By Emily J. Weitz; Photography by Michael Heller
Each year, several local residents open their homes to the public to share their little slice of Sag Harbor’s identity for the benefit of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML). The JJML House Tour is put together by the Friends of the Library, an independent non-profit whose goal is to support the functions of JJML.
“The Friends have been instrumental in the growth of JJML,” says Catherine Creedon, who is the director of the library. “They underwrite every one of our offerings. The proceeds from the house tour help to underwrite our ESL classes, children’s story time, and cultural offerings.”
At this time of immense growth for the library, with the renovation and expansion project expected to be finished next spring, the Friends have been all the more crucial.
“They’ve given $135,000 to our capital campaigns,” says Creedon. “In the new building, the meeting room will be called the Friends of JJML meeting room because they have paid for the AV [audio visual] equipment and the furnishings.”
One of the biggest fundraisers that Friends of JJML put together is the annual house tour, and this year five “spectacular and distinct properties” will open their doors for the event.
According to tour organizers, each property has some particular aspect that makes it stand out, whether it’s historical significance or architectural splendor. Walking through the Bustos residence alongside the owner, he explained the history of the house, which was built as a hunter’s lodge in the 1980s.
“The house was stone and wood and lots of paneling,” said Marlon Bustos. “Robert Cook bought it in 2006 as a vacation place, but he kept some of the character of the hunting lodge.”
Cook brought in more than 20 massive wood beams from a townhouse in the city, and they are seen throughout the house. He opened up some of the wood paneling to bring in more light, and he put in a pond-like swimming pool surrounded by rolling seasonal plantings.
Marlon and his wife Erika, who had seen dozens of properties before choosing this one, were drawn to the original character of the house.
“That’s what we loved about the house,” Bustos said. “The character of the house — that wintry lodge with the summer place. We come out throughout the winter, and light the fire and get cozy.”
The fireplace is set in a full stone wall in the living room, and the wood paneled walls and exposed beams evoke that cozy feel. At the same time, when you turn around, the light pours in through the glass doors, which look out onto the pool.
That focus on the outdoors is evident in the fact that almost every room opens up onto the patio and the pool area.
The master bedroom is beautiful, overlooking acres of billowing grasses where deer can be seen grazing. The master bath is 800 square feet, the size of many New York apartments. The children’s room features solid wood bunk beds and the guest room with views of the pool.
But the real kicker is when you take the staircase down to the wine cellar, which transports you to another time.
Dimly lit bulbs that flicker like candles set a mood as you descend, and the naturally cool air envelops you. The floor is cement, the walls wood panel, cement, and stone, and the low ceilings are exposed beams. Wine racks are stocked with bottles and a giant wine barrel is nestled in one corner. A high table, with stools tucked beneath, is made of a single slab of wood. The room is properly ventilated so cigar smoke is easily extracted. It’s the kind of place where you immediately crave a Guinness or a shot of whiskey — so transported are you to some old European city in some long-ago time.
“This sealed the deal for me,” said Bustos. “You could have a million people all over, and you come down here and it’s totally quiet.”
That’s one of the most interesting aspects of the house tour — you’re not one of the people at that party. Tour goers are invited to see all the little details of these exceptional houses, even the quiet secrets.
Another house on the tour will explore a black whaler’s history, built in 1905 and owned by an artist and his wife. Around the corner is a newly renovated Sears Roebuck kit house which marries the outdoors and indoors with a floor-to-ceiling expanse of glass, a second story balcony, and a wrap around porch.
Tour goers will also visit a Greek Revival house from the 1830s, located in the heart of the village. Original glass in the second floor windows and original floors in the dining room take you back to another time. Another house from the 1830s will round out the tour: a seaman’s cottage with original wide-plank floors and outdoor garden rooms brings in another aspect of Sag Harbor’s past.
Through these five houses, participants will be exposed to a diverse selection of the architecture and culture that makes Sag Harbor unique while supporting an institution that ensures our history will be preserved and our culture will continue to grow.
This year’s tour is set for Friday, July 5 between 11 am and 4 pm. Tickets are $50 on tour day at the John Jermain Memorial Library at 34 West Water Street in Sag Harbor. Or you can purchase them in advance for $45 at the Wharf Shop on Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call Barbara Boody at 725-2327 for more information.