By Kathryn G. Menu; image courtesy of Bates Masi Architects
A renovation transforming the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church into a private residence, including a balcony and reflecting pool, was approved last Thursday night by the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board.
The approval came after Julian Adams, the director of the Bureau of Community Preservation Services with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, weighed in on the plans in a letter submitted to the board. Mr. Adams worked with Ken Lustbader, a historic preservation consultant hired by the building’s owner, Sloan Schaffer, to ensure any changes to the landmark structure would not compromise its historic integrity. Mr. Lustbader has worked on numerous historic renovation projects including a number with The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program.
Mr. Adams had originally planned to attend Thursday’s meeting to discuss not only the renovation of the Madison Street church building, but also materials the board should consider approving in the historic district— materials it has largely been reluctant to consider otherwise. This includes aluminum-clad or vinyl-clad wood windows, as well as siding like HardiePlank, a fiber cement siding produced to mimic some qualities of wood.
Mr. Adams was unable to make the session, said ARB chairman Cee Scott Brown and will instead attend a March 24 meeting. He provided the ARB with written comments regarding the church building project as not to delay that application.
Mr. Schaffer purchased the former church building in 2013 from Elizabeth Dow, who originally earned approval from the village to convert the building into her wall covering design studio and showroom. Mr. Schaffer, an entrepreneur and art gallery owner, plans to convert the space into his residence. He hired Bates Masi Architects—a firm that began working on concepts for the church building when Ms. Dow was the owner.
When architect Paul Masi first approached the ARB with preliminary plans, the board suggested it should bring in Mr. Adams as a consultant as it had never had to review plans for this kind of renovation on a historic landmark building.
The church building was originally constructed on High Street in 1835, but it was taken apart and rebuilt at its current Madison Street location in 1864. According to Mr. Lustbader, the building is largely being returned to its historic roots in terms of appearance, with plans to strip the white building of its vinyl siding, replace the asphalt roof with cedar shingles and repoint any masonry on the façade.
In the plans, a hedge originally planned at the sidewalk has been moved back to where the church sits to maintain an open view of the property—a change Mr. Adams supported in his memo. Mr. Adams also states plans for a reflecting pool on the north side of the property is appropriate, and that his concerns over the potential for damage or the “over wetting” of the existing stonewall of the church have been addressed after viewing new engineering schematics.
Original plans to replace the existing wooden front doors with full glass doors have been dropped, with new doors planned that match those shown in historic photos, although glass panels have been added to increase light and visibility. While metal windows are proposed, according to Mr. Adams they have been changed to mimic more traditional wooden windows in its details. A proposed glass balcony at the rear of the building has been designed so it can be removed from the building in the future, which Mr. Adams said ensures it has no permanent impact to the historic building. A rear addition to the building, said Mr. Lustbader, has been designed so its appearance is obviously different from the remainder of the historic church building.
Mr. Brown said his concern was that the view of the church from Main Street would largely be of that of the addition, and not the historic church. He suggested landscaping could be incorporated to soften that view.
“If this were on a five-acre property and in the back where no one could see it, it would be different,” he said.
ARB member Penni Ludwig said she would not want to see the property walled in with landscaping, as that also takes away from the aesthetic of living on Main Street.
“I think maybe a solution is to find something [to plant] where we don’t cover up the upper portion of the church,” said Mr. Masi.
“I think what you have all done is very attractive and handsome and going with what Julian has addressed in our concerns. I don’t think I have anything else I can say because it meets the criteria,” said Mr. Brown.
The ARB unanimously approved Mr. Schaffer’s application with the changes suggested by Mr. Adams.