For years the house stood empty, crumbling and abandoned, with caved in ceilings, missing doors, and holes in the floor; a sign stating the house was unfit for human occupation was posted to the front. As recently as 2016, the house seemed destined only for the wrecking ball. But now, after extensive renovations, Morpurgo House is almost ready for new owners. It’s been listed by Scott Strough at Compass asking $7.5 million.
Long thought to be built between 1850 and 1860, when the Italianate style of the house’s exterior was popular, the house’s origins have recently been pushed back a hundred years. Pre-Revolutionary details in the basement, such as massive foundation stones, 18th century nails, and distinctive beams point to a date around 1750. The house was then renovated in the 1840s, 1870s, and the 20th century as the needs of its inhabitants changed.
In the 21st century, the house now sports such amenities as five en-suite bedrooms, an elevator, two staircases, a Control4 sound and automation system, a 600 square foot roof deck with fireplace, bar and lounge area on the third floor, wine storage, security integration with video retrieval and CAT5 communications wiring, and outside, a gunite pool.
Yet everything old that was sound and could be kept, reused or re-purposed was. 18th century beams were kept and while a new 10-foot basement was dug, the original foundation stones have been reused in the garden. Rob Walford of Breskin Development, told Behind the Hedges, “Our biggest surprise was the condition of the oldest part of the house. It is in excellent condition and very sound. The post and beam frame of the house will last for another 250 years now that the house is being maintained. There are homes in England framed similarly that are 700 years old.” They knew how to build in the old days.
It may have been built originally for Captain John Hulbert, a Revolutionary War hero who designed one of the first American flags with stars and bars. Captain Hulbert was guarding sheep in Montauk in August 1775 when the British came down from Boston to get supplies. Captain Hulbert and his men fooled the enemy (located in Fort Pond Bay) into thinking there were many more soldiers than there actually were by marching and turning their coats around. The British left, deciding the sheep weren’t worth the fight.
During the 1870s into the 20th century, the house was a summer hotel operated by the Lobstein family. In 1965 the house, then divided into eight apartments, was purchased by the Morpurgo family. Two sisters, Annselm and Helga Morpurgo, inherited from their parents in 1975. Annselm owned two-thirds of the house and Helga the other third. But the sisters did not have the money to keep up the 3900 square foot house and its condition began to suffer. They leased seven of the apartments and Annselm lived in the eighth.
In the late 1990s, the John Jermain Memorial Library, which is next door, was interested in buying the property to expand the library. But the sisters and the library could not agree on a price. In 2003, the Morpurgos decided to auction the house with a minimum bid of $1.5 million. No bids were tendered.
Then the sisters fell out. Helga wanted to sell the house: taxes were not being paid and the condition of the place grew worse and worse. Annselm wanted a certain amount of money, however, which no one was willing to pay. The sisters then sued one another.
The house was put up for auction twice more, in 2005 and 2006, with no bids. Finally, in 2007, the house was sold to an LLC for $1.46 million. Annselm filed an injunction against the sale, but the judge tossed it. Eventually she and Helga each received 37 percent of the sales proceeds, with the rest going to satisfy back taxes. Annselm kept living in the house until she was evicted in 2008.
The house changed hands several times more until being purchased by Breskin Development. The house is almost finished, and while the renderings available now are a little skimpy, we can’t wait to see how gorgeous the house will look when finished.
For more, click here. 6 Union Street, Sag Harbor