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Sep 15, 2014 6:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Gas Can, Rags Found Near Sagaponack House Fire, Police Investigating

Sep 17, 2014 12:08 PM

UPDATE: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

A gas can and rags soaked in gasoline were found just yards from a historic house engulfed in flames in Sagaponack early Monday morning. The fire is being investigated as a possible arson and Southampton Town Police are said to be looking for an individual who may have been at the scene shortly after the fire was reported.

The gas can and rags were found in the cemetery on Sagg Main Street, directly across the street from the burned house, according to firemen at the scene that morning.

Town Police took over the investigation from the town Fire Marshal's office after the Sufffolk County Arson Squad completed an examination of the building's remains on Monday afternoon. Investigators continued to pick through the charred rubble and burned-out hulk of the house on Tuesday.

Southampton Town Police have declined to comment on the investigation.

The house, portions of which are believed to date back to 1650, was engulfed in flames just before dawn on Monday morning. About half the house burned completely to the ground, the other half, believed to have been the oldest portion of the structure, was gutted by the flames but remains standing.

The home is located in the Sagaponack Village Historic District and included in the National Register of Historic Places. According to the registry, the northern most portion of the home was built circa 1650. It was expanded to the south in 1842 by Jesse Pierson and was later owned by Devereaux family who used it as a summer home. At some point the home was converted to a boarding house known as the “Hearthstone Inn" and was operated as such until 1962 when it changed hands again and was converted back into a summer residence.



UPDATE: Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Southampton Town Police detectives have taken over the investigation of Monday morning's fire at 850 Sagg Main Street after it was deemed suspicious by investigators.

After investigators from the Suffolk County Arson Squad did a technical examination of the fire scene on Monday afternoon, they turned over the investigation to the Town Police, although Arson Squad officers would not elaborate about what they found at the scene.

Town Police declined to offer any details of their investigation.

The charred remnants of the historic house, parts of which date back to the 17th century, rekindled twice on Monday, bringing fire crews rushing back to the scene.

The home's owner, Peter Smith, lives in Connecticut and could not be reached for comment about the fire.

UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

Bridgehampton Fire Department crews have returned to the scene of this morning's fire after a portion of the building that remains standing rekindled shortly before noon.

UPDATE: 10 a.m.

A 17th century house in Sagaponack was destroyed by fire early Monday morning.

Firefighters were called to battle the blaze at the southern end of Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack shortly before 6 a.m. The structure was already fully engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived and the house, at 850 Sagg Main Street, was a total loss, according to witnesses.

The house, owned by part-time resident Peter Smith, was apparently empty at the time of the blaze, and there were no injuries reported from the fire.

The home is located in the Sagaponack Village Historic District and included in the National Register of Historic Places. According to the registry, the northern most portion of the home was built by the Pierson family circa 1650. It was expanded to the south in 1842 by Jesse Pierson, whose family used it as a summer home. At some point the home was converted to a boarding house known as the “Hearthstone Inn.” The home served as an inn until about 1962 when it changed hands again and was converted back into a summer residence.

The fire scene was managed by the Bridgehampton Fire Department with assistance from the Sag Harbor and Southampton fire departments and the Sag Harbor Ambulance Company.

As is the case with all fires, the Southampton Town Fire Marshall was on scene in an effort to determine the cause.

Original Story:

Firefighters were called to battle a blaze on the southern end of Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack early Monday morning.

Multiple departments were called to battle the fire, which witnesses said destroyed the home, reportedly of historical significance.

There were no injuries, witnesses said.

Further details were not available.

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This is so upsetting. Another piece of history gone.
By lizlesar (3), New York on Sep 15, 14 9:12 AM
3 members liked this comment
Horrible! Was there no alarm system?
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Sep 15, 14 10:42 AM
I'm sure it will be replaced with another Farrell monstrosity and inhabited with a TARP money recipient.
The Hamptons are awful. Any last vestige of anything worthwhile is long gone.
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Sep 15, 14 11:37 AM
and now they suspect "foul play"
hmmm. Another beautiful old landmark disappears to make room for a 20 Million dollar McMansion
FOLLOW THE MONEY
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Sep 15, 14 6:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
Doesn't appear that anyone (except for you) suspects foul play at the moment.
By GlassHouses (64), anywhere on Sep 16, 14 9:46 AM
Nobody but me, and the Suffolk County Arson squad!
Look Bud, when a "friendly fire" destroys a landmark to make way for another $20Million McMansion ya got to FOLLOW THE MONEY
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Sep 16, 14 11:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
Wiseking, next you will be telling us that the house was burned down by Mr Rennert becuse it blocked his veiw of the Water Mill Windmill
By joe hampton (3461), southampton on Sep 16, 14 4:06 PM
What about the gas can then?

By TonyProhaska (3), East Hampton, New York on Sep 17, 14 5:48 PM
stop. peter smith has owned this property for a very long time and I know he is devistated by this fire. stop with the farrell "jokes" and realize that someone has lost a home with many valuables and is devistated. give the greiving family a little support in stead of putting out negative thoughts. I don't think this is a follow the money issue adn teh family/owners deserve our condolences and respect at this time in their time of disaster. I expect nothing less of my sagaponack neighbors ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Sep 15, 14 6:57 PM
Thank you Xtiego. Peter Smith is my father and lovingly cared for this house since 1974. Our whole family is devastated and have lost things that can never, never be replaced. Add to our sadness and shock that someone did this to our family on purpose. We appreciate your support.
By Bettina (1), New York on Sep 17, 14 12:18 PM
This site and some of its regular contributors are notorious for jumping to conclusions before the facts are given and for making insensitive comments.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Sep 17, 14 3:57 PM
Bettina, we lived across the road from The Hearthstone and loved and appreciated the beauty of the stately old home and grounds. It was always well maintained. We were so saddened to hear of the fire and know your family is just stunned by this loss.
Please give your father our condolences.
Glenda and Bob T.
By GigiTopping (1), Murfreesboro, Tennessee on Sep 26, 14 11:21 PM
sorry for the mis spelled but very in a hurry to get my message out.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Sep 15, 14 7:09 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By saggguy (20), SAGAPONACK on Sep 16, 14 7:16 AM
I spent many summers in and around that house in the 1960's and 1970's, when it was owned by the Robb family. I'll miss driving by it and remembering all the fun times we had. This feels like the death of an old friend.
By bthompson (1), Williamsburg on Sep 16, 14 10:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
For background read sagaponack village meeting minutes 08/10/09.
By BH11932 (10), Bridgehampton on Sep 16, 14 10:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Sep 17, 14 12:57 PM
Somebody wanted that land.
By btdt (449), water mill on Sep 17, 14 2:22 PM
Anyone who has driven by the house regularly over the years witnessed the extraordinary level of maintenance that was done to this house. The shutters seemed to come off every single year for painting or cleaning.
By BH11932 (10), Bridgehampton on Sep 17, 14 4:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
My mother, Carolyn Pierson Prohaska believed that this house was built by someone from the Henry Pierson line of Southampton Piersons, that line from which she descended. I would appreciate any information people might have as to the original builders.
It was a beautiful old house; I hope the authorities catch the perpetrator.

By TonyProhaska (3), East Hampton, New York on Sep 17, 14 5:44 PM
not sure why my last bit of posted content was removed. the post was a link to other recent malicious fires/arson in the Bridgehampton Sagaponack area, one of which led to an arrest and another which resulted in the death of the homeowner. could there be a connection?
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Sep 18, 14 8:39 AM
I hope the Press will do a follow up on what the arson squad has learned about the recent fire that totaled a house in Water Mill and also whatever is learned about this apparent arson fire. I believe I read that the man who set the Bridgehampton Dune Road fire and the mulch fire in Hayground was caught and is in jail awaiting trial, so it is probably not him.
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Sep 18, 14 12:07 PM
Do we have a firebug out here? There seems to be a lot of fires lately.
What's the latest with the fire investigation on 7 Ponds? Whatever became of the investigation into the Water Mill fire on Jordan Drive that burned a house to the ground?
By btdt (449), water mill on Sep 18, 14 3:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
There have been multiple suspicious fires out there, one of which in April resulted in an arrest, and another just a month prior on Narrow Lane which resulted in the death of the homeowner and his dog.
Has arson been ruled out in all of these?
By thewiseking (17), Montauk on Sep 19, 14 11:46 AM
1 member liked this comment