Renovations Give Morpurgo House New Lease on Life

The finished exterior of 6 Union Street in Sag Harbor. Christine Sampson photo

When it came to 6 Union Street, also known as the Morpurgo house in Sag Harbor, and the long-argued knock-it-down or fix-it-up debate, Anthony Brandt held the former opinion. But the chairman of the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review says he didn’t give the house enough credit for the strength it had left in it — and said he anticipates another visit inside sometime soon, now that renovations to the historic house are complete.

Amagansett developer Mitch Winston and his partners, who purchased the house at auction in June of 2016 for $1.325 million, got the ball rolling restoring the house in the spring of 2017. Breskin Development purchased the property in July 2017 for about $2.5 million and finished what Mr. Winston started.

“It looks very good,” said Mr. Brandt, who has only seen it from the outside so far, on Friday. “It’s pretty much what they said they were going to do. It’s very different, of course, when I first looked at it. They went ahead with our blessing to renovate it, and they did everything possible to keep old parts to reuse them. It was a major effort and I commend them for it.”

The Morpurgo house, nicknamed for two sisters whose decades-long fight was just one chapter in the house’s history, has also been known as the Lobstein Boarding House and the Captain Hulbert House. At other points in time, The Sag Harbor Express has reported, the house was caught up in a mortgage fraud scheme that landed an ex-Suffolk County legislator in jail and was the subject of two unsuccessful court-ordered auctions, plus a third in which the residence sold for $1.46 million in October 2007.

Restoration of the Morpurgo house began on July 17, 2017. Christine Sampson photos

And along the way the house, which dates back to 1740 or 1750 with more recent additions, by the best guess of local historian Zach Studenroth, continued to crumble. Early in 2016, village building inspector Tom Preiato noted hazards like a gaping hole by the front entrance, a missing first floor, a chimney in danger of collapse, vermin all over the place and deep depressions in the yard.

“I don’t know if the building can even support its own weight,” Mr. Preiato said in April of 2016.

Fast-forward two-and-a-half years, and Mr. Preiato declared the house “gorgeous” in an email to The Express on Monday.

“I have been there many times during construction for the routine inspections,” he wrote. “… I’m happy to see it renovated because I was pushing to have it demolished a few years ago due to the safety issues that existed on the site. It would have been a shame to lose the building.”

Local architect Anthony Vermandois worked with both Mr. Winston and Breskin Development. Rob Walford, a partner in Breskin Development, who managed the renovation along with Max Breskin, co-founder of Breskin Development, could often be found at the site hauling materials and sweating alongside the construction crew.

“We’re very pleased with how everything seems to have come together,” Mr. Walford said. “It’s been a year of hard work.”

VIDEO: Watch a time-lapse video of the exterior house restoration

Of the 100 corbels on the house, 30 of the large, original ones were restored with six or seven hours of work apiece, with the others recreated by experts. Many old beams were saved, and have been cleaned, refinished and repurposed throughout the house. The effort included new windows, roofing and historically accurate replacement siding, as well as recreated doors. There’s a new foundation, poured after the house was lifted up almost immediately after Breskin Development took over.

Mr. Walford said the house will last for generations to come.

“The highlight for me was getting the proper foundation under this house,” he said. “We were concerned that we were going to lose part of the home, possibly. Once it was secure on the foundation, I knew that everything was going to be smooth sailing after that.”

Breskin Development put the nearly 6,000-square-foot, four-story manse on the market for $7.495 million in June, listed with Scott Strough of Compass Real Estate. It features five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and two half bathrooms, eight masonry fireplaces, a full bar and lounge on the top floor, a 16-by-36 foot heated pool, an elevator that reaches all four levels and brand new cabinetry, plumbing, electrical wiring and heating and cooling mechanicals.