On behalf of the Board of Save Sag Harbor, I am writing in response to Doug Feiden’s excellent story about proposed alterations to the L’Hommedieu house on Main Street (August 18th), which was informative and alarming. The architect’s ideas represent an insensitive and unnecessary assault on one of the most highly visible, significant, beautiful, commodious and unique houses in our village.
This iconic structure has an important architectural and cultural heritage in Sag Harbor’s history. It is an examplar of the Greek Revival style, a key feature of which was to make the roof “disappear” when viewed from the street. In addition, it is the only example of a brick townhouse on Main Street, and was built by Samuel L’Hommedieu, Jr. for his wife, reportedly to assuage her longing for the city.
If the radical proposals described for this singular house deserve the slightest consideration, then anything goes. There is no hardship here. The proposed alterations have nothing to do with appreciation for Sag Harbor and everything to do with appreciating an outsize profit on an investment. The residence, which is on the market, is already over 5,000 square feet, with five bedrooms and three and a half baths. If that is not sufficient, the owner, or his prospective buyer, needs a different house.
Someone once sent me a sign for my desk, which has served me well and which I am pleased to share with members of the the Sag Harbor Village boards as a reminder when considering such requests for variances from our hard won zoning code: “NO Is Also An Answer.”
Myrna Davis, Board Member,
For Save Sag Harbor, a 501(c)4 organization
To the Editor:
In addition to the architectural importance and history of the l’Hommedieu house, now under consideration for alteration with the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, should be added an amazing point of cultural relevance for the village.
In 1863, at the time of the draft newly instituted for the Civil War, Jared and Oliver Wade, then residents of the house, defended themselves against an angry mob with only harpoon guns in a standoff lasting one week. The cause of the stand off was Oliver having armed Sag Harbor’s black community against the very real threat from vigilantes blaming them for the Civil War.
This crazy-sounding act of courage represents the diversity, character, and passions of the community we still represent at our best. Knowing this, it’s hard to walk by the l’Hommedieu house without feeling a sense of pride. The house embodies one of Sag Harbor’s proudest moments. I presume only the best intentions on the part of the present owner and his architect, but also hope that the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review ensures that it maintains its integrity.
For more on this event, see “Vanished Sag Harbor” in Sag Harbor Partnership’s Walking Tours of Sag Harbor.
Protect House’s Integrity
Following is a letter sent to Chairman Anthony Brandt of the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review.
Dear Mr. Brandt,
I am writing to you on behalf of the board of trustees of the Sag Harbor Historical Society.
We are extremely concerned about the proposed changes to the L’Hommedieu House that were discussed at a recent meeting of your board.
We are sure that you and your members are familiar with the house, its history and its place as an iconic residence in the Village’s Historic District. We would be glad to assist you with any research you might require to substantiate its importance.
It is amazing to us that an individual represented as being “a high-end art patron” would appear before your board to propose any changes to the exterior of the house. We know that the house has served the needs of families of Sag Harbor for over 180 years; it is unfathomable why anyone would think that a house of its size and importance would not meet the needs of families in the future.
We are in full support of your role as a board of historic preservation on behalf of the Village of Sag Harbor. We also hope that the current owner will be successful in his sale effort and that the next owner will be eager to assume responsibility for L’Hommedieu House, with full knowledge of its place in our history.
Pierce W. Hance, Trustee
Sag Harbor Historical Society