This grande dame has been around town a bit. She was originally built in 1885 on Deerfield Road, then was moved to Montauk Highway around 1901. Under threat of development, she was moved again in 1974, roughly 200 yards, to her current location on Mill Pond Lane.
Because of these moves, “We had to put in the three fireplaces and chimneys during our renovation,” remembers New York-based interior design Richard Keith Langham, who sold the property in 2018.
“A dear friend had a tiny beach shack on Mill Pond,Lake Nowadonah. Just across the street was this big, ramshackle house crying out for some TLC. It was really one of the last ‘Grey Gardens’ sleeping beauties,” says Langham.
“I really never saw myself in a Victorian house, but this ‘cottage’ had such pretty bones and all of its original architectural details–fairly restrained for a Queen Anne Victorian–and I was ready for a project.”
Known to preservationists as Magee House, after its first owner John Magee, the house is an ornate Queen Anne-style house with a turret and a cross-gable roof with decorative gable ornamentation. Mr. Magee was noted in the Sag Harbor Corrector of September 21, 1901, as having sold 21 acres of Water Mill land to the LIRR Co. for $900. Presumably the sale included the house site, which is why it was moved. In 1901, the LIRR decided to build a new and better station for Water Mill, as it was an increasingly popular summer resort. The railroad decided on a spot on the Magee property, so they negotiated a deal with Mr. Magee. (We hope the canny old landowner drove a hard bargain!)
But while the old beauty was clearly valued and loved in her earlier life, later on she didn’t fare so well. Owner Langham relates that when he purchased it, “The house was unbelievably run down. In fact, the former owner let rooms, so that at one point 17 people lived in the place, and the double parlor was divided into three ‘rooms.’
“We did what I would call a gentle renovation–I wanted the house to feel 135 years old. All the original floors, doors and windows were kept. We just updated the bathrooms, put in a great kitchen and turned the garage into a wonderful summer living room. It’s a perfect place to hang out, entertain or put overflow guests. I sleep out there myself on many cool nights.”
One of the most striking things about the house as it is now is the bold, confident use of unusual color. The entrance features a porch, kitted out in a pretty coral shade, which matches the house’s shutters. “I had seen a house many years ago on Martha’s Vineyard which was stained this match-strike brown/black color with creamy white trim and coral shutters, so I immediately knew that’s how I wanted to paint this house,” says Langham. “The porch is really our living room. It’s filled with comfy wicker and a swing; roll-down canvas blinds allow us to create shade and we have a big round table in the corner of it for lunches and dinners.”
The interior of the house followed suit, with rooms “painted in an array of happy colors–an eggplant living room, the pink room, the blue room and so on,” says Langham. “I love our little sun room, with its black/brown walls and pair of aqua banquettes: it gets lovely morning sunlight.
“This is a happy, carefree house, and it feels secluded even though it sits right in the thick of things. I have spent nearly 40 summers out east. I came for the natural beauty, the wonderful climate–sunny hot days and cool nights–and our heavenly beaches. We really live here like a real country house–totally carefree and easy–with the windows open most of the time to bring in the fresh air. My happiest memories are all the times we have filled the house to the rafters with family and friends. One summer we had 77 guests, so I guess I’ve really been running my own boarding house!”
The beauty may be aging, but she looks more lovely than ever.