Corrugated Metal House Proposal Sparks Debate

The current house at 8 Wilson Place in the Ninevah neighborhood. Image via Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board
The current house at 8 Wilson Place in the Ninevah neighborhood. Image via Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board

By Christine Sampson

In Ninevah, where residents have had a front-row seat as the demolition and development of new homes has taken center stage as of late, a family’s proposal to replace an older house with a new one featuring a black, corrugated metal exterior was met with critical reviews by Sag Harbor’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review last week.

On behalf of the Sharon Jones Trust, which owns 8 Wilson Place, resident Delia Brennen made a case at the ARB’s July 27 meeting that the black, corrugated metal siding she chose for the house’s exterior “is quite lovely, holds up and is cost effective” as a building material.

“As much as you think it stands out, it almost disappears into the landscape,” Ms. Brennen told the board.

However, ARB chairman Anthony Brandt said he didn’t understand the choice of building material, and said he’d never seen anything like it in his life.

“My immediate problem with it is it doesn’t seem consonant with its environment in the area,” he said. “I live in that area, so I’m familiar with it. The houses are pretty standard houses, typical, traditional, wood-frame siding, cedar shingles.”

But Anne Sherry, the project’s architect, drew attention to the larger context of development lately in Ninevah.

“That neighborhood would be hard to pin down as far as architectural style,” she said, “and all the new stuff going in is a mix.”

According to the property’s building department application, the original house has three bedrooms and three full bathrooms. The new one would have five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms.

“It’s not in-your-face with big dormers and a lot of movement,” Ms. Brennen said. “It’s streamlined and simple.”

The proposed siding has a matte finish. The applicants showed a sample of the material, which did not seem to reassure the board members, who then asked for pictures of sample houses using that material. Ms. Brennen showed them pictures she found online using her cell phone.

ARB members Dean Gomolka and Val Florio, a new member who is an architect himself, suggested Ms. Sherry add other building materials, such as stucco or wood, to soften up what they otherwise thought was an industrial look. Ms. Brennen said she was amenable to the idea of compromise in this way.

Alternate board member Judith Long was the only one who did not directly oppose the design or suggest an alteration.

“I think it’s quite interesting and I think it could be quite a showcase,” she said. “I have nothing against that material. It’s different.”

Mr. Brandt suggested tabling the matter until a modified design could be presented. The board ultimately approved a demolition permit without approving the proposed house and swimming pool.

“It’s a little radical for us to face this type of construction with this black cladding,” Mr. Brandt said. “It’s not that everything is traditional in Sag Harbor, but it tends toward the traditional. It’s going to take a little while for us to get used to this…. Right now, it looks from the design like something that would be fitting in the backyard of a factory.”