Lake Agawan, about 1900, showing the entire Hallock estate, and neighboring buildings.
In this aerial view we can see that the current front porch is a modification, done in the Craftsman style, probably in the 1920s. Before then the house had a full-width front porch with a shallow cross-gable marking the center entry. The house was also originally painted with a color scheme accentuating the molding and trimwork. Interestingly, there were also twin internal brick chimneys which now no longer exist. Behind the house was a sizeable barn (which still survives as a garage/apartment). Then further back, and on the same property, another house near the lake.

In 1887 Dr. Hallock’s health began to deteriorate, leading to his death the same year. He was such a dedicated physician, it was said that he tended to his patients as long as he could, only retiring near death. Dr. Hugh Halsey (1863-1940), of Bridgehampton, replaced him.
37A South Main Street; the lakeside Hallock house.
After Dr. Hallock’s death, the property passed to his son George Horace Hallock (1845-1921). Around the turn-of-the century, George built a house on the property near the lake, what we all refer to today as the “Doscher” house, which still exists at 37A South Main Street (I’ll explain the name in a minute). The house is architecturally similar to the main house at the front of the property, except that it is turned so that its primary fa├žade faces north. It is a two-story structure, approximately five bays wide, with a side facing gable roof and a front cross-gable. It is clad in painted cedar shingle siding, has a brick foundation and two-over-two double hung windows throughout. The fascia boards along the eaves of the house are particularly charming. They have lovely little profiled ends which are repeated at the peak of the east gable end and also on a projected crown cap of the east attic window.

The Hallock family was among the “wealthiest and most influential” in Southampton Village. Although subdivided, this property, with all three original buildings dating between 1886-1900, survive. The front house and garage/barn are presently for sale.

The entire property was sold by the Hallock family in 1907 to Eliza A. and Alice M. Lye, mother and daughter who immigrated to the United States along with other family members from England in the late 1890s. After living first in New York City, the family headed east, made themselves at home in the front house, and quickly turned the rear home into a popular saloon. At first it was known as “The Edgemere,” then later, as a play on the name Lake Agawam, the building was called the “Mawaga Club.” Mawaga is Agawam spelled backwards.

Unfortunately, the Lyes were almost instantly in trouble. Old newspaper articles from late 1907 document Alice and her brother William as being severely fined for selling liquor, and William spent at least 60 days in jail. In 1917, just before Prohibition would be in full effect nationally, Alice lost her liquor license along with other local establishments as part of the Excise Board’s efforts to cut down on “trafficking in liquors,” and boy was Alice angry.  She threatened to get back at the board by subdividing her property into as many parcels as possible and rent them all out to Polish and African American families, something that, at the time, would have been very upsetting to the quiet neighborhood character. I’m sure the saloon operation must have been upsetting regardless. Alice’s anger subsided however, and she did not subdivide the property. She eventually married her hotel manager/barkeeper, Ernest Extance, and went on quietly enjoying the old Hallock estate she finally sold it in 1951, around the time of her death I think.

Alice’s estate sold the front parcel to Mr. and  Mrs. John M. Johnson Jr. in 1951, and the rear parcel to Mr. and Mrs. Ned Doscher in 1953, thus explaining the current “name” of the rear property. In September of 2005, Southampton Town and Southampton Village bought the rear parcel from the Doscher family with the intention of expanding the adjacent Agawam Park. Brilliant!

Eight years have now gone by, however, without any progress, decisions, or adaptive reuse taking place on the site. Now people are talking about the poor condition of the structure, but its poor condition can be attributed to the lack of life there for so long, and to the village and town frankly. It's even been mentioned that the building was once a brothel. Good heavens. Maybe that was something that went on there during the first ten years of Alice’s ownership, but that’s just a small part of the property's history. Ten years doesn’t ruin the integrity, value or historic merit of an original 127 year old resource, does it?

The property was purchased with Community Preservation Funds (CPF), a fund which is accumulated by a 2% tax every time a property is sold within the Town of Southampton. The CPF is a good thing, but when it is associated with historic structures, many restrictions dictate how that structure can be used going forward.

I, of course, would love to see the property adaptively reused and continue to contribute its part of the narrative history of Southampton Village’s original architectural development. A colleague/friend and I discuss the property regularly. We wonder, what about it becoming a sort of annex/satellite of the ever popular and successful Southampton Youth Services (SYS) venue in North Sea? There could be a pool and/or ice-skating rink, after school programs, canoe/kayak lake access, and the old Hallock house could accommodate indoor activities, administrative functions, and programs for youth and seniors when the weather prohibits outdoor fun. Doesn’t it make so much sense? It's inline with the original acquisition intention, saves a historic structure, and brings SYS programs to Lake Agawam! I would reach out to SYS myself but it's not my place, and would be better done by a Village employee. What if SYS isn't interested? Maybe there are a group of people that would be interested in forming a similar, but smaller and complementary, not competitive, not-for-profit athletic/youth/senior facility. Those people might be right here in the community, or maybe they are at SYS and would be interested in a spin-off, with SYS's blessing. 

Here’s a monkey wrench: look again at that 1900 aerial view. Immediately east of the Hallock lakeside house (Club Mawaga), across the driveway from the Hallock barn/garage (to the south) is a very precious historic resource that is privately owned and deteriorating before our very eyes. That is none other than Fairfield Porter’s former barn/studio and it won’t be long before it essentially just falls down. (If you don’t know who Fairfield Porter was, Google his name. He was a great American painter that lived next door at 49 South Main Street for many years and created many paintings from views from his house, studio and lawn.) If only that could be saved as part of this effort……but that building is a whole separate issue for discussion some other time.

If you think the Hallock property should be adaptively reused, let the Village trustees know as soon as possible. It’s been eight years, but time is running out.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Another Original Carriage House Slated for Demolition

477 First Neck Lane, Present; the carriage house formerly associated with "The Rushes," which still survives immediately in front of this property.
The structure at 477 First Neck Lane was originally constructed as the carriage house and grooms quarters associated with the summer cottage named “The Rushes,” built about 1886 for James Francis Ruggles (1827-1895). The carriage house is now located on a flag lot behind “The Rushes,” the original 5.5 acre property being subdivided about 1982. 

483 First Neck Lane, "The Rushes." Built in 1887 for James Francis Ruggles
James F. Ruggles was a New York City attorney and the son of Samuel Bulkley Ruggles (1800-1881) a New York City lawyer and politician and also a member of the NYC Chamber of Commerce and the New York State Assembly in 1838. In 1874 he married Grace Baldwin, daughter of Harvey Baldwin, who was the first Mayor of the city of Syracuse, New York in 1848. Ruggles purchased the property for $1,600 in October of 1885 after the former owner defaulted on his mortgage. Ruggles died in 1895. In November 1902 his widow, Grace Baldwin Ruggles, married her second husband, Henry Meyer Johnson, and continued to own the estate until her death. Henry Meyer Johnson (1856-1907) was an attorney and the son and grandson of wealthy sugar plantation owners of Louisiana. Henry’s job was to manage the family’s estate.

483 First Neck Lane, 1977, Courtesy of NY SHPO
From 1932 to 1934 (and perhaps longer, cottage lists from 1929-1931 are unavailable) the estate was leased for the summer by Finley Peter Dunne Sr. (1867-1936) a writer of several books under the pen name of Martin Dooley, an editor at the Chicago Times, and an editor and owner of The American Magazine. His wife, Margaret Ives Abbot (1882-1955) was the first American woman Olympic golf champion.

Margaret Ives Abbott, 1900
In 1937 the estate of Mrs. Ruggles Johnson sold the property to Eugene Pitou Jr. (1883-1956). During his ownership the property was called “Adare.” Eugene Pitou Jr. was the son of a Standard Oil executive and an owner of an innovative scaffolding company based in New York City.
In 1950 the estate was acquired by Joseph Ansbro Meehan (1917-1972) and his wife “Kay” Sullivan Meehan (1919-2011). Joseph ran the family owned Good Humor Ice Cream Corporation. About1982 the property was subdivided into the front and rear parcels but still owned by the family. In 1995 the property’s title was in Joseph and Kay’s daughter’s name: Marcia M. Schaeffer. In 1997 Marcia sold the front parcel. As of this year, her daughter Georgina now maintains ownership of the carriage house parcel.
As was commonly the case, the large carriage house on the subject property was designed as a miniature version of the main house. It is a two-story structure with gambrel roof and center chimney clad in cedar shingles. Additions to each end and some modifications of the original fenestration have been made over the years but the original volume remains intact with a high level of integrity. Other surviving examples of similar estates still exist, such as the one associated with Samuel L. Parrish at 409 First Neck Lane just to the north, and the property immediately south of the subject estate. Since no one is driving around in carriages anymore, the adaptive reuse of their carriage houses has enabled their long-term survival.

The whole of “The Rushes” estate survives today in excellent condition. Yes, the property has been subdivided into two parcels and the carriage house has been converted into a residence, but together they are intact as a surviving original summer cottage property. 477 First Neck Lane is also in a historic district. If it weren’t, by itself it satisfies 3 of the 5 criteria for consideration as an individual landmark and retains a high level of integrity.

In July 2013 all existing structures at 477 First Neck Lane were approved to be demolished.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Southampton Historical Museum's Annual House Tour is Coming Up!

Lots of organizations in the Hamptons host house tours during the season, and they are all great. But this one is wildly popular, always has terrific homes, and of course, it's for a very worthy cause. I am a big fan of the Southampton Historical Museum! (Their archives collection is priceless!)

On Saturday, May 11, 2013, participants in the “4th Annual Tour of Southampton Homes: An Insider’s View” will have the opportunity to experience a half dozen extraordinary houses that illustrate Southampton’s unique architectural history - from Colonial times to the present.

This year’s tour boasts a quintessential Queen Anne located on one of Southampton’s most picturesque Village streets, a turn-of-the-century architectural treasure featuring a turreted tower, an immense porch and widow’s walk. Among the highlights are a farmhouse built for the Post family sometime before 1858, and a handsome European- style home featuring stylish interiors assembled with flair and confidence. No tour of Southampton homes would be complete without a renovated whaling captain’s retreat. In addition, Saint Andrew’s Dune Church and the Thomas Halsey House (built in 1662) will be open. The 1708 House (built in 1651 and enlarged several times) will provide refreshments and a tour of its facility from 12:30 to 3:00 pm.

The “Insider’s View” takes place from 1:00 to 4:30 pm on Saturday May 11th, and is followed by a Champagne Reception and Art Exhibit Preview at the Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton from 4:30 to 6:00 pm. Tickets are $75 in advance or $90 the day of the tour. It’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Wouldn't tickets make a great Mother’s Day gift?

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Rogers Mansion’s Museum Shop, 17 Meeting House Lane in Southampton, by calling (631) 283-2494 or going online to  Tickets will be available for pick-up on Tuesday, May 7 through Friday, May 10 at the Rogers Mansion. On Saturday, May 11 - the day of the tour - tickets can be picked-up or purchased at the Thomas Halsey House, 249 South Main Street, Southampton. Proceeds from this event benefit the Southampton Historical Museum's educational programs.

Fingers crossed for great weather!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Barn Question: Tower Purpose?

One of the Surviving Barns at 300 Pleasure Drive, Flanders; East Elevation
No, this barn is not in the Village of Southampton. There may be a few rural outbuildings surviving in this over-developed summer colony, but not many. But yes, once again I am writing about something outside Southampton Village. Should I start a seperate blog? That sounds like double the work......hmmm. Unless you all start shouting that you mind, I'm going to "stay the course," and keep doing what I'm doing.

Back to the subject at hand: a very interesting barn in the hamlet of Flanders. This barn is one of several surviving agricultural buildings on what was at least a 15 acre farm a long time ago, and only very briefly.  It is situated on Pleasure Drive, a road which connects Flanders to East Quogue and Westhampton. Originally (or, a long time ago), the property was owned by the Benjamin family. In 1945, Mrs. Ida Benjamin sold the property to Mr. Adrian Allan of Westhampton. Allan had been a NYC stock brocker and decided to have a go at farming - potatos and cauliflower specifically. He failed miserably after giving it his best for a couple of years, maybe because the soil just wasn't suited for it at that location - who knows. So he regrouped and tried again, this time turning the whole operation into a woodwork mill.

South Elevation
The business was almost instantly a success, and expanded rapidly afterwards, even selling wares to NYC department stores. It was known as "Flanders Mill Inc.," and made a wide variety of things, such as common lumber items and trim work, to cabinetry and housewares, like bowls and ashtrays.  Nowadays the property contains other large, contemporary wharehouse type buildings and operates as a top-notch art storage facility.

My question is, why did the barn have a tower? It is a three-story, multi-level, wood-frame structure on a concrete block foundation with a gambrel roof.....and a tall, square tower with a balcony and railing at the top. Was it a lookout to enjoy the Pine Barrens view? Did it house the machinery of a vertical band saw? Did it collect saw dust that could then be drop-loaded into trucks? Or was a water tank somehow involved in the millwork process? These are the questions I pose to you. If you Google the term "barns with towers" you will, of course, see a lot of silos. If you use the term "mill tower" you will, of course, see a lot of windmills. This was neither, and not so terribly old either, maybe circa 1910. Any guesses?

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Quit...

After four years, more or less, I'm done. The business of historic preservation out here in the hamptons has thoroughly exhausted me and I am finally throwing in the towel. I've been overwhelmed for some time, and feeling very alone in my efforts to promote preservation in Southampton and defeat the many myths ingrained in the public mindset. Not to mention the fact that you can hardly make a living at it!

This is what really pushed me over the edge. I was recently researching one of the oldest surviving structures in Southampton Village and went to Rogers Memorial Library to look at a book called Manor Houses and Historic Homes of Long island and Staten Island, by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, published in 1928. While looking for something completely different, this is what I found:

“Although the Village of Southampton was one of the earliest settled places in Suffolk, the visible evidences of this antiquity have been overlaid, to a great extent, by the effects of modern popularity as a social nucleus of the surrounding region. Many of the oldest houses have disappeared, while others have been so altered or so added to that their original quality is not at once evident. With the disappearance or disguise of so many of the ancient dwellings, the highly interesting historic character of the village has been somewhat obscured. .... When one sees the houses that still represent Southampton’s early days, one deeply regrets that the village could not have preserved its pristine appearance unchanged.”
Eighty-five years later and here we are, saying the same thing. I know history repeats itself, but wow, haven't we made even the slightest headway?


No, I'm not quitting, not even close. I am just as committed to historic preservation on the East End as I ever have been, and even more so. I really did, however, come across that passage last week at the library and pause. It still rings true today and that's depressing. But I am proud of my [few] accomplishments over the past years in the field of historic preservation (myth busting, landmark designations, code changes, a book, etc.), and have many more goals to accomplish before I'll ever think of quitting. I only hope that I can inspire others to join me - here or elsewhere - as there is much work still to do.

Happy April/Spring Everyone!
(p.s. I'm not much of a prankster, as you may be able to tell.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

43 North Sea Road - Tate's Bake Shop

Nestled in a tiny little building as one approaches the heart of Southampton Village’s great shopping area is the wonderful, and nationally known, Tate’s Bake Shop. It took me awhile, but eventually as I stood in line one morning to buy a cup of coffee and gazed at all the baked goodies, I stopped and wondered, “What’s the history behind this place?”

My research suggests that the structure was built on this site around the turn of the 20th century but it sure could be older, maybe even moved to this site. It’s strong corner pilasters and windows along the eaves alude to the Greek Revival period, popular locally 1840-1880.

Before 1889, the property was owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Adams (b.1843). She was an African American woman, and a widow to William Adams who had been employed as a farm hand. Elizabeth lived on the property and earned income as a laundress operating out of a seperate building there, which may have been the long rectangular little building along the southern property line which still exists.

In 1889 Elizabeth Adams sold the property to Harriet A. Anderson, another African American woman. “Hattie” and Elizabeth were related, both to each other and cousins of Pyrrhus Concer (1814-1897), the now well-known freed local slave that made a name for himself as a whaler and taking people on boat rides on Lake Agawam (see Mary Cumming’s lovely article about him on Patch here: The property soon after passed to Henry B. and Mosalena “Lena” Anderson (of Poughkeepsie, NY) and was even owned briefly by the second Polish family to arrive in Southampton Village, that of Joseph and Julia Buttanowicz.

From 1912-1918 William L. and Bertha V. (Fanning) Donnelly owned the property – he was a builder. From 1918-1920 it was owned by Francis A. and Jeanette A. Hamilton – he worked for the telephone company.

For the next fifty-one years 43 North Sea Road was owned by the Napiorski family, specifically Helen, Chester and Alice. Chester too was a builder. I think Chester Jr. may have been the principal of the Tuckahoe school district in the 1940s. Another Napiorski, Clement, was a local police officer.

In 1971 the property was purchased by Michael Capo and Michael Louis who ran an antique business, and in 1983 Kathleen N. King bought it. Kathleen is a daughter of Richard “Tate” King, of the locally beloved North Sea farming family. He participated in a local history interview along with four other farming fellows this winter put together by the Southampton Historical Museum and Rogers Memorial Library. It was wonderfully informative and entertaining and taught listeners that his nickname “Tate” came from being referred to growing-up as “little tater” or little potato after his small size and the crops they grew. The interview was video-taped also, and I believe those are available to the public.

That day when, instead of focussing on Kathleen King’s extraordinary array of baked goods, my curiosity took over wondering about the property, I asked one of the regular employees if she new the original use of the building and she thought it had been a restaurant. I found no evidence of that, but if anyone knows differently, please let me know!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A "Must-Read"

Young and hip preservationists in Buffalo, NY are sharing the love of old buildings worth saving! Very inspiring. Think it could ever happen here? Hope so!

Saturday, February 2, 2013


The Inn at Quogue (Hallock House), 2010
Once again I am writing about a subject outside of Southampton Village, but again, I just can’t help myself. Many of this blog’s readers will know of the building, the Inn at Quogue, by name. What you may not know is that it WAS a historic structure; originally a farmhouse built in 1824, by 1870 it was thought of as Quogue’s “first real hotel.” It was run by John Dayton Hallock and accommodated many summer visitors when the Long Island Rail Road made the Hamptons so accessible.

Has anyone noticed that it has slowly and steadily been destroyed over the past four months or so? While the owners said in October ( they were going to restore it, and even posted a sign on the site saying they were going to seek State and/or National Register Listing for the RESTORED structure, there is only – maybe – a stick or two of its original fiber left. And who’s behind this destruction? Those who you would believe to be at the forefront of any and all preservation movements in the Village of Quogue, including the higher-ups in their local historical society. Has the public been deceived? It sure seems like it.
The Inn at Quogue (Hallock House), January 2013.
I’m sure we will all soon hear the same old argument, that they had no choice: there was too much rot, too much infestation, too much this or that. I say, where there’s a will there’s a way. In this case, however, that will was obviously weak, and the so-called Quogue preservationists seemed to succumb easily to the idea of letting it go. But instead of tearing it down outright, they carefully dismantled it. And now, as we drive by, all we see is new framing and new sheathing.  The old Hallock House is gone.  Hello Reproduction. (Goodbye state/national register listing.)
I can’t help but wonder if this was deliberate because, unfortunately, I’ve seen it too many times before. It’s almost obvious from the beginning. But because you want to believe, so much, that the building will be saved, will be restored, and will – ultimately – be this shining, great example of the positive effects of a great preservation project (like the Abraham Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton – despite how you may feel about the new accessory buildings), you even persuade yourself, while watching more and more of the original building be removed, that – at any moment now – the progress of the work will turn toward what seems more like restoration and reconstruction, and less like destruction. That, however,  never happened.
This is the same village that asked me to speak with them less than a year ago about toughening their local preservation ordinance. Ha! This is the same village that allowed their historic field club – the work of Stanford White – to be demolished! I’d like to believe that the Town of Southampton is on the verge of finally swinging over to the side of believing that historic preservation in general is a good thing. In  Quogue, now, I believe the opposite. Too bad, for it is ripe with historic structures begging, pining even, for protection.

A Vintage Image of the Hallock House, Quogue Library Collection

Today is Ground Hog Day. Remember that movie with Andie McDowell and Bill Murray where the day kept repeating over and over until he had successfully won her heart? Maybe all of this destruction never happened and we’ll wake up tomorrow to find the Hallock House right back where it always was, well-maintained, proudly owned, and being carefully stewarded into the future for the benefit of the community. No? Harrumph.

Monday, January 21, 2013

One of My All-Time Favorite Quotes

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King Day!