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 façade 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.

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