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Feb 24, 2009 10:29 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

A modern twist in historical building

Feb 24, 2009 10:29 AM

Sleek modern design meets historic charm in Lorraine Randazzo’s unique Sag Harbor apartment, which is now on the market with an asking price of $1,995,000.

Located in what is thought to be the oldest commercial building in the village, the contemporary 3,300-square-foot, two-story loft, located at 69 Main Street, is unique in many ways: it is thought to be the first condominium in Sag Harbor; it contains one of the first residential elevators in the area; and is the only elevated SoHo-like loft space in the village.

But what makes the space most unique, aside from the modern touches incorporated into the original 1832 architecture, is the fact that the building is standing at all.

The Main Street duplex is zoned for multiple uses and now houses the Wharf Shop and Flashbacks retail stores on the first floor; the accounting firm of Markowitz, Fenelon and Bank on the second; and Ms. Randazzo’s apartment on the third. The building is one of the few on Main Street to withstand the 1845 fire that consumed nearly 100 wooden structures in the village.

The fire of November 14, 1845, started around noon in a furniture shop and claimed the buildings and goods of 57 stores, shops and warehouses along the main commercial street in Sag Harbor. An additional 40-plus homes, stables and barns were destroyed in the blaze.

Not much is known about the first 100 years at 69 Main Street, but Nada Barry, the owner of the Wharf Shop, gave a detailed account last week of the history of the building since 1940.

According to Ms. Barry, the three-story duplex was thought to be a rooming house before it was purchased by George Brown, who used the space for a retail business. William Cook later bought the building to house a department store.

During a tour of the building last week, Ms. Barry pointed out the unusually sturdy construction of the approximately 175-year-old building, which looks to be joined together in the tongue and groove fashion. “I’m pretty sure that this building was constructed by ship builders,” she said as she pointed out the joinings of the basement ceiling.

Ms. Barry’s husband’s family purchased the building in 1940 and it has since been operated in different iterations as a dry goods retail space. The structure is now divided into three commercial spaces and one residence, 
each owned individually by the 
current tenants.

During the 1940s, the Barry family purchased two buildings on Main Street, including 69 Main Street and the structure that now houses Emporium True Value Hardware at 72 Main Street. Robert Coates (R.C.) Barry owned both buildings, setting up a dry goods store at number 69 and a plumbing and hardware shop at number 72.

Mr. Barry ran the plumbing and hardware store and his son, former Sag Harbor mayor Hathoway “Hap” Barry and his wife, Beth, ran the dry goods shop, known as R.C. Barry and Son, at 69 Main Street. Sewing items, sheets, towels and other dry goods were the main items for sale at 69 Main Street.

Later on, Hap and Beth’s son, Frank, opened a restaurant supply business on the second floor of the building. Their other son, Robert Barry, and his wife, Nada, took over the dry goods store in 1968.

For a while, the Wharf Shop functioned as a dry goods store on one side of the first floor and as an art gallery on the other side of the building. Ms. Barry reported that the art gallery she and her husband ran was the first of its kind in Sag Harbor.

For a time, local artists such as painter Alexander Brook and his wife, Gina Knee, showed their work at the Wharf Shop. The store now sells toys, jewelry, gifts and stationery.

It was around the time when the Barrys opened the Wharf Shop that the third floor of the building—which is now owned by Ms. Randazzo—was opened and became storage space for the store. The attic was left virtually untouched from the late 1960s until it was renovated in the mid-1980s by local architect Harry Fischman.

Approximately 24 years ago, the top floor of the building underwent an ultra-modern renovation under the care of Mr. Fischman, who transformed the former attic into a SoHo-like airy living space for himself. He sold the apartment to Ms. Randazzo in 2006.

Ms. Barry was quick to point out that John A. Ward—the oldest fireman in Sag Harbor—did the construction work on the loft space during the renovation.

Merging the old with the new, Mr. Fischman kept the old wooden beams and floors of pumpkin wood—an antique lumber no longer in use for construction—and added on to them with wood salvaged from other buildings at least 150 years old. Mr. Fischman wedded the antique bones of the apartment with modern conveniences such as an elevator, high-end kitchen appliances and skylights.

Today, the hand-carved and notched antique wooden beams and floors are complemented by steel, glass and ceramic tile. In addition to the modern convenience of the elevator, the apartment also features two staircases, one standard and one spiral. Though the standard staircase is modern, with steel railing and carpeted steps, the original hand-carved wood detailing was kept and incorporated into the design.

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