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May 26, 2009 5:50 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Dragon's Head meeting wrecking ball

May 26, 2009 5:50 PM

Wainscott author Steven Gaines chronicled Chestertown’s transformation into Dragon’s Head and the frenzy that surrounded it in his 1998 book “Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons.”

“The Trupins in that house grabbed the status quo by the shoulders and shook it and scared the hell out of everybody,” Mr. Gaines said.

“This is a great thing that they’re ripping it down,” the author went on to say. He said the real end of an era—a golden era of gorgeous mansions on the beach—was when Mr. Trupin changed Chestertown.

It was also the end of the era of manners and restraint, he said, adding “Of course, the Hamptons is now about excess.”

Mr. Gaines said the community saw the Trupins as ugly people, with ugly intentions whose avarice and greed would destroy the way of life in the village. “It was the first symptom of the cancer that would eat up Southampton.”

Mr. Trupin also changed Chestertown’s interior, including installing a shark tank, which he and his then-wife Renee said they would swim in among the sharks amid boulders and banyan trees. The estate also housed Mr. Trupin’s collection of medieval armor and American silver.

Mr. Trupin was arrested in 1997 for tax evasion totalling $6.6 million and lying to the IRS. He was convicted of the charges in 1999, and also was convicted in 1996 of being in possession of a stolen painting.

Mr. Gaines said Mr. Trupin is still alive, but hasn’t been heard from for quite some time. Renee Trupin now lives in the south of France, he added.

Mr. Trupin sold Dragon’s Head in 1992 to Worldcom director Francesco Galesi for $3.3 million. Mr. Galesi, who scaled back some of the house’s most extreme features, put the estate on the market in 2000 with an asking price of $45 million.

Once many of the turrets and other features were removed, the mansion, renamed “Elysium,” stood 51 feet tall at its highest point, and 47,700 square feet of floor area remained.

The price came down, and Mr. Galesi eventually sold the property to Mr. Klein in 2003 for $28.9 million.

Mr. Haverland told the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation & Architectural Review that four years were spent researching what could be done to rework Elysium before it was decided to tear it down and start fresh. “It was a challenge that was just too difficult to overcome,” he said.

The Board of Historic Preservation & Architectural Review signed off on razing the former Dragon’s Head in February, but the wrecking ball was held at bay until Mr. Klein’s building application also passed muster with the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA approved the plan for Mr. Klein’s new home on April 23.

“The project he’s going to be doing there is going to be beautiful, and it’s going to be more fitting with the homes in the area,” Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said last week.

Mr. Gaines, who is also the author of a 1995 Klein biography, “Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein,” said Mr. Klein’s architect, Mr. Haverland, is a genius who does tasteful and extremely admired work. “His work is really fantastic ...” he said. “I think the village has nothing to worry about in what the new place will look like.”

On May 14, the Southampton Village Board of Trustees approved the building inspector’s request that Mr. Klein hand over $20,000 to the village to assure the municipality does not end up having to pay to fix any damage done to village property as trucks and equipment are rolling up and down Meadow Lane during the demolition.

If there is no damage to the roads, the money will be returned to Mr. Klein, Mayor Epley said.

The mayor said the contractors will be grinding debris on site—rather than hauling concrete and stone chunks away in large pieces. This way, they can use smaller trucks for transport, so he doubts there will be any damage to Meadow Lane, he said.

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Having lived in Southampton nearby ti this place from the 60's-90's I do recall that the former Dupont estate was a bit of an eyesore and thus a problem.I think it's pretty funny that anyone would pay 28 million dollars for that old piece of crap only to tear it down .hahah....I guess CK thinks his new structure built on a pile of sand will be immune to the ocean and the hurricane that will eventually wash it all away as has happened every 50-60 years
By pmofo (37), East Quogue on May 22, 09 7:15 PM
Yup wash it way. Look at the new flood maps. Some report say that with ice caps melting water are going to raise in the next 10 years, they just might be finishing the home before the ocean moves in.
By frmr 1203 hauler (6), HB on May 22, 09 10:21 PM
Great Idea to finally tear it down. I would prefer a real castle, so when the ocean finally arrives it will have its natural moat. Once an isolated island, the owner can break-away fro the Town, Couny & NY. Maybe become a solvent state of its own so the Federal Govern can dump Million$$$ as they do all other contries. Oh yes I nearly forgot, I hope one tree is standing for my new home.
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on May 23, 09 9:26 PM
i have been inside on several occasions and its not as bad as people think. the outside has a much different look than the inside, unless you account for the stone tunnels near the tank area. The real gaudy part was the theater room. the painted fresco in there was awful and the elevator was very retro. Other than that, the inside was open and airy and very minimalistic. When the world-com guy owned it there was this horrible tapestry in the foyer that was gross too.
By OrignialLocal (34), Southampton on May 23, 09 10:53 PM
and why did they ever rename dune road anyway. the Meadow lane name seems very out of place, seeing that there are only dunes around and no meadows......
By OrignialLocal (34), Southampton on May 23, 09 10:56 PM
I hope the contractor building the new house uses all local people. The construction business is really suffering out here
By DJ9222 (85), southampton on May 24, 09 5:50 PM
I worked in that house when Galesi remodeled it, and what I would call it when the walls were stripped bare would be a "hodge-podge".

I distinctly remember a former spiral staircase buried in a wall for one thing, and basement was like a maze, and a different decor in every room.

What you need with 47,000 sq. ft. is beyond me, except to remind locals how you've screwed their kids out of living in their hometown.

Then again, maybe I'm just being negative...
By Mr. Z (10898), North Sea on May 26, 09 1:15 PM
i have been in the castle on more then one occasion.and met CK "and think he is the biggest a!! hole" what he did to that place.there are not words to decribe.he should be torn down.CK has no class!!!!!!!
By bchbum (1), hampton bays on May 27, 09 4:31 PM