Tag Archive | "Robert Strada"

Rebuilding a Historic Intersection in Bridgehampton

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web_Bridgehampton Main Intersection Renovation_COMPOSITE

By Claire Walla

It may look dilapidated and exude the sound of drilling and the smell of fresh sawdust, but the intersection of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road in Bridgehampton is not your average construction zone. It is currently home to a veritable trifecta of ongoing historic preservation projects.

On the southeast side of the highway, the Bridgehampton Historical Society is working to preserve what’s known as the Nathanial Rogers House (the renovated building will serve as the organization’s new home). Across the street to the north, developer Bill Campbell and his crew are turning the old Bull’s Head Inn property into a new luxury Inn, complete with a restaurant and spa, to be called the Topping Rose House (taken from the building’s historic owners). And on the northwest corner of the intersection, developer Leonard Ackerman has already gone through with the demolition of the run-down beverage store and has plans in place to construct a retail center.

While Ackerman’s new development is the only arm of this trio of construction projects to be built entirely from scratch, the building will be designed to look like the white, columned Greek Revival buildings being restored to its east.

According to Julie Greene of the historical society, the Bull’s Head and Nathanial Rogers homes date back to the 1840s. A man named Abraham Rose once owned the property on both sides of the road, but he sold the southern parcel to Nathanial Rogers in 1829. A little more than a decade later, Greene said, both men simultaneously built their homes in the Greek revival style.

Greene somewhat lamented the fact that the original building on the former beverage store site — which was thought to have been built in 1698 — had been demolished decades ago when the beverage store was actually a Shell Oil gas station. But, she said the proposed alternative is a desirable alternative to what stood in its place.

“I think anything would be better than how that beverage store looked in its last days,” she joked.

“It’s great to have buildings that complement each other,” she said of all three construction plans.

Hal Zwick, a real estate agent with Devlin McNiff Halstead who is representing Ackerman’s development, said the site is scheduled to be completed by 2013. However, he’s already soliciting businesses that are interested in moving into the retail space. In total, the spot can potentially house up to seven unique businesses, although Zwick also said he’s been in talks with at least one company that expressed an interest in renting out the entire complex.

Across the street, however, history was of the utmost importance when the Bridgehampton Historical Society decided to buy the Nathaniel Rogers house back in 2003. Through a combination of grant money from the state and donations from the town of Southampton (all totaling roughly $1.7 million), as well as private funds donated by members of the Bridgehampton community, Bridgehampton Historical Society Director John Eilertsen said the current phase of the restoration project — namely revamping the building’s exterior — is set to be completed in April.

From here, he added, “What we’re hoping is that the town will come up with an additional dollar amount so that we can proceed with the interior.”

While Eilertsen said the time-frame for the rest of the project is largely dependent on whether or not the historical society secures enough financial donations and grant money to proceed, he ball-parked this building’s completion for two-and-a-half to three years from now.

Looking at a more immediate start date, the Topping Rose House aims to open its doors by the start of the summer season. Though the 3-acre site will ultimately include four 2-story guest cottages along the property’s eastern edge, a spa, a swimming pool and a crabapple orchard along the highway, building manager Fran Reres said only the historic Inn, with seven guest rooms, is expected to be open for business this summer. (The rest of the property — housing 22 rooms total — is expected to be finished a year from now.)

While historic preservation was a relative after thought for this project proposal, it is now ingrained in the day-to-day tasks of everyone involved. In fact, as part of Campbell’s deal with the Town of Southampton, he hired local historian Robert Strada to be the historical consultant for the entire redevelopment project. Since construction began back in August, Strada said he has already uncovered a historic barn (actually found hidden within a storage shed on the property), and he’s helped the project managers, JGP Pinnacle, LLC, identify elements of historical significance.

“The Southampton Town Planning Board is requiring that they document the entire process,” Strada said with an almost palpable enthusiasm. He even pointed to the project’s blueprints, which state specifically, “That alteration and restoration of the Inn shall comply with the Secretary of Interior’s standards for the treatment of historic properties.”

Strada said he gets calls from the site whenever someone uncovers something that may potentially be of historic significance. In fact, he said, it happens quite frequently.

“Just this morning, [Construction Manager Steve Knopp] found a special piece of iron,” Strada revealed.

He doesn’t’ know for sure whether it has historical significance or not, but Strada will certainly investigate it.

All his findings — pictures and historic information — will be put on display throughout the Topping Rose House. And, as it is the nature of their institution, Bridgehampton Historical Society members will do the same.

It may be over a century since the Toppings and Rogers families made Bridgehampton their home, but today’s building projects are making certain they are still remembered.

A Rescued House Will Return Home

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1740 Historic House

Photos by Robert Strada

With the help community members, Robert Strada and his wife, Michelle, saved a 1740s residence in Southampton Village from literal demolition in 2006. They deconstructed the home piece by piece during a particularly hot and dry August and have since preserved it in storage in Amagansett.

It was a passion project for the architect, who runs a firm with carpenter and fellow historic preservationist Dick Baxter. It was also a way to ensure the precious building was not torn to the ground to be replaced by yet another McMansion.

Now, years later, through a simple newspaper advertisement, Strada and Baxter have found a new home on John Street in Sag Harbor for this Colonial-style gem on a piece of property owned by friends Joe Pintauro and Greg Therriault.

According to Strada and local historian Zach Studenroth, this move will return the building to Sag Harbor, which was the home’s second location during the course of its long history. The house came to Sag Harbor from Connecticut, and it was in Sag Harbor that a woman from Texas fell in love with house, and her husband, in love with her, agreed to move the structure to Little Plains Road in Southampton.

In 2006, Strada was working on the preservation and restoration of The Henry Rhodes House in Southampton Village when he became aware of the fact that the new owner of 444 Little Plains Road had secured a demolition permit to take down an 18th century home.

Despite how painfully, and exquisitely, it had been preserved, Strada said he learned the new owner had earned a demolition permit from the Village of Southampton simply because the 266-year-old house lay just outside of the historic district. In this case, just outside the historic district was actually across the street from the historic district.

“It was literally outside of the historic district by feet and inches,” said Strada in an interview on Wednesday.

Working with village officials, Strada was finally able to secure permission from the property owner to let him save the house by taking it apart stick by stick. At the same time, Strada began working with Studenroth to trace the history of the building’s journey from Connecticut, where it was constructed in 1740.

Through oral histories, Studenroth and Strada learned the house was moved to Sag Harbor sometime in the late 19th century where it remained for several years. Then, according to Strada, a member of the Dixon family — a wealthy, Texas clan with property in Southampton — spotted the structure.

One of the stories Studenroth and Strada were told was that moving the house from Sag Harbor was a literal labor of love.

“It was Mrs. Dixon who loved the house and her husband loved his wife,” he said.

Strada credits that family for preserving the building and its minute detail that make it an early American classic. Finding a new home for this residence has been a goal of his since rescuing the structure. Little did he know a newspaper advertisement in The Sag Harbor Express would bring him together with mutual friends to find a perfect solution for preservationists looking for a place to put a historic home, and property owners looking for the right development on a sensitive piece of waterfront property.

“I remember, years ago, having a conservation that there must be a place in Sag Harbor for this home to go,” said Strada. “It belonged in the village’s historic district.”

To that end, Baxter and Strada took out a real estate listing in The Express featuring the home, and lo and behold Pintauro and Therriault, friends of Strada and Baxter for 20 years, came calling.

“That they were the ones that responded to our ad blew our minds,” said Strada.

Hoping to develop the land, Pintauro and Therriault have already secured all the permits they need to reconstruct the home on the 59 John Street property, expect for approval from the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB).

On November 28, that board was more than enthusiastic about the project, urging them to come back with a formal application for approval.

Therriault said he and Pintauro have long been trying to find the right project for the property, but it didn’t come together for one reason or another.

“Maybe this house is the reason it has taken us so long to come up with the right plan,” said Therriault. “Because this is an incredible project for a beautiful piece of property.”

The house is so perfect for the property that it meets all setbacks and conforms to wetland setbacks asked for by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In order to make the house fit on Pintauro and Therriault’s original site plan, Strada said all he had to do was move the building six inches.

“Kudos,” said Sag Harbor ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown. “And thank you. This is very exciting for Sag Harbor.”