L’Hommedieu Descendants Tour House He Designed in East Hampton - 27 East

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L’Hommedieu Descendants Tour House He Designed in East Hampton

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James Henry L’Hommedieu descendants from California last week visited an East Hampton home designed  by the renowned architect. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

James Henry L’Hommedieu descendants from California last week visited an East Hampton home designed by the renowned architect. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village, by James Henry L’Hommedieu. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village, by James Henry L’Hommedieu. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Inside 32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Inside 32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Inside 32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Inside 32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Inside 32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Inside 32 Ocean Avenue, East Hampton Village. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Brendan J. O’Reilly on Mar 26, 2024

The 1892 Brooklyn Daily Eagle obituary for architect James H. L’Hommedieu referred to him as “one of the most prominent contractors and builders on Long Island,” responsible for “many fine residences” in Garden City and the Hamptons, but the extent of his contributions to Long Island’s built environment and his renown was unknown, until recently, to his descendants on the West Coast.

That changed when L’Hommedieu’s great-great-granddaughter, Michele L’Hommedieu Hofmann, began researching her family tree. She planned a family trip to Long Island to see her ancestor’s work in Garden City. And when she learned that a house he built in East Hampton Village was currently on the market, she reached out to the listing agents, Liz Wohl and Jim MacMillan of Brown Harris Stevens, to inquire as to whether she’d be able to get a look inside the house. They were happy to oblige.

On Friday, three generations of L’Hommedieu descendants toured the shingle-style, three-story house at 32 Ocean Avenue, a well-preserved example of his work that, according to historical preservationist Robert Hafner, was built in 1889 for Robert S. Bowne. The 7,000-square-foot home on an acre is now for sale for $10 million.

Michele L’Hommedieu Hofmann — she noted that her maiden name is pronounced like “Lomdu” despite all the extra letters — said that after retiring recently, she began to read about Garden City and all the work her great-great-grandfather had done there while researching her family on Ancestry.com.

Garden City is one of the earlier planned communities in the United States, the vision of Alexander Turney Stewart, one of the three richest men in the country at the time of his death in 1876, with a fortune made by developing department stores. L’Hommedieu built the first commercial buildings and houses in Garden City, and after Stewart’s death, built the Cathedral of the Incarnation there, dedicated to Stewart’s memory and opened in 1885.

Hofmann — along with husband Ted Hofmann, daughters Amanda Hofmann and Stephanie Tsai and granddaughter Tensley Tsai — visited the Episcopal cathedral last week for a private docent-led tour, one day before their Friday visit to East Hampton. She said the cathedral is amazing, Gothic style, like something out of the 1500s.

As for 32 Ocean Avenue, she said she was happy her family was able to see it and she found it to be beautiful, with wonderful original details intact.

She is from Torrance, California, southwest of Los Angeles, and this was her first time visiting New York. She said that where she lives, it is rare to see an old Victorian or Craftsman home that has been preserved.

MacMillan has been selling houses for more than two decades, and is proud of his track record concerning “antique” homes throughout East Hampton and Amagansett.

“Once you explain to people what they really own, why they’re important, they appreciate it, and they keep them, and we need to do more of that. Everything’s getting knocked down so quick,” he said.

“There is a category of buyer who likes the old house, who likes the charm,” Wohl added. “You can’t really get that in a new house.”

The Bowne house is in a historic district, so the street-facing facade is protected.

“You can’t do anything to the front, but you can in the rear. And it’s well over the size that would be permitted on this property now,” Wohl said, noting it would be limited to 5,600 square feet if built today.

The land can still legally accommodate a garage, pool and pool house.

The house, inclusive of the servant’s wing, has 12 bedrooms, eight and a half bathrooms and nine fireplaces. It is also known to have hosted writers, artists and other celebrities throughout the years.

“Dustin Hoffman played pool on that pool table, while Barbra Streisand was on these stairs giving an emotional speech for Bella Abzug when she ran for Congress,” MacMillan said while standing in the foyer.

Playwrights used to drink and eat on the front porch, he added, calling the home a “social event house” back in the day.

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