Howell House Displays History and Elegance

The Nathaniel P. Howell House at 238 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Gordon M. Grant photo
The Nathaniel P. Howell House at 238 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Gordon M. Grant photo

By Michelle Trauring

The Nathan P. Howell house is unarguably remarkable — the largest residence on Captain’s Row in Sag Harbor by far, and a rare example of period architecture, with original wide-plank floors, double-hung sash windows, shutters, moldings and nine black marble mantles.

It has a grandeur and a graciousness that harkens back to another time — 1833, to be exact — when the whaling industry ruled the village, and wealthy captains were the celebrities.

Walking through the front door and into the entry parlor, Mark Baron can feel that history and the grand scale that came with it, as his eyes skimmed over the nearly 11-foot ceilings and the large windows that flood the house with light.

“It is the best of the best,” said the Brown Harris Stevens listing agent, who is representing the home alongside Jane Babcook and Eve Gianni. “There’s very few historical homes of this caliber that remain, let alone one that you can live in that’s been restored so lovingly.”

An entryway at the Nathaniel P. Howell House. Gordon M. Grant photo

Though the house was originally built in a Greek revival style, Howell — the scion of a affluent whaling family — enlarged and renovated the house at the height of his prosperity in 1850, adding an Italianate extension that made it one of the largest homes on the entire East End at the time.

Located at 238 Main Street, the house changed hands when Howell’s daughter, Laura, inherited the property, thus beginning a tradition that would keep the home in the family well into the 1970s.

It would sell for the first time in 1997 to Nancy Richardson, who then sold in 2014 to Richard Demato of RJD Gallery, originally in Sag Harbor and now located in Bridgehampton — a transaction that made headlines as “record-breaking.”

“Richard was the perfect buyer for the house because he understood the architectural integrity and how important it was to have the relevant restoration,” Baron said. “Because he understood that, when he did the renovation, he never lost the essence of the history of the house. He brought all the modern amenities that everybody wants in this day and age.”

With more than 10,000-square-feet of living space spread across four levels, the seven-bedroom, eight-and-a-half-bathroom manse now features an epicurean kitchen, long overdue lighting fixtures and additional closets, as well as new electric and HVAC systems. The 1.1-acre parcel also includes a four-bay, climate-controlled garage and art studio, fit with a full bath and kitchenette.

“It took six months to get the house in shape. It was a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of money,” Demato said. “I haven’t really disturbed any of the history of the house, other than taking one of the smaller bedrooms and making it into a master bedroom changing room, because the house needed that. It’s difficult to live out of armoires today. The prior owner basically hung all of her clothes in the attic, and used the elevator that goes to all four floors — she put hooks in there — the move her clothing when she needed it. I prefer just to walk into the bedroom next door.”

Historic detail remains all around the property. Gordon M. Grant photo

Demato has always found himself attracted to historic homes, he said, and while it isn’t easy to sell the Nathan P. Howell house so soon, he misses the ocean.

“Since 1985, I’ve lived on the water, and that’s why the house is on the market. I’ll definitely stay on the East End — I have an art gallery and I’m involved with three charities, and I’ve put a lot of energy into developing a network of friends — but I need access to a beach,” he said.

“The house is fantastic, the village is fantastic, but I want to be back on the water. I didn’t realize how much I would miss it, quite frankly. It’s what I need to do.”

For more information about the Nathan P. Howell house, which is exclusively listed with Brown Harris Stevens for $18.75 million, please visit