The Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board has earmarked two $10,000 grants for landmark private residences in the town, with the money to be distributed once proposed maintenance projects have been completed.
The two properties are the Benjamin Foster Homestead in Water Mill, across from the Parrish Art Museum, and the Foster-Downs House in East Quogue. The landmark maintenance program is funded through the Historic Preservation Reserve Fund, which came to be as a community benefit under the Sebonack Golf Club Planned Development District. The $10,000 each will reimburse the homeowners for the cost of materials and labor. To be eligible, applicants must have Basic or Enhanced School Tax Relief (STAR) status from New York State. The work must be completed within a year and verified.
“While about 2,000 historic properties have survived within the Town of Southampton, many are threatened by neglect or deferred maintenance,” Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said. “These buildings are part of Southampton’s heritage and identity. While we cannot remedy all of the needs, this program can help protect and preserve important buildings that are owned by concerned people under financial constraints.”
“We expect to award about $20,000 annually for the next five years,” Sally Spanburgh, the chair of the Landmarks & Historic Districts Board, said of the maintenance program. “This provides another incentive to owners of undesignated historic resources to seek designation. In addition to the maintenance award, local town landmarks are also eligible for a tax abatement program and a preservation easement acquisition.”
The Benjamin Foster Homestead was built before 1798 for Benjamin Foster, who was born in 1734, according to the town. He was related to Christopher Foster, the first family member to arrive in Long Island from England in 1635. The main portion of the Foster Homestead is a one-and-a-half story half-Cape from the Federal style period, which was dominant in Southampton from about 1780 to 1840. The main entry door has a distinctive transom of four small windows.
The Foster-Downs House was built in 1857 for Capt. and Mrs. Josiah Foster. He was a whaling captain and also a descendant of Christopher Foster, who is buried in the adjacent Methodist Church cemetery. The building is a Greek Revival style (1825-1860) residence with later Italianate style embellishments. These include decorative brackets under the eaves of the second story and atop the columns of a full-width single-story front porch.