The Southampton Historical Museum is hosting its seventh annual Southampton House Tour, an “Insider’s View,” on June 4. Participants of the tour will have an opportunity to peek inside the architectural history of Southampton at seven unique local homes. Ranging from colonial houses to contemporary mansions, each stop reveals a fascinating house attached to the history of the Hamptons.
St. Andrew’s Dune Church (illustrated above)
Mrs. Frederic Betts’ Sunday destination via gondola is perhaps Long Island’s most picturesque house of worship. Originally built as a life-saving station, it was acquired by a wealthy New York City doctor and donated as a church in 1879. A local carpenter was hired to create its beautiful rustic interior, which is filled with treasures, not the least of which are its 11 Tiffany glass widows. The church has come under assault from raging seas on several occasions, including in 1938 when it was nearly destroyed by that year’s infamous hurricane. It was lovingly restored and has twice been moved back from the sea. Though it is non-denominational, summer services are organized here under the direction of Southampton’s Episcopal Church.
Also known as Mocomanto, and located on Lake Agawam, this house takes its name from one of the nine Shinnecock Indians who signed a deed with Southampton’s settlers in the 17th century. It was owned by Frederic Betts, one of the original summer colonists, who named the shingled Victorian in the early 1880s when he acquired a large parcel on the lake and built six cottages, keeping Mocomanto for himself. While traveling in Italy, Mrs. Betts purchased a gondola which she had shipped to Southampton. Every Sunday, poled by the family’s four footmen, the gondola crossed the lake to deliver the lady of the house to morning services at St. Andrew’s Church on the dunes. The house remained in the Betts family until 1969, and subsequent owners have honored its provenance while making improvements. When Peter Tufo purchased the 7,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom house in 1980, he and designer Mica Ertegun gave it another sensitive update, adding a heated pool and pool house on the lake and transforming a third-floor servants’ room into a huge guest suite with a vast deck offering ocean views. Beautifully sited on 2.2 acres, Mocomanto is approached by a long, secluded driveway and embraced by a graceful wrap-around porch, making it the quintessential Southampton “cottage.”
Located at 159 Main Street, this historic home’s exterior was recently restored “to within a sixteenth of an inch” of the way it appeared for more than a century. It stands as a reminder of the days when Main Street was lined with family residences. The White House’s preservation by R. Marco Robert is also a tribute to its best-known occupant, Captain George White (1819–1893), a fearless whaler who was equally fearless in his fight to preserve public access to Southampton’s beaches. Southampton residents have watched over the past year as the house, dramatically suspended aloft, was given a new foundation. The property owners recently installed 50 custom-made windows, and soon the house presented itself to Main Street passersby as the familiar, but beautifully refreshed home where Captain White lived most of his life. Inside, the house has been thoroughly updated, making use of repurposed original materials wherever possible. Salvaged beams and other elements of the original structure have also been put to use in carefully integrated expansions and outbuildings (a cabana and a garage). In the main house, a small front parlor honors the past while a huge high-ceilinged kitchen is a very 21st-century concept—an inviting place to congregate as well as cook. Upstairs bedrooms, sun-filled and uncluttered, offer window views of the village that are remarkably unchanged in many directions from those that Captain White might have seen.
Built circa 1900 for Brigadier General Samuel Escue Tillman, who referred to his domicile as Sound-o-Sea, this house survives as one of Southampton Village’s stateliest residences. A handsome example of the Dutch Colonial Revival Style, it has a beautiful but restrained presence, neither overly large nor excessively fussy. The home has a wide front porch supported by paired Doric columns and crowned by a graceful balustrade. Above, a second-floor dormer with a Chippendale-inspired swan-neck pediment provides a unique focal point; while below, the wide entry door is flanked by sidelights boasting rare leaded-glass panes. An architectural jewel, the house is also rich in history. General Tillman (1847–1942) was a man of many talents who rose to prominence in an astonishing number of fields. An astronomer, engineer, military educator and career officer in the United States Army, he spent 30 years teaching at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The author of countless articles on a wide variety of subjects, Tillman also wrote influential textbooks on chemistry and geology. And when, in 1917, West Point needed the right man to serve as a wartime superintendent of the Academy, he was recalled from mandatory retirement to take the post. For many years, in more recent times, Walter Mann and his family occupied the house. They called it Mayday and made it a lively center of summer social activity. Civic-minded and energetic, Mann was a founding member of the Southampton Association.
These homeowners wanted to avoid any beach house clichés when they renovated their house from a shore home to a “year-round sanctuary.” Enlisting interior designer Suzanne Friday to create an elegant but comfortable residence, they watched with delight as she took their fondness for calm and comforting neutrals and combined them with bold patterns, artwork and beautiful furnishings to create a perfect retreat. Spaces were opened up, windows were rearranged to admit more light, and the flow between spaces was enhanced. The removal of a porch roof gave the master bedroom a view of the pool. Though it was enormous, the master bedroom was ill-proportioned, a flaw Ms. Friday corrected by adding deep closets with mirrored doors and a built-in desk behind a pair of French doors. Throughout the house, a blending of styles contributes to a gentle ambiance that never borders on bland. Colors and textures are mixed, and artwork, fresh florals and treasured antiques draw the eye, giving unique character to the spaces. The homeowners have achieved a wonderful balance of charm and tranquility.
A classic 9,000-square-foot shingle-style house, this Dutch Colonial is nestled deep in the heart of Southampton’s estate district. The home was recently renovated to incorporate the original residence within the new design. It boasts a two-story living room, extensive loggia and screened-in porch overlooking a swimming pool. The custom-painted mural in the living room depicts the nearby preserve and was painted by a local artist. A stone’s throw from Taylor’s Creek and within earshot of the surf, the house sits on a lushly landscaped property in a quiet neighborhood long favored by summer residents who discovered its charms in the earliest days of the resort town. Among the first of its seasonal occupants was Professor Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen, Sr. from whom the road takes its name. Born in Norway and renowned as a scholar—he taught Latin, Greek and German at prestigious American universities—he was multilingual and a prolific writer of scholarly articles, fiction and poetry. Best known for his popular fiction, Boyesen published 25 books, and it’s likely he took advantage of the peaceful surroundings to pen more than a few of them during his summers in Southampton.
Thomas Halsey Homestead
Known as Southampton’s oldest home, this local historical marvel was established in 1648 by one of Southampton’s original settlers. The Halsey family developed a prosperous farm with several generations living in the same building. The property is now owned by the Southampton Historical Museum, which opened the house with authentic furnishings and tools that would have been used by a farm family in 1700. A colonial-style herb garden is located behind the house.
The Southampton House Tour is self-guided and will run from 1–4 p.m., concluding with a champagne reception, hosted by renowned Italian restaurant Sant Ambroeus of Southampton, at the Rogers Mansion from 4:30–6 p.m.
Tickets are $95 in advance and $110 on tour day. To purchase, call the museum at 631-283-2494, or use PayPal at southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org. Tickets may be picked up or purchased the day of the tour as early as 10:30 a.m. at the Thomas Halsey House (294 South Main Street) in Southampton.