Thursday, January 8, 2015

Benjamin F. Howell Residence, 195 Quimby Lane, Bridgehampton - THREATENED

195 Quimby Lane, Bridgehampton: The Benjamin F. Howell Residence
This home was built on Montauk Highway, just east of Norris Lane, in 1840 for Benamin F. Howell (1801-1855) by Benjamin Glover for $2,230. Benjamin Franklin Howell was a fifth generation descendant of Edward Howell, an original setter of Southampton. At that time the estate encompassed a farm that spanned to the north beyond Edgewood cemetery, and to the south across Montauk Highway beyond where the Bridgehampton school is now. 
The home’s symmetrical internal side chimneys allude to its construction around 1800, (the center chimney referring to construction before 1750), and in this case a copy of the original receipt of construction, dated 1840, survives, so we know its date of construction definitively. The William Corwith house at 2368 Montauk Highway, home of The Bridgehampton Museum, is a similar structure.  

The Benjamin F. Howell residence is a two-story tall, five-bay wide, one room deep home with a side gabled roof, center entry and double-hung windows. It is clad in cedar shingles with corner boards and has one and two-story rear extensions. Early surviving photos indicate that the home was originally painted white. Its front entry is paired with sidelights and a transom. 

Benjamin Franklin Howell was a son to the whaling captain Caleb Howell (1761-1841) and this house was built just west of Caleb's. The latter's, however, no longer survives (removed before 1935). The Howells are buried in the old Bridgehampton cemetery, adjacent to the Presbyterian church in the middle of the hamlet's Main Street.  

In the winter of 1982 the Benjamin F. Howell residence was purchased by Wallace and Elise Quimby and moved to 195 Quimby Lane. The move is captured in Geoffrey Fleming’s book, Images of America: Bridgehampton.
In 1874 Edward Everett Quimby (1831-1902), 43 years old, married for sixteen years and having six children, came to Bridgehampton with his family in tow to spend the summer as a renter, proceeding as such for the next 19 years. His wife was Cynthia Ensign Root who came from a musical family similar to the Von Trapps of Austria. An accomplished violinist herself, she was also a relative of the noted songwriter, George Frederick Root (1820-1895), and even more notably, of Elihu Root (1845-1937), “an American lawyer and statesman and the 1912 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.” The Quimby family was so proud of their connection to the Root family that the name continued to be used as a middle name through several subsequent generations.
E. E. Quimby was born in Maine but was known locally as being from East Orange, New Jersey. Professionally he became a successful dealer of lightning rods and a patent lawyer. Lightning rods were attached to buildings to attract the lightning to them rather than to the buildings, thereby supposedly preventing damage to them. In 1969 E. E. wrote a paper on electricity favoring Benjamin Franklin’s theories about positive and negative energy when Franklin’s theory was much less favored than his French contemporary, Charles duFay. By 1879 however, when E. E. was 48 years old, his lightning rod business was being headed by Edward H. Williams, E.E.’s named successor.
In 1893, E. E. bought 32 acres of land from the Bridgehampton Sandford family at the lower end of Ocean Road, between it and Sagg pond, and the next year he bought property adjacent to it and along Ocean Road. Six years later, the first of several eventual Quimby summer cottages was built which marked the slow realization of a family compound that included many amenities for recreational entertainment.
Wallace Lawler Quimby (1925-1996) was a great-grandson of E.E. Quimby.  He grew up in Bronxville, NY and obtained a college degree in administrative engineering before serving with the Army in the Pacific theatre during World War II. Elise was Wallace’s second wife. His first wife (his first cousin, Cynthia Ann Gilbert (Kate Root Quimby Wiley’s daughter; E.E.’s great grand-daughter) died in 1980. 

An application to demolish this home has been submitted to the Town of Southampton by its present owner, Francois deMenil (brother of Adelaide, who has been a tremendous preservation champion in the Town of East Hampton). The home was moved once before, and as I've learned in the past, there is a strong market in Southampton for historic homes available for relocation. Here's hoping someone will come forward, preferably before January 20th, with an interest in obtaining this valuable historic resource.

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