Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Historical Society"

Barbara Schwartz

Tags: , , , , ,


web convo Barbara Schwartz


The Sag Harbor Historical Society opens a new exhibit this weekend on the evolution of the Annie Cooper Boyd House. What do you hope to accomplish?

We want to give people an idea of what life was like when the house was first occupied in 1795, and how it evolved through various ownerships. We’ll look at the house as it was first built by Joseph Whiting Foster, and including the addition Annie Cooper Boyd made in the early 1900s.


What was life like when Foster first built the house?

He and his wife lived there and they had two small children. It was a very simple life. He was probably surviving on seafood and hunting. By that time life had gotten a little simpler, they could go out and buy material, she didn’t have to weave their cloth by hand. Things were becoming less restrictive for women.

The village had gotten busier, but it was still small. The Presbyterian Church had only 13 members, and they were among the first.

We don’t know what he did for a living. They probably had a subsistence garden, probably a cow and a pig.


Were there many other homes in Sag Harbor at the time?

Oh yes, theere were a number of homes in Sad Harbor. His was a more modest house. There were several, bigger, ships captains homes. By 1795 Sag Harbor had pretty much recovered from the Revolution.

Children were encouraged to play more at that time. They weren’t expected to do chores when they first walked. They could go down to the harbor and watch ships come in, watch ships being built. They would collect eggs. Sag Harbor was exposed to a lot of the outside world. Children would see a lot of people from all over the world.


The next owners were the Coopers. When did they come in?

William Cooper would have purchased the property about 1871. On the neighboring property he had a substantial piece of land, and his shop for building whaleboats.


Was Annie the first to make a big addition?

Yes.


What was the purpose of the renovation?

Really to bring it up to date. She and her husband moved into it after it was left to her by her parents. By 1906, heating a house with three fireplaces was not practical.


How much of the history of the building will the exhibit cover?

We go from 1795 to 1998, when Nancy Willey, Annie’s daughter, died and left it to the historical society.

We’ve never really talked about the early period of the house. We’ll have sketches by Pam Lawson imagining what life was like at the earliest part. She has a sketch of the mother knitting, for example. And we’ll have the model of the house as it was in 1795.  And a collection of photographs from when Annie Cooper Boyd lived there going back to the early 1900s.


It’s pretty remarkable, in more than 200 years, only two families lived in the house.

Yes, and not much was changed. You can still see some of the original paint, behind the layers, in some parts of the house.


The exhibit, “The Evolution of an Old Sag Harbor House – 1795-1998,” opens to the public Sunday, May 27, 1-4 p.m. at the historical society’s Annie Cooper Boyd House, 174 Main Street.


Sag Harbor ARB Calls for Assessment Before Demolition of 125 Main Street in Sag Harbor

Tags: , , , ,


In the wake of protest — including by the president of the Sag Harbor Historical Society — this week the board charged with protecting the historic character of Sag Harbor Village called for independent, expert advice on the state of a Main Street building before it will even consider allowing it to be torn down and rebuilt in kind.

On Monday, July 25, the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) Chairman Cee Scott Brown told local real estate developer Jim Giorgio and his architect Chuck Thomas that he would like the condition of 125 Main Street formally assessed before his board offers any opinions on the proposal.

Last year Giorgio, who has re-developed a handful of Sag Harbor buildings, was granted approval to raise the historic structure, located adjacent to The Latham House, and add a new street-level commercial space. That approval was seen as a part of a restoration project designed to shore-up the building through a new foundation.

However, according to Thomas, once he began taking a closer look at that structure it became clear that plan might not be feasible, as much of the building was in such a serious state of disrepair that it would not be salvageable during the reconstruction project.

Instead, Thomas suggested they would change their plans and re-build a new 125 Main exactly as it appears today, except would lower the structure so two retail spaces would be closer to the street level.

Quickly, the concept of the building, which dates to the 1750s, being demolished raised the ire of the Sag Harbor Historical Society and the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor. Both groups called for an independent assessment.

And it appears they were heard.

Brown said he would like to work with Giorgio and Julian Adams, the community liaison and certified local government coordinator for the New York State Historic Preservation Office to find an engineer that specializes in historic restoration that could offer an independent opinion about the building’s durability.

“I can tell you right now, structurally, the first floor has to be replaced,” said Thomas, adding the building also needs a brand new foundation. “On the second floor what may be able to be saved are the walls and the roof, but that is about it.”

In the process of restoring and renovating the building, Giorgio will also have to bring it up to code, requiring a new sprinkler system in between the floors, a virtually impossible task with the current state of the structure.

“For me, to take that building down and rebuild it, it costs a lot more money than if we saved it,” said Giorgio, adding he believes they won’t even know what is possible until they start to strip away layers of the structure. Thomas and Giorgio have promised to use as much of the existing historic material in rebuilding 125 Main Street if they are approved.

Giorgio implored the board to give him direction on how they can make a viable plan for the building work, both for the village, but also for him as a commercial real estate owner.

“It’s not an easy answer for us, and I know it’s not an easy answer for you, but we need some direction, some latitude,” he said.

“The best thing we can all do is get someone on board that is familiar with this, a preservationist,” said board member Michael Mensch, adding it may be possible to re-build from the inside out.

Brown added that if it is determined the building can be saved in some form, he would like to reach out to the other village boards and possibly work towards a project – even if it requires variances – that make the space viable for Giorgio to maintain without taking the building down.

Giorgio agreed to explore hiring a preservationist and taking a third look at the project.

“We are trying to find the right mix for what works for the village and what works for us,” he said.

“It might not be as bad as you think,” said Brown. “Or it might be worse.”

Pam Lawson

Tags:


web convo Lawson

The curator of “My Dear Long Island Home,” an exhibit at the Sag Harbor Historical Society’s Annie Cooper Boyd house that highlights the paintings, poetry and writings of some of the most intriguing figures from Sag Harbor’s past.

 

What inspired you to organize this show?

“I had done research on quite a few of the people separately, and I thought why not put them together? There were so many talented Sag Harbor residents and we found we had plenty of material.”


There’s a lot of research in this exhibit. Have you always been a history buff?

“No, not really. I needed something to do when I moved out here and I discovered the historical society. [Historian] Sue Smyth and the library let me snoop around the history room and write down files. History was not made interesting to me as a young person – it’s the people who were involved in the history who were so interesting and once I got to know the people, I made the connection to the history.”


Would you consider many of the subjects in the exhibit forgotten figures?

“[Artists] Orlando Hand Bears and Hubbard Latham Fordham, and [writers] Prentice Mulford and William Wallace Tooker, these are names people know. But there are also people like Russella Hazard. She was such a good librarian, but so shy. A lot of people didn’t know her.”


What made Russella Hazard special?

“Among other things, she wrote a pamphlet on the history of the fire fighters and another on 150 years of newspapers in Sag Harbor. But the enormous thing she did was go through all the old newspapers, there was no microfilm in her day, and put together a huge compilation on the whaling fleet. It’s in a big notebook that belongs to the library. I helped put it in better order, but it never got published because it needed a lot of editing. It had all the details of the ships that went out, the dates they came back and what happened to the captains.”


When did she do this work at the library?

“Mostly in the 1940s and ‘50s. She retired in 1969 after 43 years. That was her first and only job. She lived with her aunt, she wasn’t married. She was a typical librarian, with no make-up, who did nothing with her hair. She just rode her bike back and forth and pretty much everyone knew ‘Babs.’ She was simply devoted to the job.”


What makes her whaling fleet compendium so important?

“The Whaling Museum has logs and separate information on ships, but nothing like that. She was dedicated to getting it down. She had the stories of the ships, and then she had stuff about the captains — she was really into the details. She had the number of barrels of oil each ship came back with.”


While assembling this exhibit did you come across anything that really impressed you?

“There are two rare miniatures [paintings] that have never been seen by the public. One is by Orlando Hand Bears and is of his mother, Miranda Gibbs Bears. Another is by Hubbard Latham Fordham and is of William Huntting Cooper, Annie Cooper Boyd’s father. These are both on loan from Joy Lewis and Mildred Dickinson — friends of mine. I knew they had them. If anyone else knows of other miniatures in Sag Harbor, I’d love to know about it.”


There are a lot more historical figures we could talk about in this exhibit who penned poetry, composed music, created art or wrote books inspired by Sag Harbor. Do you think it was typical back in the day for a small town to have such a large number of notable people?

“There’s always talk about the artists and writers now in Sag Harbor. But these were special people — people who loved Sag Harbor and who were devoted to their town. I think the beauty of the town had a lot to do with it, and the proximity to New York. In earlier days you could take a packet boat from Sag Harbor and go into the city. I sure wish you could do that now.”



An Artist Free to Live in His World

Tags: , , ,


The Haile\'s Sag Harbor basement with Chris\' work

For Christopher Phillips Haile, art wasn’t an occupational choice. It was a lifestyle. With an adventurer’s soul and a dreamer’s vision, Chris traveled the world and from time to time came to roost in Sag Harbor, where his mother, Lucia Haile, had a home. Whether he was boarding a Greek freighter as a resident artist with little more than a roll of paper and wood block, or commandeering abandoned urban space to create Stone Henge-like environments to the delight of passers by, Chris Haile was an artist whose adventurous nature and indomitable spirit imbued his every piece.

Wherever he went, he made his art. It didn’t matter what materials were at hand — ink, wood, paint or paper — or who would see the final product. Process was the point and for Chris Haile making art was as unavoidable as drawing his next breath.

Chris Haile, son of the late Sag Harbor artist Lucia Phillips Haile, died in 1998 at the age of 50. He left behind thousands of pieces of art and two brothers, Duncan and Roger, who are now engaged in the monumental task of cataloguing his vast body of work. A small selection of that work is on view now in “Reverse Angle: an introduction to a life’s work” a show at Sylvester & Co. in Sag Harbor. The show includes prints of his paintings, monotypes and etchings and it hints at the range of work in the collection.

“People who get his work are profoundly affected by it,” notes Duncan. “Our goal, and it’s evolved over 10 years since he passed, is to get his work out there. It’s very notable work and he deserves to be recognized. It needs to be out there.”

During his lifetime, Chris rarely showed his work. His brothers recall one show at the Goat Alley Gallery in Sag Harbor in the mid-90s in which he shared the bill with his mother and brother, Roger. Chris removed one of his pieces from the wall before the show even opened, much to the chagrin of gallery owners Eleanor and Bob McDade.

“He bartered it for a lawnmower,” says Roger.

Because he didn’t show his work often, Duncan and Roger note that no two pieces by Chris are the same size or shape. For that reason, the brothers decided to make prints of the work for the Sylvester show to give audiences a sense of their brother’s depth of talent. To that end, Roger and Duncan have created a catalog of the 6,000 pieces Chris left behind. As a body of work yet to be culled, they see vast potential in Chris’ artistic legacy and hope that the show will attract curatorial interest.

 “This is a learning curve,” confesses Roger. “I have a lot of training in art, but this kind of thing is daunting. For this first time out of the chute I was selecting works that gave a sense of his range. Not many artists work in as many mediums.”

Roger and Duncan find that people are often surprised by the depth of Chris’ work — an artist they have likely never heard of. But for Chris, art was to be made, not necessarily shown.

“There was no career gene,” explains Roger. “He would get it out there and not stop everything to do the show. He’d rather put the art energy into making new art. If he were here working on our mother’s show he’d be making new art in the basement.”

Chris Haile at his Eastville Studio

“Art is life, life is art. Artists who knew him and were aware of him got the message on a level that was profound.,” says Roger. “There are artists who are tucked into what’s going on, but no one knows about them. Like Ray Johnson, everyone knew him, had his work, but he was not on the radar.”

And like Ray Johnson, the artist who left a tantalizing series of clues before entering the water of Sag Harbor cove for his final swim on a cold Friday the 13th in January, the details surrounding Chris Haile’s death remain something of a mystery.

Chris died alone in the woods of North Adams, Massachusetts. Roger admits that, as a diabetic, Chris did not lead the healthiest life and drank and ate pretty much what he pleased. Though he had built a rudimentary cabin on the property, he was staying at the time in an old school bus he had commandeered. He had no phone or electricity at the site and shortly after his death was found by a friend who had come to check on him. Near his body was an ethereal landscape of a lone figure on an island. It was still wet.

Roger notes that that the wood stove in the school bus was thick with creosote and suspects that may have led to his brother’s demise.

“I think it was asphyxiation,” he says. “But the argument of something going on in his work is strong. That last work was eerily prescient about end of life and the metaphysical. It was a very metaphysical kind of statement.”

An untitled painting by Chris Haile

That final painting is among the work on view at Sylvester’s.

Roger and Duncan understand how viewers can look at their brother’s work and think it’s part of a group show. Such is the breadth and depth of his range. From portraits of imaginary faces that are multicultural in scope and medieval in style to ethereal still lives and pastoral landscapes evocative of the Renaissance and cosmic in theme, Chris Haile made art that was timeless and universal. He carved faces, made prints and assembled private spaces into mini-museums wherever he went — even if no one would ever see them.

“Chris had this approach to making art with available technology,” says Roger. “Wherever you are, whatever you’ve got, art can be made.”

Take his visit to Rome, for example. After Chris was arrested for sneaking into the Forum to watch the sunrise, Roger, who was along for the trip, recalls being frantic to find him. Chris, a diabetic from youth, was without his medicine and fearing the worst, Roger scoured the city searching the jails. He eventually found Chris in Our Queen of Heaven jail where, by the time of his release, he had made a mural on his cell wall using only the rust from the bed springs and his own saliva.

“He was into permanence,” says Roger.

After his death, Roger and Duncan traveled to Langtry, Texas, a town near the Mexican border with just a handful of residents where Chris had lived and worked and where he had persuaded a woman to let him use her old house in exchange for fixing the roof. When they entered the space, they saw a fully realized installation of his work. A museum that no one else had ever visited.

Chris Haile may have been an artist. But, explains his brothers, he had a filmmaker’s soul. Which is why much of his art was created in action – on the move. He even worked on Fellini’s 1972 film “Roma” while in Italy. And his brothers say that cinematic influence can not be ignored in his art. Roger notes that every space he ever occupied had the feel of a master shot in a film.

Chris Haile lived his art. In the mid-70s, Chris took rented a nearly abandoned building at 210 East 14th Street for a song. In the middle of Manhattan, he cooked over an open fire and eventually converted the building into five full floors of studio space for artists. In a stretch of wasteland behind Cooper Union, he and fellow artist and East End resident Jon Snow created a mysterious environment that intrigued all who passed, as well as the owner’s of the property, a bank which gave a tacit nod to its existence.

“This creating of environments goes all the way back to high school when he and his buddies created spaces to hang out,” notes Roger. “For Chris, it never stopped.”

When it comes to any artistic impulse, the nature vs. nurture debate naturally arises. But the influence of Lucia Haile on her youngest son’s artistic development cannot be underestimated. A talented artist in her own right who returned to school to become an art teacher when her sons were young, Lucia guided her boys subtly by surrounding them with art and encouraged them with absolute freedom. In a poignant coincidence, the figurative works of Lucia Haile, who died just last year, go on view this weekend at the Sag Harbor Historical Society’s Annie Cooper Boyd House, a short walk up Main Street from her son’s exhibition at Sylvester’s. The show is a retrospective of Lucia’s watercolors and drawings and runs July 5 through 28. A reception will be held at the historical society on Friday, July 11 from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Mom was extremely well educated. She was highly capable of critiquing work in a very professional manner,” explains Duncan. “We always had wonderful books on the coffee table. She would both encourage Chris and critique him.”

“She was one of three sisters,” says Roger, “and her father said, ‘You want to go to art school? Figure out how to make a living.’ I have always felt in some way she wanted to give that freedom she didn’t have to someone else. Freedom is really the by-word and she gave it with no judgment, and tremendous courage.”

“Demonstrative affection was non-existent,” adds Roger. “But to the degree it was non-existent, it existed. There were no hearts and flowers. But there was enormous trust.”

That trust explains how Lucia Haile could be so tolerant in indulging her son’s sense of adventure. Despite the fact he suffered with juvenile diabetes, at the age of 14, Chris and a friend were given permission to spend the summer alone making their way up the Hudson and through the canal system to the St. Lawrence Seaway in a 14 foot Boston Whaler.

“My mother stood there waving good-bye,” recalls Roger.

Years later, another trip in an old wooden sail boat did not go as well. The boat was questionable at best and Chris’ sailing skills marginal. He lost his rudder and luckily ended up grounded off Nantucket.

“Chris always had this ‘Get in something and take a trip’ philosophy. Boats figured into this over the course of his life,” adds Roger. “A high school classmate who had family here made arrangements for Chris to take passage on the Greek freighter. He went to China, New Zealand, all over and worked in trade as a resident artist.”

“All he brought was a block of wood, tools, ink, a roll of paper and the clothes he wore.”

Though Chris Haile’s works were created from imagination, they have a timeless quality. His faces are composites — universal portraits of everyone and no one. Duncan believes that the timelessness of his work has a great deal to do with his world travels.

“Chris took in a lot, it comes out in his work,” says Duncan.

As the middle child, and often the one who looked after Chris, who was just 11 months younger, Roger admits he would sometimes get angry at Chris for the way he would disappear for stretches at a time when he was off making art.

“He was a diabetic with no phone who would think nothing of being out of touch for long stretches,” says Roger.

But his mother, he recalls, once put it all in perspective for him.

“She said, ‘That’s how you raise boys. You leave them alone.”

And on his own, Chris did just fine. Making friends and art wherever he went.

“One of the characteristics about this guy is he, not through strategy or wanting to manipulate the world, had this amazing ability to attract people,” says Roger. “He was extremely kind hearted and generous. This guy who doesn’t have a phone goes into the middle of the woods and makes art. He was also extremely possessive about his energy. People knew who he was and no one could take offense if he vanished.”

“He wasn’t afraid to be alone.”

“Reverse Angle” runs through July 28, 2008 at Sylvester & Co., 103 Main Street, Sag Harbor (725-5012). The Retrospective of Lucia Phillips Haile’s work runs through July 27, 2008 at the Sag Harbor Historical Society, 174 Main Street (725-5092).