By Stephen J. Kotz
The Point House, which until last month occupied a prominent perch overlooking Sag Harbor from the end of Fahys Road in North Haven, is a bit closer to arriving at what will likely be its final destination.
On Tuesday, the North Haven Village Zoning Board of Appeals issued a formal decision, approving the application of Stuart Hersch to move the 1804 colonial landmark to a new location on his 2.6-acre property for use as a guesthouse.
Under an agreement reached with village officials to save the house, which was constructed by John Payne Jr. and lived in by members of the Fahys family of watchcase factory fame for many years, Mr. Hersch agreed to save the Point House so he could build a new, modern home in its place.
Mr. Hersch, the president and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, first tried to give the Point House away, and when he found he had no takers, have it disassembled, with its components sold off to raise money for charity.
That solution set off alarms when the village Architectural Review Board met with Mr. Hersch’s architect, Bruce Nagel, to informally discuss his plans for the property.
Although all agreed the house, believed to be the oldest in the village, was worthy of saving, it had never been designated a landmark and a village effort to create an inventory of historic structures had fallen by the wayside.
Village Mayor Jeff Sander considered having the house moved to village- owned property for safekeeping but shied away from that idea after considering the costs involved, including the need to move power lines the length of Ferry Road.
Once an agreement was reached to preserve the house, it was necessary to choose a location. Mr. Hersch first proposed placing it at the southwest corner of the property, fronting on South Ferry Road, but the ARB convinced him to instead place it at the northwest corner of the property, 20 feet from both South Ferry and Fahys roads, and to keep it visible from the rod.
Last month, ARB chairman David Sherwood said placing the house at that corner would provide both the best views for passersby and be typical of how houses would have been constructed—typically closer to the road than they are today—in the early 19th century.
The ZBA, at an April 8 hearing, granted a pair of variances, reducing the front-yard setback requirements on both Fahys and South Ferry Road from the 90 feet that is required by the code. A third variance will allow a total gross floor area on the property of 12,042 square feet, where the code allows 9,400 square feet. A stipulation of that variance requires that the extra allowed floor area can only be used for the Point House.
In a unanimous decision Tuesday night, the ZBA ruled that allowing Mr. Hersch to have two houses on his property would not have adverse effects because of the public interest in seeing the old house protected.
The house has been a silent witness to the many changes that have transformed the East End over the past two centuries. The original owner, Mr. Payne, was a prosperous merchant, but the family was touched by tragedy when his son, Charles W. Payne, who later lived in the house, was lost at sea during a whaling trip in 1838. His name is listed on the Broken Mast Monument in Oakland Cemetery.
In 1886, the Payne family sold the house to Joseph Fahys, who helped transform Sag Harbor from a port village to an industrial center, building the Fahys Watchcase factory, which today is being converted into high-end condominiums. In recent years, the house was owned by Carol Philips, the founder of Clinique skin care products. At her death, it was sold to the model Christie Brinkley, who, in turn, sold it to Mr. Hersch, late last year.