A Sag Harbor walking tour down Hampton Street from the blinking light to Harbor Heights.
“Harbor Heights” is a service station that was grandfathered into a sweet spot next door to the Sag Harbor neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places. This is in the stretch where Route 114 becomes Hampton Street, the gateway from East Hampton to Sag Harbor.
Starting at the blinking light at the other end of Hampton Street, where it splits off from Division, there is a picturesque view down the curving south side of the street with Annie Cooper Boyd’s sign, “See our Museum” and a long view of the profile of an early house. This was once the home of Captain Gibbs, the steamboat captain, and his wife Phebe Havens. (It had been moved from across the street, as seen in an early photograph taken from the steeple of the Old Whalers’ Church.)
Next door, at 14 Hampton Street, is the tiny Hulbert/Coles house. It was built in the 1750 period as a ship’s store on the waterfront for the Sloop Mehitable, which was doing business with the West Indies before the Revolution. Its owner, John Hulbert Sr., of Bridgehampton died in 1774. The next owner, Ichabod Coles, was given permission by Southampton Town to improve it to be his dwelling with the provision that when he no longer lived in it himself, the house could be moved off and the beach rights would revert to the town.
Ichabod Coles died in 1790 and the house was moved to Hampton Street, where it now stands. When a plaster ceiling came down in 1976, a piece of grapeshot that had lodged between the ceiling and the floor of the loft came down with it. Knowing that the little house had been standing near the wharf at the time of the Meigs raid when the patriots were being shelled by a British schooner, the person into whose hand that iron ball dropped was treated to a very rare experience of reality.
The next seven houses on that side of Hampton Street are all period, 19th century survivals. In the next block, there is a playground filled with running children and the handsome Classic Revival Public Elementary School. The street is teeming with school busses and cars and crossing guards who help little kids across the street to walk home down Convent Lane or to their parents’ waiting cars.
Crossing Clinton Street at the corner, a period Greek Revival house and the five early houses that follow are trim behind variations on the theme of white picket fences. This is the block where all the American flags are flying.
At the Eastville Avenue intersection, there is a poignant view of St. David’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, built in 1840.This is an icon of memory, the cornerstone of the historic Eastville community where houses still standing were the refuges of runaway and freed slaves. A secret roomin the basement of the church is believed to have been part of the underground railroad. Across the street among native grasses and lilies-of-the-valley in the church burying ground a fallen obelisk bears homage to David Hempstead, the first President of the congregation, and Mary, his wife.
A common fence serves the historic church on one side and the service station on the other. How inappropriate. This would not have happened at a time of responsible town planning. We should be more enlightened, in this century, than to accept the mistakes of the past and particularly, to allow such grandfathered sites to be developed so that earlier mistakes are magnified.
Sag Harbor has a Village Code designed to protect its sweet spots and historic neighborhoods. That Code, however, provides but a fragile possibility until our Village Boards establish precedents that uphold it. If developers can break down the Code with variances to expand non-conforming businesses such as Harbor Heights into such an intrusive, out-of-scale, brilliantly-lighted presence, it will be at the cost of historical fabric that has made Sag Harbor an embodiment of American history.
Make LIPA Public
Yes! Let’s have “SMUD” East: “LIMUD.” Drop the “S” in SMUD — it stands for “Sacramento” as in “Sacramento Municipal Utility District — (SMUD) and replace it with “Long Island” — (LIMUD). Karl Grossman hits the nail on the head in his Suffolk Closeup column: “A Public LIPA” (01/24/13).
Say “NO!” to Governor Cuomo’s privatization-for-profit scheme. He would replace the yoke of LIPA, with the onerous yoke of “For-Profit” entities. Just more of the same. Governor Cuomo is rapidly becoming the shill for special interests at the expense of the public; (and, he’s also poised to give a pass to Big Oil & Gas Frackateers who would pollute New York State’s water supplies with a cocktail of toxic solvents and other harmful “secret, proprietary” chemicals used to extract gas from shale. A truly polluting enterprise that has so far devastated communities all across America in its wake.)
LILCO cum LIPA was supposed to be a wholly publicly-owned, governed, and controlled non-profit utility by and for Long Islanders. Instead, it was hijacked for the money-men and the public’s interest got royally screwed. No, Governor Cuomo, no damnable privatization of LIPA where CEOs make out like bandits and the public gets shafted with high rates, bad service, and inadequate infrastructure.
“SMUD” is owned and run by its customers, successfully so, over these last 60 years. It’s a great prototype for us. Its website is: www.smud.org. If you missed Mr. Grossman’s article, it’s at: http://sagharboronline.com/sagharborexpress/suffolk-close-up/a-public-lipa-21717
Down with business as usual, with Robber Barons and their political enablers who have us in their stranglehold, and up with “power” to the people—figuratively and literally.