Quogue Residents Renew Calls For Greater Protection Of Historic Buildings - 27 East

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Quogue Residents Renew Calls For Greater Protection Of Historic Buildings

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author on Mar 4, 2013

Exasperated by what they have viewed as the unscrupulous dismantling of historic structures in Quogue Village, a group of residents is renewing calls for greater protection—perhaps by way of a local ordinance—for the old buildings.

Nancy Mullan, who sits on the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board and lives in Quogue, said about 20 residents gathered at her Quogue home on a recent Saturday to discuss the issue.

“I really think that this time we can get something done,” she said, adding that an additional 20 people expressed support of the idea, but were unable to attend the gathering.

Members of the Quogue Historical Society have broached the topic in the past, though proposals have failed to gain momentum or approval from the Village Board due primarily to a fear that any such ordinance would infringe on property rights.

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said Monday that he would consider such a proposal, though none has been formally submitted to the board during his tenure as mayor. He added that he feels the village has done well in preserving its oldest homes.

Ms. Mullan said she and the other supporters were impelled to action this time out of concern with ongoing construction at the Hallock House, formerly called the Inn at Quogue, a 19th century building that sits off Quogue Street at the south end of Jessup Lane.

A group of Quogue residents, known as the Quogue Club, purchased the structure last fall and revealed plans to renovate the building and reopen it as an inn, bar and restaurant as early as this summer. They hired Connecticut historian and preservationist Charles Brilvitch to assist in the process of listing the inn on the National Register of Historic Places and to apply for historic tax credits from New York state.

But Sally Spanburgh, who lives in Southampton Village and chairs the town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, criticized the group for mislabeling the project as a restoration, rather than a demolition and replication. She said much of the original material has been removed from the building during construction, reducing its historic integrity and barring it from inclusion on the National Register.

“I wish they would be honest, and maybe next summer when all the people come out and they see the new building—that is a replica—they will like it. That is for them to choose,” she said. “But I think it would be sad for Quogue to say that this is a good thing, because that would say to everyone in Quogue that it’s not preservation that they’re after—it’s the false look of original architecture.”

Quogue Historical Society Co-Chairman Chester Murray, who is also an investor in the Inn at Quogue, said in a prepared statement that the investors regard the project as a “restoration,” but added that they “recognize that it may not qualify for the National Register because too much of the original structure had previously been removed (porch, roof) or turned out to be so deteriorated as to be unusable.”

He added that the porch and slate roof are being reconstructed so that the building facade will look as it did when it was first built.

“Unfortunately, much of the historical structural integrity of the Hallock House had been removed or degraded over a period of many years and the building had been allowed to deteriorate to the point where it was unsafe,” he wrote in an email.

Though Mr. Murray said the group had filed an application to have the property listed on the National Register, Daniel McEneny, who works for the State Historic Preservation Office and assists with nominations, said the group merely explored the option, but did not file a formal application with the state.

Mr. McEneny noted that the investors also discussed applying for the state tax credit program that offers financial relief for historic preservation projects, but they ultimately chose not to participate.

In order for the project to be eligible for such tax credits, Mr. McEneny said it would need to comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation, which include such requirements as repairing rather than replacing original material. Mr. Brilvitch said he worked extensively with Guy Horvath, an architect with the Quogue firm Austin, Patterson and Disston, to make sure the plans met those standards, though he said he has not seen the building since September, before the reconstruction work got under way.

Mr. McEneny added that the Hallock House, which was constructed in 1824 and used as an inn and later a boardinghouse, had been altered significantly over the years, and did not have a large amount of historic material on the interior before the most recent construction began. He said his department encourages builders to lift structures onto new foundations, as the investors did with the Hallock House recently, which can help with stabilization and increase their lifespans.

“It is expected that the renovated Hallock House will be a great asset to Quogue and the area community,” Mr. Murray said.

Mr. Sartorius also said that the ongoing renovations at the Hallock House will be a “huge plus” for the village, as the building had been neglected and unused for years.

The Hallock House is the latest older structure in Quogue to catch the attention of preservationists. In July, workers methodically dismantled Antiquity, an 18th century home that sat off Quantuck Lane, to clear the way for a new home to be built in its place. Antiquity’s dismantled pieces now sit in a storage pod, awaiting a suitable new location for reconstruction.

Additionally, the Jessup homestead, also known as the Weathervane, which sits off Quogue Street, fell into disrepair and recently underwent renovations, sparking worry over its integrity, and, in August, the 125-year-old Quogue Field Club, designed by architect Stanford White, was demolished so that a new building could be built in its place.

“It takes a lot of public education to dispel the myths that are ingrained in the mind of the public that historic preservation ordinances take away property rights and reduce property values,” Ms. Spanburgh said. “They have a lot of public education to conduct about what their resources are, how many and in what shape, and why preservation is a good thing.

“And until they have a majority of the public supporting it, it won’t happen,” she added.

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