The Captain David Hand House at 42 Church Street is one of the oldest houses in Sag Harbor Village.
By Stephen J. Kotz
A plan to renovate and expand the historic Captain David Hand House at 42 Church Street ran into a brick wall when it was presented for the first time to the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review on Monday, October 27.
Anthony Vermandois, the architect for the property’s new owner, Alex Akavan, said the cottage could date to the late 1700s and is one of the oldest houses, if not the oldest, in Sag Harbor.
He said the building had been well maintained until it suffered foundation damage that has manifested itself through “visible cracks” that opened during heavy construction at the Watchcase condominiums in the former Bulova building across the street.
Last year, the property’s then owner, John Krug, said the construction work had first cracked his windows before causing damage to the foundation that caused his house to sag and the front door to not close properly. He sold the property to Mr. Akavan earlier this year.
Mr. Vermandois told the ARB his client was mindful of the historic value of the house and did not want to make major changes, but he added, at about 1,000 square feet, it was simply too small for his needs.
“It’s a one-and-half bedroom, not one-and-a-half bath,” Mr. Vermandois said. “He wants two functioning bedrooms and two baths.”
But his plan calling for a modest side and rear addition, as well as digging out the foundation on the rear side to allow for a ground-floor bedroom met stiff resistance from the ARB, which was meeting with only three members, including alternate John Conner.
“This needs to be a restoration,” Mr. Conner said, noting that the house was too important historically to be demolished and rebuilt in kind. “If he wanted a two-bedroom house this is the wrong purchase.”
“Any addition at all is off the table,” Mr. Conner added later, stressing that any work could cause damage to the streetscape.
“It’s a little gem and a treasure. It’s going to have be repaired where things have happened to it from Watchcase,” said ARB member Christine Patrick.
On Tuesday, Mr. Vermandois said he was not discouraged by the board’s reaction. “I think they may have misunderstood our intent,” he said. “We are not planning to do major work.”
He added that the intention of last night’s appearance during the discussion portion of the meeting was “simply to let them know this should be on their radar.” He said he would likely request a continued discussion when the board has a full complement of members at its November 13 meeting before submitting a formal application.
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 him for the character Natty Bumpo in “Leatherstocking Tales.”
A ranch house at the corner of Madison and Susan streets could be undergoing a major renovation if the new owners, Todd and Maureen Powell get their way.
Architect Ryan Kesner of McDonough Architects told the board, the house was constructed in 1960 and is outdated and in need of repair. The owners want to build a series of additions around the house, add a second floor and convert the garage into a pool house, but what got board members’ attention was a proposal to have nine sets of French doors along the back of the house.
Board members asked Mr. Kesner to bring the plans back for another discussion when a full board is present, but they advised him that a plan to have a driveway with three curb cuts, two on Madison Street and one on Susan Street, should be eliminated.
Julian Terian’s proposal to renovate a long vacant house at 39 Howard Street won the board’s approval, although it told Mr. Vermandois, who is designing the house, that it wanted him to remove a cupola that was proposed to house an antique bell.
Mr. Vermandois said a portion of the house would have to be demolished and rebuilt. “The house has been abandoned for almost 30 years now,” Mr. Vermandois told the board. “It’s a question of what condition it will be in once we start to open up walls.”
He said it was the owner’s intention to “keep as much as we can.” Acting chairman Tom Horn advised Mr. Vermandois, “If you find something you have to come in and tell us.”
Neither Mr. Conner nor Ms. Patrick liked the proposed cupola. “Just because they have an antique bell doesn’t mean we have to accommodate the bell with a cupola,” Ms. Patrick said.
The project, which has already received approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, will have four on-site parking spaces and an 8-by-15-foot pool.
The ARB also signed off on the Sag Harbor Historical Society’s request to add a 14-by-18-foot accessory structure behind the Annie Cooper Boyd House on Main Street. Jim Laspesa, the society’s architect, said the building would be used for educational purposes and be shingled in cedar with a shingled roof. The building would be built to the rear of the property and does not require any ZBA variances, he told the board.
The next Sag Harbor ARB meeting is on Thursday, November 13 at 5 p.m.