By Kathryn G. Menu
The former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street has changed hands once more, according to its now former owner Elizabeth Dow and its new proprietor Sloan Schaffer, an entrepreneur with strong ties to the art world.
Schaffer has pursued buying the historic structure for over a year and a half since just before Dow closed on her $2.1 million purchase of the building from former Southampton Town Councilman and former Goldman Sachs general partner Dennis Suskind.
In 2008, Suskind purchased the property from the Sag Harbor Methodist Church congregation, which felt it was unable to meet the maintenance needs of the historic building. The proceeds of that sale enabled the congregation to build a new church on Carroll Street.
The purchase price between Schaffer and Dow is unknown, although Dow said Schaffer made her “an offer I could not refuse.”
The building itself dates back to 1835, when it was originally constructed on High Street, only to be rebuilt in 1864 on Madison Street. Like Dow, this week Schaffer said he intends to restore the historic church, removing the existing aluminum siding and replacing it with wood.
Schaffer has contracted with the Sag Harbor-based Bates Masi Architects, who worked with Dow on her original concept for what was planned to be the new home for Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media, a textile and wall covering design firm and studio.
On Tuesday, Schaffer said the church will serve as his personal single family residence. His attorney, Dennis Downes, will petition the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to return the property to residential zoning. After contracting to purchase the property in 2010, Dow successfully petitioned the village board to re-zone the property into the adjacent village business district so she could run her business there.
“I think I really uncovered a gem in that building,” said Dow on Wednesday. “And someone who intends to preserve that building has made me an offer I could not refuse. Sometimes you have to take an opportunity when it comes your way, although this was a very difficult decision for me to make.”
Making it easier, said Dow, was the knowledge that Schaffer is truly committed to restoring the building and has similar passion for it.
“I wish him the best and think he will be a good steward for that building,” she said. “He was so persistent, it’s clear he really cares for the space.”
Dow said she intends to continue to search for a space in Sag Harbor where she can move her company, which is currently located in Amagansett.
“I think this is a move in the right direction for me, and my allegiance to Sag Harbor and the community has not changed at all,” she said.
For Shaffer, his interest in the building dates back to 2008, when Suskind first listed the property after purchasing it from the church congregation.
“I am trained as an architect and I initially saw the property as something really exciting, historic and important to this village,” he said. “It’s also a rare challenge to work on a project like this and you don’t always have the opportunity in life to work on something involving a structure like the Methodist church.”