The latest thing in the Hamptons are Mini-Mansions. People everywhere are tearing down their 15,000-square-foot McMansions and replacing them with little three-bedroom houses of 2,000 square feet. This trend is unprecedented in America. But here in the Hamptons, it’s the latest craze.
Alice Henderstreep did this. She’s married to the steel magnate Charles Henderstreep and they tore down their McMansion in Quogue for a Mini.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “Some friends of ours in East Hampton did this. I call my husband, he’s in the next room and comes. We’re never far away from one another. And I love it. The dog runs around underfoot. The kids are in the kitchen. It’s family. And the room we now have on our five acres is just phenomenal. We have huge lawns, we now have tennis courts. The kids have parties in our new pool house. We even built a baseball diamond.”
Fred and Harriet Eleanor in East Hampton, the people who told them about this, are also ecstatic about it.
“This is the way the original settlers lived,” Fred said when we called. “We followed the plans for a saltbox pictured in the historical museum. And so did the Henderstreeps in Quogue. It’s not like that old split level that was here we tore down for the McMansion. This is a recreation of the early settlers. Hand-hewn beams. Wavy old glass in the windows. It wasn’t cheap. In fact, it cost more than the McMansion we tore down.”
Another Mini-Mansion, on Meadow Lane, is owned by Harry McWillow and his brother Ted. In this case, though, they tore down a McMansion built just two years ago by a businessman who went bust.
“Fortune 500 fellow,” Harry told us. “Too bad. We loved the property, right on the ocean. But the taxes were crazy, there were all these servants and landscapers. And we think the environment is important. We wanted to make a different kind of statement.”
The McWillows just sold their smartglass company to Google for $240 million. It’s a clear empty glass. Whatever you pour in lights up the outside and you can read what you poured in. It reads “beer” when you put in beer.
Hampton Town Supervisor Renee Charlton commented about this new trend.
“There have been 51 since January,” she said. “We’ve counted the building permits. I think it remains to be seen how this will affect real estate taxes. I am sure it will send them down. But we’ll deal with it.”
Speaking for the construction industry, Howard Wallbanger of Wallbanger Industries said, “For the moment, this is all to the good. There’s a flurry of new activity. Maintenance and repair will probably be less down the road. But here we’re tearing down and building new where we would not have done so before. The McMansions were just built. It’s a positive.”
Adrien Coo of Adrien’s Landscaping also expressed optimism about the trend. “The houses are smaller but it’s not as if they have less money. So this means more money for larger amounts of lawn. With five of these, we’ve already installed quarter-acre English gardens.”
“It’s also very good for the environment,” said Dr. Frank Freelander of the Riverhead Rescue Service. “If the trend continues, there will be much more space between homes, and I predict a return of the squirrels, butterflies, plovers and alligators that big McMansions have displaced. Although that’s after the dust settles.”
Interestingly, in more than half of these new teardowns, the people building these new historic reproductions are also tearing out all their hedgerows. They want passersby to see what they have done.
“It works both ways. Without the hedgerows, we can look out to see all the vistas to the ocean,” said Florence Koch, a woman who recently got the McMansion in a divorce, and tore it down and then moved in with her husband Gladys.
The Town reports another 85 McMansion teardowns pending.