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.)