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151 Sagg Main Street: New or Old?

A review of a house in Sagaponack.

Question: Is this a new house or a renovation?  

This is a house near the top (north end) of Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack, on the east side of the street. I discovered this house while hunting for , owned, until recently, by an African-American family. If you had to, what one word would you use to describe this house? Creative? Breathtaking? Trend-setting? Awe-Inspiring? Are you having trouble? Me too.

Without any investigating whatsoever, I imagined this was a new house that had purposefully employed vernacular forms in order to blend in with its neighborhood, and then used more artistic license as it expanded to the rear. Wrong, sort of.

The original structure was a circa 1870 farmhouse built by Nathan Halsey (the main front gabled volumes), named “Sunset Hill,” which was then stripped down and added onto to create the Hamptons Cottages & Gardens Idea House which it eventually became in 2008. Wow. 1870? Ouch.

I was immediately reminded of 160 Elm St in Southampton Village. In that case, the original circa 1902 house was approved to be demolished and replaced by a contemporary version of itself. (Rest easy, it never happened).  151 Sagg Main St seems to have reinvented itself the same way except without the demolition, although it may as well have. All of the charm associated with the original architecture was removed, among them the muntins in the window panes and the balcony over the front porch. This woman has been violated and all her curves and femininity taken away, save for a few angles below the front facing gable where its volume once gave way to the expression of a bay in a front parlor. A final blow was to terminate the revamped front porch a bit too soon, placing the window below half-inside and half-outside the line where the a column would naturally rest inside the wall.

This poor house’s dignity was replaced with a look of ambivalence. What is it about the lack of detail that is so sought after by those attempting to be new and different? When someone designs a house I understand the desire to do something to it to make it uniquely theirs, uniquely identifiable with their personality. But how does the removal of detail accomplish this? If we were reviewing a contemporary interior it would be through the sectional relationships or the décor. But this is a three-dimensional form. This house looks like it was designed by a machine or a piece of software, not a person. And yet it still has two personalities: the unresolved maintenance of the original architecture, and the complete stylistic departure to the rear. Is this a successful evolution of a circa 1870s structure? Not to me.

For many more images of the home and interior, see The New York Times.

p.s. There’s a photo of 151 before the renovation on page 36 in the wonderful book, Sagaponack: Then and Now, by Barbara Albright and Carolyn Halsey, 2006.

dps February 14, 2011 at 05:50 PM
I was friendly with the family who owned the house before the renovation. My first visit to the house was in the late 1990's. The house, with its weathered cedar shingles, embodied the understated beauty, charm and elegance that had always been the character of the east end, but was--by the end of the 20th century--rapidly disappearing. I'm sad to see how it stands now: Cold, like a stone that lacks a soul.
youvebeenflagged February 15, 2011 at 01:26 PM
"owned, until recently, by an African-American family." What is the relevance?
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) February 15, 2011 at 03:42 PM
@youvebeenflagged: If you follow this link, you'll see the story behind why that is significant: http://patch.com/A-d2lz
youvebeenflagged February 15, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Thank you for the context, Mr. O'Reilly

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