Tag Archive | "Zach Studenroth"

East End Towns Honored for Preservation Efforts

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East Hampton TH SPLIA

Above: The historic Adelaide DeMenil and Edmund Carpenter homes before they were converted into the current East Hampton Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of SPLIA.)

By Claire Walla

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) semi-annually awards projects and local efforts to boost preservation in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. And this year, while pouring over the various preservation projects that came to fruition here on Long Island in 2011, SPLIA’s Director of Preservation Services Alexandra Wolfe said two projects from the East End stood out.

On Sunday, April 22, both East Hampton and Southampton towns will be recognized for their efforts to preserve history here on the East End.

SPLIA is honoring the architectural firm Robert A.M. Stern for its efforts to restore the Adelaide DeMenil and Edmund Carpenter houses and turn them into the new East Hampton Town Hall facilities.

“East Hampton got a lot of flack about the funding for the project,” Wolfe admitted. (The overall cost of the project was about $6 million.) “But, the bottom line is that it really is a beautiful project. These buildings were incorporated into a complex arrangement, which speaks to the history of East Hampton and serves a very important function.”

The project incorporated two, two-story homes, which now serve as town hall offices, and two old barns (all buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries), which now serve as town meeting spaces. The buildings’ exteriors remained intact, while their interiors were modified to accommodate the current uses.

“By recognizing their good work, the hope is that it will influence the town at large to incorporate preservation into its larger policies,” said Wolfe, like in Southampton, where SPLIA recognition is being paid to the town-wide effort to promote preservation, rather than a specific entity.

“It can be a project, an organization or an individual,” Wolfe clarified. “It’s really about who comes forward and does good work.”

One big effort that came to the forefront of discussions was the efforts of the town’s advisory Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, led by Sally Spanburgh who also works at the Bridgehampton Historical Society, to update town code as it pertains to demolition permits. Now, the building department is required to run proposed demolitions by the Landmarks and Historic Districts Board before buildings are torn down.

But the other big change came from Zach Studenroth, who was hired last year as the town historian. He had been working as a consultant for the town since 2006, but last year his efforts to preserve the town’s historic burial grounds made a lot of headway.

“There are tombs here from as early as the 1680s,” Studenroth exclaimed. “And these carved stones are out in the open, unprotected.”

Studenroth was able to organize a slew of volunteers to help clean some of the headstones in the 10 cemeteries (of 40) actually governed by the town. He estimated there must be about 2,500 headstones that need to be maintained. He said a lot of restoration work still needs to be done.

“Some of the stones have toppled over and are broken,” he said. “We realize that the scope of the work far exceeds the resources of the town.”

He has been reaching out to local civic associations to help with the effort, and said that so far North Sea has gathered residents to clean up the cemetery there, realigning headstones and trimming some of the trees.

“The next stage is raising funds to hire professionals to realign some of the more heavy stones,” Studenroth added.

Wolfe explained that Southampton Town is also being recognized for the fact that it managed to involve the community in this effort to preserve local history, but also the creative steps it took to provide information to the public.

Working in conjunction with the Town Clerk’s office, Studenroth ultimately helped to create a searchable database online, providing the names of those who have been buried in Southampton Town and the locations and conditions of their tombstones.

Ultimately, Wolfe said Southampton Town is being recognized for “its creative approach” to preservation.

“It’s an initiative that has a much larger application,” she said.

This Sunday, Southampton and East Hampton towns are being recognized at SPLIA’s headquarters in Cold Springs Harbor, during a ceremony at 3 p.m.

Other award winners include The Seatuck Environmental Association, for its dedication to preserving “Wereholme,” the former Scully Estate, for use by the Suffolk County Environmental Center. And the Aquinas Honor Society of the Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates, Queens for their ongoing efforts to report on local history.

Pierson/Whaling Museum To Team-Up for Art Installation

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By Claire Walla

You’re probably familiar with the old philosophical conundrum: If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Well, here’s another: Does art still exist in the community if nobody gets to see it?

Lately, members of the Pierson High School art department and the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum have wondered. For both organizations, one of the most difficult aspects of their art programs and exhibits has been getting the larger community to actually see them.

But, both organizations are hoping to change that this spring.

“We’re going to do something really cool and striking that’s a collaboration between the school (the Reutershan Trust) and the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum,” explained Pierson Middle/High School art teacher Peter Solow. Solow said the school will use Reutershan Trust monies to hire local artist Scott Sandell to work with Pierson students to create site-specific artwork that will be displayed on the front lawn of the museum.

“The kids have done magical work in the past, but nobody’s seen it,” Solow continued. “Because of the generosity from the museum, now we’re able to demonstrate that in a public way. I think that’s extremely important.”

While Solow admitted the idea for the installation hasn’t been fully realized, he did say that the inspiration for the project will dovetail with the museum’s overall mission; a mission that, according to museum director Zach Studenroth, is beginning to transform. The point, he clarified, is not to change the mission of the museum, but to broaden it to encompass more contemporary works of art.

He explained that there are many practicing artists using all different mediums who live and work in Sag Harbor. And he pointed out that while East Hampton has Guild Hall, Southampton has the Parrish Art Museum and even the hamlet of Water Mill has its own community center, there isn’t a community gathering space in Sag Harbor.

“It’s a void that needs to be filled in this community,” Studenroth said. “And — given the setting that we have, both structurally and with the grounds — we feel that we can.”

Both organizations are hoping that an eye-catching artistic display on Main Street will put the community in touch with what the students are doing, while breathing some life into that old, white, box-of-a-Masonic Temple at the top of Main Street.

“Most people living in Sag Harbor don’t think about the museum,” added Whaling Museum staff member Lynette Pintauro. “I think it needs to become useful for the community instead of being this building that just sits there slumbering.”

While the essence of the student art project is yet to be fully determined, Studenroth said it will be in line with the greater theme of the museum, which he added is not necessarily strictly limited to the village’s whaling history.

“It’s the whole maritime environment,” he said. “Not just hand-wrought harpoons.”

According to Solow, this collaboration allows for the kind of real-world art project the Reutershan Trust was created to foster. Already, he said he and artist Scott Sandell — who also helped students transform the courtyard at Pierson — have spoken with up to 40 students who are interested in working on the spring project. (Though Solow said he doesn’t expect that many to actually partake.)

Both Solow and Sandell have explained what site-specific art is by discussing works by Christo, who created a series of orange “gates” in Central Park in 2005, and British artist Andy Goldsworthy, whose artwork — Including large, rock cairns and leafy nautiluses — are famous for being constructed outdoors, by hand, with nature as the only medium.

“We’re talking about students elevating what they’re doing to be something serious, this really cool thing that can get a lot of buzz in town,” Solow continued. Not only will they learn about art, but Solow imagines giving students the opportunity to design posters, brochures and press releases for the show, allowing them to develop marketing and business skills to add to their artistic inclinations (a tactic Pintauro, an artist herself, said is “invaluable”).

“We’re all going to meet [in January] and try to develop the ideas that are still only theoretical now,” Solow added. “Even the way we present this, the way that it falls out to the community, that’s going to be part of the performance. We don’t want to give away the punch line too quickly.”

Three-hundred-year-old Surprise

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Concealed by hedges

By Claire Walla

The unremarkable white building sat on the property at the northeast corner of Montauk Highway and Bridgehampton Turnpike for years. Most drivers probably thought nothing of it when they drove past. In fact, Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth said even he probably never would have known about the 18thcentury warehouse, which stood on the site of the Bull’s Head Inn, had he not been asked to go to the site to officially survey the scene before its scheduled demolition.

“It was almost an afterthought,” Studenroth said of scrutinizing the small, two-story structure behind the Bull’s Head Inn.

He was walking the grounds with the property’s current caretaker when, as Studenroth put it, “I said, while we’re here, let me just poke my head into the barn in the backyard.”

There was nothing about the exterior that indicated the building had any historical significance whatsoever, he said. The outer walls had been constructed as recently as 1907. But on the inside, the building’s story suddenly gained depth.

It had oversized timber framing that protruded into the room inside. Right away, Studenroth noticed it bore the characteristics of “post-and-beam” architecture, a style dating back to the early 18th century. According to Studenroth, it was the first style of architecture seen here on the East End that was built by European settlers..

“It appeared to be in pretty good and complete condition,” Studenroth continued. “So, when I got back to the office, I fired-off a quick email to the powers that be in town hall saying, yes indeed, the building is of historical significance” and was worth saving.

Property owner Bill Campbell had submitted a demolition application to the town regarding two smaller structures adjacent to the Bull’s Head Inn, including this building. But, part of the application stipulated that Southampton Town officials the right to lay claim to any part of the property it deemed historically significant. While the building was certainly old, as Studenroth determined, it was worthy of saving for reasons beyond merely its age.

Based on architectural design elements, Studenroth said it was probably used as a warehouse, adding that, “We don’t know of any other warehouse that’s left standing of this type — that’s what makes this so exciting.”

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In fact, Studenroth believes he can date the building back to 1730, to the Hulbert family, who traded rum, whale oil and perhaps even furs out of Bridgehampton nearly 300 years ago. This information has not exactly been confirmed — Studenroth is still working to date the building more precisely — but this aspect of his analysis comes by way of Hampton Library, which has in its possession a ledger from 1760. The book documents trade items, like rum and whale oil, which were traded in Sag Harbor by the Hulbert family.

Studenroth and local builder Robert Strada — who supervised the deconstruction of the building — worked together to identify the historic aspects of the structure.

“The big thing that distinguishes a barn from a house is the chimney,” Studenroth explained. But, this building’s roof and floorboards do not appear to have ever been fashioned to make room for such an imposition. “The building does not appear to have ever been heated.”

What’s more, he added, “Barns have a distinctive way of being framed. This is considerably smaller than a barn.”

“It could have been a carriage house, but that’s not something you’d expect to see at that time,” Studenroth noted. “If someone were wealthy enough to have a carriage, they’d probably have stuck it in the barn.”

Studenroth continued, “This kind of building is so over-framed. The floor joints were very closely spaced — doubling what you’d expect to see in the period — so the building was constructed to support something very heavy above. It was over-engineered to carry heavy loads.”

According to Strada — who has done restoration on old homes in the past — the building’s overly sturdy construction speaks volumes to its presumed history.

Not only did some of the wooden beams still contained an outer layer of tree bark, a detail that would have been sanded down had the structure been intended for a home; but, Strada said, the “joists” (or wooden beams), were fashioned so close together because the building owners “were storing rum on the second floor and they didn’t want the floor to break.”

Strada and his crew, with help from building owner Bill Campbell, took the structure apart by hand, making sure to remove each outer layer carefully “like an onion” so as to keep the original building frame intact.

Now, Studenroth said, the challenge is to find a new home where the town can reconstruct the building as it stood 300 years ago.

“We want it to be protected, and enjoyed by the public,” he said. “So far, it’s been disassembled and it’s tarped,” he continued, quickly adding that it’s in good standing.

“It came through the hurricane this weekend, so we got it that far!”

Whaling Museum Presents Lincoln Documents

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