After more than four years of blogging about architecture and historic preservation in Southampton — a Hamptons village that includes some of the oldest homes on Long Island as well as some of the largest and most modern — has now published her first book on the subject.
As with her blog, "Southampton Village Review," the aim of the book, “The Southampton Cottages of Gin Lane: The Original Hamptons Summer Colony” ($21.99, The History Press), is to raise awareness of historic structures and their value to a community.
“Historic architecture is irreplaceable … it infuses our area with a unique character which contributes to its success to both residents and nonresidents,” Spanburgh said during a recent interview. “The fact that the Hamptons is surrounded by water alone does not make it a place where everyone wants to live or visit. If you look at the most traveled to places in the country, they are near water and they also have historic resources.”
A village resident and chair of the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, Spanburgh got into writing to advocate for preserving the character of the place she loves.
In “The Southampton Cottages of Gin Lane: The Original Hamptons Summer Colony,” she details the history, house by house, of one of the most exclusive lanes in the country, where notables such as Henry Ford II have lived.
There were 34 original cottages on Gin Lane, but some are no longer standing.
Spanburgh said she has set out to document all of Southampton’s historic homes, whether or not they survived, with the ultimate goal of saving those that still exist.
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Spanburgh said the biggest surprise she found in researching her book was that so many members of the early summer colony were merchants and importers of commodities.
In her research of deeds, titles, old maps, newspaper archives and other resources, she said she discovered that Southampton Village’s oldest summer cottage, which Leon DeBost had built in 1869, still survives on South Main Street.
While the word “cottages” in the title may evoke images of modest homes, Spanburgh explained that the homes in her book are quite the opposite. “A cottage is a summer residence,” she explained. “It has nothing to do with size. The historical meaning of cottages is associated with summer use.”
While she initially planned a compendium of all of Southampton’s many historic homes, her publisher urged her to break the project up into a series of books, rather than one encyclopedic one. “The intention it to eventually do the whole village by area, and the hope is that if the first does well, the second will be enabled,” Spanburgh said.
“I didn’t write the book to be rich or famous," she added. "I wrote the book to save houses, and I hope to write at least four more.”
Before becoming an advocate, Spanburgh earned a graduate degree from Syracuse University in architecture and studied preservation at Columbia University.
She said she started her blog in 2008 because she felt the historic fabric of the village was slowly being diluted without anyone recognizing it, as historic buildings were being demolished or altered beyond recognition.
Then in 2010, she joined the Landmarks and Historic Districts Board and her interest grew even more.
The board’s greatest accomplishment since she joined is a new rule for establishing a historic district, she said. Rather than requiring 100 percent owner consent for a district, now only 20 percent of homeowners in an area must petition the Town Board. Once a historic district is established, there is more thorough review before a structure can be altered or demolished.
Spanburgh will talk about her book on Thursday at 6 p.m. at in Bridgehampton, and on at in Southampton Village. Both events are free.