Sag Harbor ARB: Don’t Mess with Main Street

Apple Bank - Sag Harbor ARB
Designs proposed for Apple Bank on Main Street in Sag Harbor
Apple Bank - Sag Harbor ARB
Designs proposed for Apple Bank on Main Street in Sag Harbor.

By Douglas Feiden

Tread lightly when it comes to the varied architectural, historical and commercial splendors of Sag Harbor’s Main Street. Or don’t tread at all.

That was the message from the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on Thursday, June 9, when it turned thumbs-down on a marketing sign proposed for a signature bank building in the business district — and then nixed a window-replacement project proposed for a “Captains Row” mansion 500 feet away.

In recent months, the ARB has repeatedly been sending the no-go or go-slow signal to property owners who apply to expand, alter, demolish, rejigger or otherwise transform dwellings and other structures in the village’s historic district. Now, board members seem to be taking that tougher approach to smaller scale, less intrusive and lower-intensity projects.

Consider the application of the Apple Bank for Savings, at 138 Main Street, for a Certificate of Appropriateness, which is needed to obtain village building permits and that would allow it to place a new sign within the arched glass window panels on its façade bearing two simple words: “Free Checking.”

“Our marketing department saw this as an opportunity to advertise one of our products,” said Tom Rickenbach, the Apple Bank representative.

Each letter panel would be red, the letters would be white and the individual panels, roughly 15 inches wide by 10 inches high, would “fasten to the glass and can easily be removed,” according to the bank’s submission.

“Honestly, I’m not comfortable with it,” said Bethany Deyermond, an ARB member.

“There’s a sense I think among all of us that it is too vivid and too big,” added Anthony Brandt, the board’s chairman. “It has an effect on the streetscape that I don’t think we’d want to see.”

Formerly the Sag Harbor Savings Bank, the two-story, three-bay brick Classical Revival-style bank building, built in 1910, boasts a classical pediment, limestone columns and a one-story addition in the same style, according to 1994 documentation for the National Register of Historic Places.

The old savings bank bought the lot at the northwest corner of Main and Spring streets, the site for half a century of the Harris Bakery Shop, for $10,000, and then spent another $25,775 to construct its headquarters there, according to “Sag Harbor: The Story of an American Beauty,” by longtime village historian Dorothy Ingersoll Zaykowski.

Among the venerable East End names appearing in business directories as past presidents or board members of the old bank are a Huntting, Fithian, Topping, Parsons, Pierson, Hedges, Halsey, Douglas, Sherry, Nickerson and Woodbridge, the 1991 book says.

The proposed signage, Mr. Brandt said, “doesn’t work with a traditional bank building.”

“If that’s the consensus of the board then we’ll certainly abide by it,” Mr. Rickenbach said. It was indeed the consensus.

The ARB also considered an application to replace all the exterior windows on the first and second floors of 191 Main Street, a two-and-a-half story, three-bay frame residence with six-over-six light wooden sash windows that was built between 1840 and 1850 and served as the First Presbyterian Church Manse from 1893 to 1953, according to a plaque on the house.

Architect Victor Famulari, referring to his client, homeowner Norma Smith, said, “She is proposing replacement windows that are similar or identical in profile, however, she’s requesting that the outside of the windows be either aluminum or vinyl.”

Board members pointed out that the windows appeared to be the originals and seemed in pretty good shape, and that the property, a former captain’s home on Main Street directly across the street from the Custom House, was one of the treasures of the Historic District.

“This is old, old glass, and these are historic windows that have to be preserved,” said ARB alternate member Judith Long. And not only the glass, but also the wood and the entire window structure has to be retained, added board member Christopher Leonard.

“So here’s the story: Nobody here wants to approve these windows,” Mr. Brandt said.

“That’s going to be bad news for her,” said Mr. Famulari, arguing that the windows are “falling apart and can’t be cleaned.” But ARB members disputed that point, saying the windows appeared to be in good condition.

Not all the board’s decisions on Main Street projects involved uttering the word, “No!” Ms. Smith had also sought permission to add a stucco finish to an existing brick chimney, and the ARB approved that portion of her application.

And the board also gave the green light to a proposal from Julie Silcox, the owner of 265 Main Street, a 1900 Victorian home with a portico and clapboard wall cladding, to renovate the existing house, relocate a pool and add a side addition.