The historic Captain David Hand House. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
By Stephen J. Kotz
A plan to renovate the historic Captain David Hand House on Church Street in Sag Harbor was given the green light by the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on Thursday, December 11.
Board members responded enthusiastically to a presentation by Stuart Phillips, the owner of Workshop 360, a New York architectural firm.
“Our intent is to showcase the house as an historic jewel of Sag Harbor,” Mr. Phillips wrote in an overview of the project he gave to the board, “to make it look like it did when it was originally built.”
The house, believed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, standing in the village, is owned by Alex Akavan, who recently purchased it from John Krug. Mr. Krug, in turn, had complained that the tiny cottage had suffered damage to its foundation as a result of the major construction project that has been transforming the former Bulova factory into the upscale Watchcase condominiums.
Mr. Phillips told the board protecting the integrity of the building was the first goal. “It’s in danger of falling down,” he told the board, pointing out that the foundation needs to be shored up, walls straightened, joists and rafters replaced or reinforced, and window frames straightened and repaired.
Various renovations undertaken over the years “were hard on the house,” Mr. Phillips said. “What needs to be done to it is to make it special again.”
The plans call for the façade and most of the exterior of the house to remain intact, except for the addition of a shed dormer on the rear, which will provide additional exterior space in a second floor bedroom. Mr. Phillips also presented plans to extend the existing foundation to the rear of the house, creating more usable ground floor space and a back deck resting on stone walls. The plans also call for replacing the front fence and the elimination of a blacktopped parking area on the north side of the house. Parking will be provided on grass pavers next to the building.
The reception for Mr. Phillips’ plan was a 180-degree turn from that given to Mr. Akavan’s first architect, Anthony Vermandois, who appeared before the board during an informal discussion in October with sketches for a modest addition to the rear of the house. Board members were flat-out hostile to the idea, catching Mr. Vermandois by surprise, who said he was only trying to gauge the board’s reaction and get a sense of the direction it wanted him to take.
According to a “Guide to Sag Harbor” by Henry Weisbery and Lisa Donneson, the Hand house was built in Southampton before 1732. It is possible the house was actually built in the 17th century. The house was moved from Southampton to Sagaponack in 1752 and then moved to the intersection of Madison and Main Streets at the site now occupied by the Stanton house. In 1840 it was moved to its current location on Church Street.
The house belonged to David Hand, a legendary figure in Sag Harbor who outlived five wives all whom he is buried beside in Oakland Cemetery. Author James Fenimore Cooper was said to have been so impressed with Captain Hand that he modeled the character Natty Bumpo in the “Leatherstocking Tales” after him.
Andrew Grossman’s plan to do a major renovation of a house at 11 Howard Street also caught the board’s attention. His architect, Bill Beeton, has proposed moving the existing house to the center of the lot but no closer to the street, and replacing a rear portion of it with a new addition. Board members questioned the appearance of the house, which would be in natural clapboard along the street and shingled on the sides. They also did not care for a proposed breezeway leading to a proposed new garage.
Board chairman Cee Scott Brown said the house looked more something that would be built in a Bridgehampton potato field than in the village.
Tim McGuire, a neighbor, who also serves on the village Zoning Board of Appeals, raised concerns about the appearance and scope of the project.
“It’s just so modern looking I’m shocked looking at it,” he said. “It doesn’t fit in to any part of Sag Harbor, let alone Howard Street.”
That brought an angry rebuke from Mr. Grossman, who had earlier told the board he was designing the house as a memorial to his wife who died in November. He questioned why anyone would object to his plans for the house, pointing out that it is now clad in aluminum siding.
The board asked him to return with a scaled back version.
In other action, the board approved William Cummings’ plan to renovate a three-bedroom house and garage at 8 Ackerley Street.
Mr. Cummings told the board he planned to gut the interior and do an extensive exterior renovation that would involve adding a new chimney, building a second-story deck on the rear of the house and converting the garage into a spa room with fireplace. The front of the house will be sided in white clapboard and the sides and rear shingled with white trim and a gray door.
“We just don’t want you to knock it down if that’s what you find once you get into this project,” said board member Bethany Deyermond. “You need to come back.”
“I live on the street, so it will be interesting,” she said.