The house at 54 Sawasett Avenue in Bridgehampton will be demolished in the next few weeks. Photo by Mara Certic.
By Mara Certic
The Southampton Town Board agreed to demolish a dangerous and dilapidated house on Sawasett Avenue in Bridgehampton on Tuesday.
“We’ve watched a steady decay of this house since 2000,” explained Chief Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft at a town board meeting on Tuesday, May 12. The house is located at 54 Sawasett Avenue, about a block from the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.
According to Ms. Kraft, the house has not been occupied for at least 20 years. In 2000, the fire marshal’s office became aware of the building, and would do spot check from time to time, she said.
Then in 2007, the town authorized the house to be boarded up and four years later it ordered the removal of a front porch. A town fire inspector checked the property again on March 17, spurring this week’s hearing.
“At this point, the house has deteriorated beyond being salvageable,” Ms. Kraft said in a phone conversation on Tuesday.
“It’s not something we take lightly, but it’s at the point where the structure just isn’t safe,” she added, saying that she had been in contact with the homeowner, who had not managed to get a demolition permit.
For many years, Ms. Kraft explained, the owner of the house was a woman who this year died at the age of 102. “She had childhood memories here and always thought she’d be able to come out here again, I think that colored the picture for her son,” she said.
The son, now in his 80s, has not visited the property for years, either.
“He is kind of living her dream,” Ms. Kraft said. “I don’t think he understands the state of disrepair the house has fallen into.”
Right now, the roof is pressing the windows outward, Ms. Kraft explained. The second floor has almost completely collapsed, except for a portion which is currently suspended in mid-air, held up by a mess of electrical wires. The electricity was cut off in 2011, so fears of a fire are not an issue. The floor is rotting out, the fire marshal even said that it was “turning to dust.”
Ms. Kraft said she did not know how old the house is, but the she said the fact that it was built without central plumping indicates that it quite old. Still, she said, the house is beyond salvageable, and nothing would be achieved by giving it historic landmark status. The venting actually went straight up to the attic, which the fire marshal believes could have contributed to the house rotting from the inside out.
Although boarded up eight years ago, the house has man-made entryways, and there are often nearby signs of activity, such as an old shopping cart and water bottles, Ms. Kraft said.
And the homeowners have been paying taxes on the property all along, without setting eyes on it for at least two decades. “That’s the other thing,” she said, “He really cannot believe the economic conditions have changed that much in Bridgehampton.”
Ms. Kraft said she has tried to explain that someone on the East End would pay good money for an empty lot in Bridgehampton, but the homeowner simply does not buy it. “He’s not living in the same world we are,” she said, adding that he has all his faculties, but has been maintaining in his mind the idea of a long-gone Bridgehampton.
The house will be demolished within the next few weeks, Ms. Kraft said, after a bid and a purchase order are submitted. A tax lien will be placed against the property for the cost of the demolition, she explained.
“It’s sad,” she said.