Old Meets New with Sag Harbor House Tour

Inside the Jermain House, which will be part of the Friends of John Jermain Library Sag harbor House Tour on Friday, July 19. Brendan J. O'Reilly photos

The Sag Harbor House Tour on Friday, July 19, offers a walk through Sag Harbor history, from the Revolutionary War era to today.

The annual event is put on by the Friends of the John Jermain Library to raise money for the library’s community programs and projects. Five private homes are featured on this year’s self-guided tour.

A house that shares a namesake with the library is the oldest on the tour. The John Jermain House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1780 by Revolutionary War veteran Major John Jermain. Part of the house dates back even further because the home combines two structures: a 1600s saltbox house and a Federal house.
Noted philanthropist Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, known as “Mrs. Russell Sage,” the granddaughter of Jermain, led the effort to build the John Jermain Memorial Library in 1910.

The present owners are Lorraine and Bill Egan, who purchased the house on Main Street in 2002 and set about restoring it.

“The minute I drove into Sag Harbor 30 years ago, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I must have had another life here or something,’ because I just loved it,” Ms. Egan said last week at her home. “And the opportunity came up to buy this house, and we were just so excited.”
The Egans previously owned a whaling captain’s cottage around the corner on Concord Street before purchasing the John Jermain House.

“I walked into this house, and I saw the fireplaces and the parlor and the main bedroom and I said, ‘I have to have this house,’” Ms. Egan recalled.

Throughout the first floor are wide-plank floors, including in areas of the house that were rebuilt during the restoration, such as the kitchen. Planks from the attic, Ms. Egan explained, were moved to the first floor, and new planks were installed in the attic, which is now a bedroom.

“We took off the back, where the kitchen is, and just rebuilt it to the same specs,” Ms. Egan said, noting that the original saltbox shape, which can be seen from the road, was maintained.

The kitchen features a fireplace with a beehive oven, which Ms. Egan called one of her favorite things in the house.

A portrait of Alexander Hamilton hangs in the parlor above one of the home’s many fireplaces. In the 12-over-12 windows, the names of former occupants of the house are faintly seen etched into the glass.

More portraits and other artworks hang throughout both floors, and antique furniture can be found in every room.

“We’re not fancy,” Ms. Egan said. “A lot of people really decorate to the nines here, but this is a lived-in house.”

The exterior is clad in wood siding and shingles that were chosen to match the original look.

The house sits on a shy acre, though one wouldn’t know that when looking at it from the street. The backyard is well-screened by bushes and hedges, offering privacy.

“It’s one of the largest properties, I think, in Sag Harbor, but nobody knows it,” Ms. Egan said.

The backyard has a potting shed with an outhouse — the Egans left the two-seater wood toilet intact, though they don’t encourage anyone to use it. And there is a large pool plus a storage barn.

The house was first on the library’s tour about 15 years ago. Not much has changed, though some repeat guests may notice that the far end of the backyard has been cleared since then.

The pool sanctuary at a home on Hempstead Street in Sag Harbor.

The newest house on the tour is Mica and Russell Diamond’s Hempstead Street home. The couple have split their time between Sag Harbor and Westport, Connecticut, for 20 years, but this house was just built five years ago.

Starting with a vacant quarter-acre property, they enlisted Nick DeMarco of DeMarco Development to build a new house in the spirit of the old captain’s houses of Sag Harbor, Ms. Diamond said last week.

The main entrance is a Dutch door and a gas lantern lights up the front porch. The floors are reclaimed wide-plank wood from a barn in Vermont, and the fireplace bricks came from a bookstore on Long Island. The transom windows have antique glass.

Ms. Diamond decorated the house herself, with a vision for a calm and serene home and all rooms flowing from one to the next with a similar feeling. She said much came from Restoration Hardware and antiques stores. Old maps, oars, prints of bicycles, and nautical-theme mirrors are among the wall decor. The house is free of clutter, and not just because a house tour will be coming through soon. “I’m obsessed with keeping this house feeling perfect because it feels so good to walk into and always be neat,” she said.

Ms. Diamond said they were pleased when the Friends of the John Jermain Library asked them to participate in the tour.

“They drove by and asked us to use the house on the house tour—and they seemed shocked that it was a new house,” she said. “They thought that it was an old, historic captain’s house, which is exactly what we had in mind.”

Mr. Diamond was in agreement.

“That’s the beauty of Sag Harbor,” he said. “We’re old-style, and we love, obviously, the houses on Main Street and Glover and that kind of look and feel. It goes with the village.”
Rounding out the tour are an 1860s Greek Revival on Suffolk Street, an 1850 Madison Street home and a 1800s cottage off Main Street that has been rebuilt.

The annual Sag Harbor House Tour presented by the Friends of the John Jermain Library is Friday, July 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $50 in advance at the Wharf Shop on Sag Harbor’s Main Street or at the John Jermain Memorial Library at 201 Main Street. On the day of the tour, tickets will be available at both locations for $55. Tickets may also be purchased online at eventbrite.com