The following is in response to Joseph Hanna’s column in the September 25 edition of The Sag Harbor Express
Dear Mr. Hanna:
I would like to respond to your article entitled “From the People Who Brought You Sag Harbor.” The real steering is done by individuals who do things. Doing things involves risk.
You’re absolutely right about those who took risks in Sag Harbor. However, I take umbrage to the fact that in you’re your paragraph of taking us down Main Street in 1964, your first stop is at the American Hotel referred to as a “flop house.”
My family bought the building which was the original home and shop of Nathaniel Tinker, a cabinet maker, in 1877. The times in Sag Harbor were not the best of times, especially after a fire destroyed the entire village that year.
Did my great-great-grandfather Captain William Freeman and his son-in-law, my great-grandfather Addison Youngs take a risk? You bet they did! They took a dilapidated building that was in disrepair and renovated it by installing electric lights, steam heat and state of the art plumbing to make it the finest hotel on the eastern end of Long Island. That was 1877, a year after my grandfather, William H. Youngs was born, and who lived and died at the hotel ninety-four years later.
By 1964 the hotel had seen its day and it had become more of a meeting place in the lobby where people of influence would congregate on Saturday mornings to talk about the village’s “goings on.” I know because I would sit and listen as people like the mayor and others who were friends of Will Youngs would sit and chat. It was an old Sag Harbor at its best and I was just a young college boy listening.
Was 1964 a time of concern? I guess it was; but even with my grandfather Youngs at the hotel, I was also fortunate to have my grandfather Bisgood alive and living on Howard Street. I remember the Hannas who lived down at the foot of Howard Street and, as I recall, in a house that was less than perfect.
In 1970 Will Youngs passed away and I was busy in Connecticut teaching and coaching and Sag Harbor was a thought away. In 1972 I received a call from our family attorney in Sag Harbor saying there was a young man interested in buying the hotel, and he wanted to walk through it. I called my brother-in-law and the two of us drove out on a very cold February morning. The young man waiting to walk through was Ted Conklin, and the three of us took the tour with no heat. As we walked from room to room Mr. Conklin expressed such enthusiasm and had such vision of what he thought he could do with the place we could not believe it, considering the times.
Ted bought the hotel and you’re right, much of the work done was by Ted who, with his own hands, painstakingly and with tender loving care created what today is the centerpiece of the village Main Street..
But the whole point is, he did exactly what Addison Youngs and his father-in-law did in 1877. Today Sag Harbor is what it is today because of people like Ted Conklin who had the vision of what could be.
So, Mr. Hanna, when you go into the hotel and sit at the bar, look at the name on the bar, A.M. Youngs, and think of 1877. In 1964, the Youngs had been there 87 years. The hotel indeed might have needed some work, but never was a “flop house.” And by the way, if you want to raise your glass with me at the hotel, I’ll buy.