Historic Sagaponack House Faces Threat Of Demolition

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Publication: The East Hampton Press
Ben Kava   Jul 2, 2018 3:37 PM
Jul 3, 2018 11:03 AM

In the more than 360 years since its founding, Sagaponack has retained much of its core. Its one school and one store have charmed residents and visitors for years—and so have its small, rustic and certainly historic homes.

One of those homes, 414 Hedges Lane, is now in apparent danger of demolition.

A pre-Revolutionary farmhouse built in 1775, the home was once owned by Deacon David Hedges, for whom the Sagaponack Village street is named. While residing there, Hedges served as a delegate to the state convention of New York responsible for ratifying the Constitution, and served as a supervisor for the Town of Southampton for 22 years. Living at the house with him were a “big family of slaves,” Sally Spanburgh says in an “inventory of historic resources” outside the National Register Historic District that was prepared for the village in 2017. The house has been described as a rare treasure.

The property boasts a separate barn space, a wooden replica of a Union flag attached to a picket fence—and, perhaps most noticeably for potential buyers, 3.2 acres on which to expand.

In a neighborhood that has seen perpetual modernization, the property is one of a small number that have remained unchanged. The colonial-era home, sold on February 27, 2017, now faces the threat of a demolition proposed by its latest owners.

On June 14, Deacon David Hedges LLC filed an application to demolish the house, which sits just east of the intersection of Hedges Lane and Fairfield Pond Road. The house was recently purchased by the LLC for just under $3 million. It was previously owned by John, Walter, William, Kate and Jean Hedges.

According to Sagaponack Village records, John, Walter and William Hedges transferred the house for no consideration to the Deacon David Hedges Corporation, while Jean Hedges and Kate Hedges received the multimillion-dollar compensation for the property.

Before a demolition application was presented to the village, two separate proposals had been drafted by Deacon David Hedges LLC. The first, filed on March 15, 2017, requested a use variance for the property, asking for permission to build a second residential structure on the property. The application was withdrawn without prejudice on June 9, 2017.

The second application, filed on May 31, 2017, asked the village for an area variance to allow the owners to divide the 141,464-square-foot parcel into two distinct lots—the first, a small lot of 36,764 square feet, and the second, a much larger lot of 104,700 square feet, which would have allowed two separate buyers to split the property.

The application was scheduled to be discussed on July 14, 2017, but the discussion was postponed by the LLC. According to village officials, representatives of Deacon David Hedges LLC said when they requested the postponement that they were “working on something else behind the scenes.” The application was eventually withdrawn in early January 2018.

Ever since its construction 243 years ago, the Deacon David Hedges home has remained in the Hedges family. The home, which sits on a street once occupied all by Hedges houses, allowed Deacon David Hedges to walk from Sagaponack to Wainscott on his own land, according to “East Hampton History” by Jeannette Edwards Rattray. Now on the market for $11.95 million, it may end up in the hands of a buyer outside the family for the first time.

Paul Brennan of Douglas Elliman, one of three brokers representing the property, said there has been some interest from prospective buyers. He said the new owner will likely be a “real vintage house aficionado,” though he noted that a renovation of the home’s inside is probably needed. “The house needs work,” he said, “but it’s a piece of history.”

How much work an eventual buyer will be able to do is yet to be determined. Zoning laws put in place in 1957 restrict Sagaponack properties from housing two dwellings on the same lot. The only exception, said Village Building Inspector Jon Woudsma, is if a multi-dwelling property pre-dates that zoning regulation. In some cases, he said, properties with more than one habitable structure have tunnels that connect them, resulting in what is basically a single, connected residence.

On July 20, the Sagaponack Village Architecture and Historic Review Board will review the demolition application.

Though he could not comment on whether the board is likely to approve the application, Mr. Woudsma offered the following sentiments: “Everyone on the Village Board is looking to preserve that house. If that means making accommodations, I guarantee all of that will be entertained.”

The listed taxpayer for the property, John Hedges of Charlottesville, Virginia, could not be reached for comment.

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