Exploring History With Views and Design

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The 1858 Stephen Sherrill farmhouse on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton is one of five homes located from the Atlantic shore to Gardiners Bay to be featured on the East Hampton Historical Society’s annual house tour on Saturday, November 26. PETER BOODY PHOTO
The 1858 Stephen Sherrill farmhouse on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton is one of five homes located from the Atlantic shore to Gardiners Bay to be featured on the East Hampton Historical Society’s annual house tour on Saturday, November 26.  PETER BOODY PHOTO
The 1858 Stephen Sherrill farmhouse on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton is one of five homes located from the Atlantic shore to Gardiners Bay to be featured on the East Hampton Historical Society’s annual house tour on Saturday, November 26. PETER BOODY PHOTO

By Peter Boody

For years, preservationists lobbied the East Hampton Town Board to buy the Stephen Sherrill house at the foot of Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton and save it as a museum of local farming life.

Worried about operating and maintenance costs, the board balked, leaving the way open for private buyers to acquire the house two years ago.

Some feared the landmark that had anchored the Sherrill dairy farm for much of the 20th century would be gutted or renovated beyond recognition. But it’s still there, sparkling with new paint, refinished floors, overhauled bathrooms and kitchen and some new interior details but structurally unmodified.

On Saturday afternoon, November 26, from 1 to 4:30 p.m., the Greek Revival farmhouse will be open to the public after all, probably for the first time since it was built in 1858 on the foundations of an 18th-century structure that was moved nearby and served as a barn until it was demolished in the 1970s. The 18th-century kitchen still stands as a wing of the house.

Restored for stylish country living by a couple that loves the rural views and rustic feel of the property, the house is no museum of a past life captured in amber. Even so, part of it has been preserved. After Historical Society executive director Richard Barons with a group of preservationists approached the owners with the idea, they agreed to sell an easement to the town that protects the east and south façades — familiar to generations of passersby — from structural alterations.

Historical Society event chairman Joseph Aversano approached them, too, sensing they might be willing to put the house on his annual tour in 2016. They agreed to that as well, one of them telling Mr. Aversano that he hoped the house and its story would inspire visitors to support the Historical Society.

The owners prefer to remain anonymous, as is the tradition with those who offer their houses for the tour. They were not history buffs or drawn to the house because of its age or classic 19th century lines, according to Mr. Aversano. He said its light-filled rooms and its interior “flow” simply enchanted them from the first day they walked in.

“The moment I started speaking with him, I knew he had the bug,” Mr. Aversano said of one of the owners.

“You know what? It was just a feeling,” he told Mr. Aversano. “From the moment I first saw it in October [2014] until we closed on May [2015], I was obsessed with this house.”

The Sherrill farmhouse is just one, albeit the oldest and most historic, of five houses to be featured on this year’s tour, which has stops stretching from south of the highway in East Hampton to Lazy Point on Napeague Bay.

The tour has taken place for 32 years and, in recent years, has become the Historical Society’s most important fund-raiser, attracting about 300 people, according to Mr. Aversano.

It “offers a one-time-only glimpse inside some of our town’s most storied residences,” commented Mr. Barons.

Tickets, at $65 in advance and $75 the day of the tour, are available any time at the society’s website and in person at the society-owned Clinton Academy at 151 Main Street in East Hampton on Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The society also will host an opening night cocktail party at the Maidstone Club at 50 Old Beach Lane on Friday, November 25, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets to the party, which include admission to the house tour, start at $200.

“From sea to bay” is the theme of this year’s tour. On the sea side of the journey, not far from the ocean in East Hampton, visitors will tour a shingle-style revival “cottage” of major proportions designed by Francis Fleetwood that features an interior designed by Tom Samet.

Also in the village, another shingle-style revival — designed by John Laffey — features a light-filled grand foyer, double-height living room, chef’s kitchen, wet bar and dining room.

After a stop up North Main Street to remember the old days at the Sherrill farm, tour goers will head east to visit an original shingle-style house built in 1910 by Devon Colony founder Richmond Levering that features a recent interior makeover.

Further east, a contemporary house on Lazy Point designed by Thierry Pfister offers visitors stunning views of the bay.

For tour goers from Sag Harbor, where 19th-century Greek revival houses abound, the Sherrill house has a hometown connection. Nathaniel Sherrill, who moved the original farmhouse off the foundations to make way for his dream house in 1857, hired Charles A. Glover of Sag Harbor to build it.

Mr. Glover is believed to have worked on the construction of the Old Whalers Church in the 1840s under architect Minard Lafever. During the construction of the Sherrill house, he probably referred to builders manuals that Lafever wrote for Greek revival projects.

 

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Gavin Menu is the sports editor, advertising director and co-publisher of The Sag Harbor Express and Express Magazine. Reach him at gmenu@sagharborexpress.com.

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