Saturday, February 2, 2013

WHAT IS GOING ON IN QUOGUE???

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 (27east.com) 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.

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