Historic Sag Harbor Church on the Market Again

The former United Methodist Church in Sag Harbor is on the market again.
The former United Methodist Church in Sag Harbor is on the market again.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Sag Harbor’s former United Methodist Church, which art dealer Sloan Schaffer purchased from Elizabeth Dow, a textiles and wall covering designer, in 2013 for $4 million, is back on the market, this time with a far heftier asking price of $23.5 million.

Gary DePersia, a broker with the Corcoran Group, said he had been placing “teaser ads” in local real estate publications before officially putting the building back on the market about two weeks ago.

“It’s going to lend itself to someone who wants something very unique, very contemporary,” he said, adding that the nearly sixfold increase in the asking price over just two years represents both the investment Mr. Schaffer is putting into the reconstruction of the building as well as a robust market for high-end properties in the village.

When he purchased the property, Mr. Schaffer said he wanted to make it his family home, but Mr. DePersia said, “he just figured we’re not coming out to the Hamptons as much as we thought we would” and decided to test the market.

Until recently the building was crawling with workers, like sailors in a whaling ship’s rigging, but since June, the site has been mostly quiet, with little sign of life, spurring rumors that Mr. Schaffer had abandoned the project because of financial difficulties.

On Tuesday, in response to an emailed query, Mr. Schaffer denied that work had come to a halt. “We have increased the overall scope of the project and are waiting for these architectural changes to be incorporated into the working set of drawings for construction, and this takes time,” he said. “In fact, much work as progressed, however mostly inside the structure, out of sight from public view.”

Paul Masi, of Bates Masi Architects, the Sag Harbor firm Mr. Schaffer hired to reimagine the former church space, said this week, “we are working away on it. He is going to build it. Whether he lives in it or sells it remains to be seen.”

“We love the building. It’s been a project of passion for us. It’s such a special place, and for Sag Harbor and its residents too,” Mr. Schaffer added in a second email on Wednesday. “We would only sell if we found the perfect buyer and decided to spend less time in Sag. Until then, we are finishing the residence and plan to enjoy it and spend as much time here as we possibly can.”

Mr. Masi said many of the changes the firm is working on were tweaks to the layout of the interior to “to appeal to a broader market.” Those changes include things like larger bathrooms and closets, but no major redesigns, he said.

The building includes three floors of living area spread over some 13,000 square feet and a fourth-story bell tower with views over the village and waterfront.

“People are very interested in the project,” said Mr. Bates, noting that as an architect it was a unique challenge to convert such a huge open space into a home.

The church was originally built in 1835 on High Street. In 1864 it was moved to Madison Street and rebuilt. The congregation of the United Methodist Church, facing rising maintenance costs and a shrinking population, sold the church to former Southampton Town Councilman and Goldman Sachs partner Dennis Suskind, who wanted to convert it into his home, for $2.4 million in 2008, according to Mr. DePersia.

Mr. Suskind abandoned that idea and sold the property to Ms. Dow for $2.1 million in 2011, and she pursued plans to convert the space into her design studio. But Mr. Schaffer pursued the property, convincing Ms. Dow to sell it him for $4 million early in 2013.