INSIDE STORIES BEHIND AREA
REAL ESTATE DEALS
S ettled nearly 375 years ago, Long Island's East End was not born a resort area dripping with luxury real estate, manicured privet hedgerows and must-attend social soirées. But what began as a series of fishing and whaling villages and bustling ports eventually attracted a summer colony of wealthy residents and artists with a penchant for the medicinal ocean air and the ethereal light reflected off the Atlantic.
Uniting nature with structure, farmer with financier and artisan with collector, an eclectic array of historic American architecture now tells the evolutionary tale of the Hamptons lifestyle. "Everybody thinks that the Hamptons is this place of traditional architecture all done in the 'Hamptons style,' and that is absolutely untrue," says architect Anne Surchin, co-author of Houses of the Hamptons: 1880–1930 (Acanthus Press, 2007). "Even back in the 19th century, this was a testing ground for the elite architects of the country to try out their ideas."
Surchin, the principal of Anne Surchin Architect in Southold, has been in practice as a high-end residential architect in the Hamptons for more than 25 years and is co-founder of the Architecture and Design Forum, a nonprofit dedicated to architecture and the design arts, as well as president of the Peconic Chapter of the AIA. It was architects like John Russell Pope, Harrie T. Lindeberg, F. Burrall Hoffman, Cross & Cross and the triumvirate of Charles McKim, William Mead and Stanford White, she says, who shaped the architectural landscape of the Hamptons during this important, revolutionary era in housing design.
“Everybody thinks that the
Hamptons is this place of
traditional architecture all
done in the ‘Hamptons style,’
and that is absolutely untrue.”
— Anne Surchin, co-author of Houses
of the Hamptons: 1880–1930
"McKim, Mead and White were among the most experienced," says Surchin. "A lot of these guys were trained at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and when they got back to the U.S., the Hamptons became their testing ground."
Sadly, many of their iconic structures have been razed to make way for subdivisions or contemporary vacation homes with ever-expanding lists of modern amenities. Others have been altered to the point of no return. Only a select few have been lovingly preserved, their gambrel rooflines and stucco turrets presiding over generations.
"Many owners of these houses consider themselves stewards of these estates and treat them with love and kindness, doing everything they can to treat them with respect," says Surchin. "That's the flip side of the teardown equation."
Of course, others still are now better known thanks to their colorful owners. But the five estates below have great stories behind them.