Champagne and Sagaponack Village Board meetings usually never coincide, but on Monday evening board members had good reason to celebrate at the closing of the trustees monthly session. With glasses in hand, the Sagaponack officials feted the inaugural meeting in the new village hall, purchased almost six months ago.
Before acquiring the new digs, the village operated out of a tiny two-room office down the road — on the corner of Montauk Highway and Sagg Main Street. The size of the space resembled a small New York City apartment rather than a village hall and cost $2,040 a month to rent. One room served as village clerk Rhodi Winchell’s office, which she shared with secretary Pat Remkus, but it was crammed with filing cabinets, papers and two bulky desks. The other room hosted board meetings, but doubled as building inspector John Woudsma’s office, and was so small the planning board often saw applicants in shifts.
“For planning board meetings it was absolutely standing room only,” recalled Winchell. “Anytime we had public hearings we had to use another space … like the Sagaponack school house.”
By December 2007, village officials started to look around for a permanent, and roomier, location. Winchell said the village explored every available option, from purchasing land to finding a new rental location. Their first goal, however, was to stay within the incorporated village of Sagaponack.
After extensive research, the village found a three-bedroom home for sale on Montauk Highway. The house was a converted barn and previously owned by a soundtrack producer. The list price was $1.2 million.
To finance the project, the village put the purchase to a vote. In August 2008, residents approved $2 million for the acquisition of the home. The village, however, only took out a $1.5 million bond anticipation notice (BAN), and used the remaining funds for building renovations.
For the most part, the building was structurally sound, but the southern and eastern walls of the former living room needed to be shored up and the roof was heightened. Now the room will be used for village board meetings and public hearings. The first floor bathroom was made handicap accessible and the village outfitted the hall with soft recessed lighting. Other repairs made to the building were mostly cosmetic.
“One bedroom was painted a salmon pink … and the kitchen was painted a dingy yellow,” said Woudsma. The village opted to cover the walls in white and ivory. The former kitchen was converted into a lunch area and foyer, which is partitioned by French doors. The walls separating one bedroom and the previous owner’s music mixing studio were knocked out and now serve as a large office area.
The final product is a polished, yet comfortable looking building with plenty of space for village operations. In the new meeting hall, sun streams in through the French doors in the back of the room and two colorful lithographs, created and donated by local artist Robert Dash, adorn the walls.
Although the building was renovated, design details from its past remain. Dark wood beams are found on almost every ceiling. One wall in the conference room — which was an addition built in the 1980s — is lined with white-painted shingles and was the original exterior of the building.
Part of the building’s charm, said Woudsma, is its hodgepodge of architectural elements, many of which cannot be historically placed. Two closets installed in the 1980s boast vintage porcelain doorknobs with iron locksets. The cherry wood floors look original to the barn, but Woudsma maintains they were most likely installed in the 1980s.
Although the current location of the building is on Montauk Highway, it was moved there from the Raymond Magee Farm on Hedges Lane in the early 1960s. The original barn structure was built between the late 1700s or early 1800s. Arthur Baron of the Barons Cove Inn in Sag Harbor moved the building in the 1960s, hoping to convert it into an antique store. Due to zoning constraints, Baron abandoned the project and sold the building as a private home.
In a way, Winchell and Woudsma have made the space into their home. Winchell often greets visitors by saying, “Welcome to our new abode.”
The village staff is still waiting for grass seed to be laid down on the front lawn and plan to create some overflow parking on the southern portion of the property, but for the most part the project is complete.
“We are still unpacking … there is so much space we don’t know what to do with it,” said Winchell. As she continued to file papers into a series of cabinets, Winchell had a second thought.
“No, I think we will find a use for [the space].”