Behind The Hedges 09.12.2019 07:43 Good Business, Good Life on the East End

News & Features

Good Business, Good Life on the East End
November 29, 2019

When Saunders & Associates broker and real estate guru Alan Schnurman and Dan's Hamptons Media President and Editorial Director Eric Feil got together to write I Can, I Will, I Must: Buying the Hamptons, Building a Successful Future, Becoming the Best You Can Be, an essential question was posed to Schnurman: "Why Real Estate?" As they explored how the lessons, traits and practices that underpin a successful real-estate investing strategy are the same as those for a successful life strategy, the answer became clear...and the title of Chapter Two:

You can invest in anything. Throughout history, there's been no asset, no idea, that hasn't been able to seduce people to hand over their money to someone else with the hope of making it grow. Treasury bonds or Beanie Babies, rare coins or cryptocurrency, fine art or a fledgling singer's career. Domain names, bull semen, gold Krugerrands, parking spaces--there's a market for everything and people have stocked up on it all. And, let's not forget, there's the good old stock market. But none of it comes close in scale to one market that stands on its own.

Real estate, quite simply, is the largest financial market in the world. You could add all the stocks, all the bonds, every collateral debt obligation, and it doesn't equal real estate. And investing in real estate, at least the way I do it, plays to particular personality traits. Granted, some of these are innate. Others, however, can be learned.

When I was younger, I would invest in the stock market. When a stock would double, I would sell it, and then it would go up tenfold. And when a stock would go down, I would still have it, gathering dust in the closet. So I knew the stock market wasn't for me. But I've never lost money in real estate. Not one dime.

I've invested millions of dollars in real estate since the 1970s. I've seen mortgage rates in double digits and inflation at nearly 14%. I've seen the housing bubble take prices to unheard of levels and then watched the entire bubble burst at the start of the Great Recession. Olympic boycotts and big bank bailouts, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the birth of the internet. Seven presidents have sat in the Oval Office while I've invested in real estate. Through it all, real estate has made me money.

You want more?

•Real estate is, by its very definition, real. You can touch and feel it. It's not some amorphous share of a company in some part of the world you'll never visit, not some enterprise that exists in the cloud without anything truly tangible.    

•You can invest in real estate while you have another career. Or more than one other career. Remember, I've been a lawyer, a TV personality, an internet pioneer, a public speaker...and all that time, I was building my real estate portfolio. When I was a lawyer, I didn't need the income from real estate, but I invested in real estate over a long-term basis. Things I bought 35 years ago, I still have.

•You can use your real estate to generate income. My partners and I have numerous commercial rentals that have kept cash flowing for decades--all the while appreciating in value--residential properties, retail properties, skyscraper office buildings and land with nothing yet built upon it.   

There are so many aspects to real estate: the guy who buys the land, the guy who builds the house. I try to diversify, so when my retail is soft, my residential is good. When they're both down, hopefully my land deals are going well, or the office market is going well.

•Real estate is a strong weapon in battling taxes and inflation. The laws change over time here and there, but taxes, interest, depreciation, maintenance and other financial factors should be taken into account when you're weighing the advantages of investing in real estate.

•Real estate does not suffer the daily volatility of the stock market, where ups and downs are reported and obsessed over on a minute-by-minute--or faster, now--basis. Do you really want to be investing in antacids because of your stock investments?

•There's never a bad time to start investing in real estate. When the economy is soaring, it's a fine time to get in. When the economy is sinking, it's a fine time to get in. People always need places to live, office space to house their companies, storefronts from which to run a small business, land on which to build a mansion. Regardless of whether they want to buy or rent, if you own it, these people need what you have. There's a demand for what you can supply.

•You're the master of your own destiny. When you buy stock in a company, you're now at the whim of the company's management, its workers, even its customers. When you create your own real estate deals, you're in charge of everything.

•Good-location real estate always, in the long term. grows in value. Always. It's that simple. There are no guarantees in life, but that's about as close as you can come. It won't happen overnight (although every now and then...), but over time, it makes you money.

By 2017, 31 of the top 50 metro areas in the United States saw median home sales prices get back above pre-Great Recession levels. Yes, that took almost a decade, but you can also think of it as, Wow, even in the worst financial situation our country has faced since the 1930s, real estate came back. And remember, that number is derived from a range of markets, good and not so good. When you invest in the best locations, that recovery is faster and stronger than anywhere else.

•You don't have to be a genius to invest in real estate. You just have to be patient. It's a slow, reliable, methodical investment vehicle. It's the easiest route to financial security that I have ever seen.

Alan Schnurman and Eric Feil will be speaking and signing copies of "I Can, I Will, I Must" at John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor from 3-4:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 1. For more information, visit johnjermain.com.

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Timeless Kilkare: A Wainscott Icon
November 27, 2019

"Iconic" is the best word to describe the old house perched by the Atlantic. Just about every photo meant to evoke the Hamptons features Kilkare. It's closer to the ocean than most, so it seems to float like a lonely boat above the dunes.

Kilkare--the name is a Victorian whimsy, an Irish-sounding word meaning to "kill care"--has stood sentry between the Atlantic Ocean and Georgica Pond since 1877, a landmark for passing ships and beachgoers. It even survived the terrible hurricane of 1938. Many years of scouring sand and sea air have given the exterior a beautiful patina.

Indoors, time has stood still. The simple, old-fashioned furniture and sun-bleached fabrics give the rooms the look of a faded black-and-white photograph, the only color coming from the blue ocean visible through every window, as if the clock stopped ticking decades ago and it's always summer. A visitor wouldn't be surprised to see a ghost, and in fact, owner Eleanora Kennedy says that the ghosts of original owners Camilla and Jonathan Edwards were there when she arrived. "They watched to protect the house from the sea. They stayed until we built the sturdy stone revetment under the dune, then they departed happily."

In 1877 Camilla and Walter Edwards commissioned a shipbuilder to construct Kilkare in Georgica Settlement. This small patch of the Hamptons was founded in the late 1800s by about 20 academics--mostly New Englanders associated with Yale--who wanted a private place to think, read, write and play sports without outside interference. Now called the Georgica Association, the area still has just one road in and out, which is guarded. Camilla and Walter Edwards were New Yorkers, but Walter was a direct descendant of Jonathan Edwards, a New England Puritan philosopher and thinker.

Evidence that the couple used boat builders to carry out the construction is everywhere, from ships' knee braces to the built-in furniture in almost every room. The house took nearly two years to finish. And for nearly a hundred years after that, the Edwards family enjoyed summers at Kilkare, including the weekly baseball games and sailboat regattas for the children offered by the Georgica Association.

It was a stormy, foggy day in 1975 that the current owner, Eleanora and her late husband, Michael Kennedy, first saw Kilkare. In fact, the real estate agent had to convince them that the ocean was only 50 feet away from the house's southern deck, so thick was the fog. Eleanora says, "When I was a young girl my dream was a house by the sea, a man I revered who deeply loved me, and a daughter. Entering the driveway on a foggy, damp, cold February day I saw Kilkare in the mist and knew all my dreams would come true. It was love at first sight: much the way I felt when I met my husband, Michael." The house had been vacant for a while, so wind and water got in and caused damage. The Kennedys promised the seller, Kitty Edwards, that they would not compromise its essential character.

The restoration and conservation of Kilkare began in 1976. Woodwork was stripped and polished; the plaster walls, which use sand as an aggregate, were retained whenever possible. The ceiling of each room has a different pattern in thin strips of molding; each was dismantled and recreated in the original design. The house originally had no kitchen on the main floor (servants worked in the lower level), so a butler's room and pantry were transformed into an eat-in kitchen. Two bathrooms were another addition. (The house now has seven bedroom and seven and a half baths.) Everything was done as conservatively as possible, with the least possible change to the layout and the fabric of the house.

Many of the original furnishings were kept; newer pieces are of Anglo-Indian design with caning of mildew-resistant hemp. There are also some pieces of 1970s modern cement furniture by John Dickinson to provide a contrast. Yet all are in keeping with the natural color of sand and earth.

The dining room table is very long, necessary to accommodate many guests for dinner. At Kennedy dinners, shells serve as place cards, and they're piled, labeled with names, on the dining room mantel. Upstairs, the floors are bare. Vintage linens dress old four-poster and wicker beds.

Of course, a house this perfect has starred in many films, most notably the cult favorite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which implied the house is in Montauk), Interiors by Woody Allen, and even The Nanny Diaries.

But even perfection has an end date. With the death of Michael Kennedy in 2016, summers at Kilkare for the family are drawing to a close. The house is for sale. It can only be devoutly hoped that the new owners--who will be only the third family ever to call this magical place their home--will love and cherish the spot as well as the Kennedys have. As Eleanora says, "We spent 40-plus years at Kilkare making memories in a house that is filled with love, friendship and miracles. I hope the new residents will make their dreams come true too."

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Property of the Week: 1421 Meadow Lane, Southampton
November 26, 2019
A onetime home of comedy legend Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Spaceballs) and his wife, the late Anne Bancroft (The Graduate, The Miracle Worker, The Elephant Man, Agnes of God, Curb Your Enthusiasm), 1421 Meadow Lane in Southampton is off the market. Represented by Michaela Keszler of Douglas Elliman--Mary Quatroche from Morley Agency brought the buyer--the house was in contract for two weeks and sold and closed in two months for full ask of $4.995 million Purchased and briefly owned by Brooks and Bancroft in 2000, the 1.33-acre property features a 2,304-square-foot, two-story shingle-style cottage built in 1960 and sited directly on the Shinnecock Bay, on the village's prestigious Meadow Lane. Directly across from the ocean, the charming four-bedroom, three-and-one-half-bath home boasts water views from every room. Other featured amenities include fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom, and a large deck with an outdoor shower. There is also room for expansion and a pool. "Original Hamptons charm," says Keszler, "and the most desirable oceanfront lane in Southampton make this a real treasure."
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Home, Sweet Home: A Gardiner in Bridgehampton
November 22, 2019

Homes of the descendants of Lion Gardiner, the first English settler in New York, are scattered around the Hamptons, most notably on Gardiner's Island. But perhaps none are as extraordinary as the Gothic Revival pile constructed by Lion's descendant Dr. John L. Gardiner in Bridgehampton.

Sitting 200 feet above sea level and resting on a base of 475 tons of local rock, the house includes a 40-foot tower from which, in winter, Mecox Bay, the ocean, and other bodies of water are still visible. Gardiner called the place "Dulce Domum," or "Sweet Home."

John Lyon Gardiner, MD (1823-1908) was the eighth grandson of Lion Gardiner. His previous seven grandfathers were all named David, down to Lion's son David (1636-1689). His great-grandfather David was the sixth proprietor of Gardiner's Island, and he was cousin to the David Gardiner who wrote Chronicles of East Hampton, a series of articles first published in the Sag Harbor Corrector in the early 1840s, and who was the father of Julia Gardiner Tyler. Dr. Gardiner purchased the Captain William Topping House at 39 Lumber Lane in Bridgehampton in 1855 and lived there until he decided to retire from active practice and build his own house.

The site he chose was very elevated, part of the glacial moraine. In 1913, great excitement came when a bed of fossil shells belonging to the Tertiary period were found nearby, about 10 feet below ground and about 140 feet above sea level. And during the Revolution, a farmer named David Cook, who enlisted in 1780 at the age of 60, hid his cattle in a deep dell in the woods on what would later be the Gardiner property, known as Purgatory Hollow. Until then, the Hessian troops stationed in the area would steal his stock and farm produce. According to Memories of Old Bridgehampton (1916), "to call anyone a Hessian was the lowest, vilest epithet that could be bestowed."

Dulce Domum was built in the Gothic Revival style mixed with Shingle Style. By 1891, the Gothic style was fading in popularity in more urban areas, but was still popular in more rural settings. It was part of the picturesque and romantic movement in architecture, reflecting a taste for buildings inspired by medieval design rather than the classical look of Greek Revival. In a rural setting, the complex, irregular forms of Gothic buildings were thought to fit in better with a natural landscape rather than Greek.

The Portrait and Biographical Record of Suffolk County (1896) stated of Gardiner, "At the present time he resides at "Dulce Domum" or "Sweet Home," and from that point he can see fifteen lighthouses in the Sound, and has a view of about fifty miles over the Atlantic. He can see all the vessels that pass the Sound, and Groton Monument, near New London, a distance of thirty-five miles. The Doctor's home is a very pleasant one, and he has many old Indian relics. His old nurse, Tamar Wright, a Montauk Indian, is still living, and would be queen of her tribe if she cared to return to it."

The tower at Dulce Domum is crenellated like a medieval castle. A crenellation is a parapet with open spaces for shooting arrows, and for many years the house's surrounding privet hedge was crenellated too, which gave rise to the property being called "The Castle" locally. Mrs. Gardiner personally chose the stones for the fireplace in what is now the music room, including a relic from the Civil War.

Unfortunately, Dr. Gardiner didn't get to enjoy his home all that long--he died in 1908 and is buried in Bridgehampton Cemetery. His widow lived until 1925.

Dulce Domum, known now as Tower Hill, got a new lease of life when purchased by supermodel Christie Brinkley in 1998 for $3.2 million. She restored and added on to the dignified old house, including outbuildings. One of the most extraordinary additions by Brinkley was a fire surround in the kitchen, made of local stones from Sag Harbor and beach glass, that spells out "Sweet Home," just as Mrs. Gardiner designed the music room fireplace.

There's now also a four-bedroom guest house, a greenhouse conservatory, a barn Brinkley uses as an art studio, and of course a pretty pool and spa. The grounds are especially appealing, with winding walking paths, an organic garden, and a tennis court, all on 20 acres.

To end, we'd like to quote Miss Hannah Elliston, who in 1901 visited and wrote a long, long poem called "Dulce Domum."

Upon a sun-kissed hill fair 'Dulce Domum' stands. In form like ancient castle seen in other lands. Here, crowned with years of honored. useful life, Lives Dr. Gardiner and his loving wife. Here let us enter, for we'll always find A gracious hostess, and a welcome kind. We'll chat awhile on subjects old and new, Then "go aloft," for you'll enjoy the view.

Sadly, we haven't the space to reprint all 14 stanzas, but rest assured they're all equally as good as the above.

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Perry "Chip" Duryea
My Hamptons: Perry Duryea
November 21, 2019

A lifelong resident of Montauk, Perry "Chip" Duryea has witnessed many changes over the years. He recently sold his family's seafood business, Duryea's, which had been run by his father and grandfather since the early 1920s. Now his attention is shepherding the building work of the Montauk Playhouse community center, which will include an aquatic center.

BTH: First question: as a Montauk resident, when do I get my pool? I have the same wish. Mine is actually for the therapy pool, which is going to be part of the aquatic center. We are going to have the four-lane lap pool, but, also, we're going to have, right next to it, a therapy pool for people like me who just had a total shoulder replacement.

BTH: What do you think about the changes in Montauk over the years? Some good, some bad. Obviously, I've seen a lot of change throughout my lifetime, particularly the past five years, in which change has been accelerated. Some outside money has come in and rehabilitated some of these older, longstanding family businesses just like I did with Duryea's.

For better or for worse, we're only three hours from New York City, and this is a place where people want to be, particularly in the summertime. Sixty-five percent of our land is open space. We've got the beautiful beaches, we have the golf, we have the fishing. It's just a natural draw. But the key is to try to manage the popularity while also prioritizing the infrastructure of the community. The volume of people over Fourth of July weekend was tremendous. I think the key for local government is to come to grips with the demands that the number of people are placing on the infrastructure.

BTH: Of course, your father was very active in politics. Had you ever thought of going into just even local politics? I've worked more on the organizational side. As you know. he ran for governor in 1978 against Carey. I campaigned rather extensively for him, particularly upstate, because there was too much ground to cover. I was East Hampton Republican chairman from 1988 to 1997. I never got involved on the elective side of politics, although I was asked to run for everything from town to county supervisor to Congress. But I felt that my skills were more organizational, and also, I had a primary responsibility to the family business.

BTH: If you hadn't gone into the family's seafood business, what do you think you might have done as a career? I went to Colgate University for my undergrad. I began to work in downtown Manhattan. I then got my MBA from Columbia in 1974. I had worked for Marine Midland Bank downtown, and they really wanted me to come back after I got my MBA. I always felt the pull of the family business. I kind of figured that I was going to wake up here sooner or later because I grew up in the business. I began working there for my father when I was 12 years old, for 25 cents an hour, shoveling ice.

BTH:  If you could have anyone, alive or dead, at your dinner party, who would you invite? It would have to be my father. He had a tremendous influence upon me. He and I worked side-by-side in the seafood business for 35 years. I watched his political career from afar. He was a unique individual. I have picked up some of his traits, not all of them, but they only made one of him.

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Chris Stewart
Douglas Elliman's Christopher Stewart Talks Work & Play on the East End
November 20, 2019

Surfing and skiing, barbecues and the beach, Springs and Sag Harbor... Christopher Stewart, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson at Douglas Elliman, celebrates the joys of East End living.  

What is your overview of the state of the market right now?  The fourth quarter has been much more active, both in buyers looking and deals being made. Pricing is the driving force behind successful transactions  

How would you assess the year that was 2019, and what are you seeing/projecting for the market as we head into 2020?  As the real estate business evolves with technology, the marketplace continues to have its challenges and successes. I look forward to more growth in 2020.

What advice are you giving buyers and sellers right now?  Competitive pricing on both sides is key. Sellers need to preemptively address certificate of occupancy and maintenance issues to make the deals as seamlessly attractive as possible.

Is there any advice for buyers and sellers in this market that is timeless, regardless of current market conditions?  Location and pricing are timeless. However, that credo is being tested by some of the value being found further afield.  

What areas do you believe are most poised for growth and why?  North Sea waterfront is undervalued and extraordinarily beautiful. Sag Harbor's value center is continuing to expand. The affordability of Springs and the Northwest Woods in East Hampton will continue to push sales volume in those places.

What amenities are must-haves for a Hamptons/North Fork home these days?  Beautiful kitchens, steam showers, energy efficiency, high ceilings, natural light and storage. Always choose to add a garage over a pool house.

What about the East End continues to make it a great place to invest in real estate. The amazing forethought and continued protection of our stunning waterfront and open spaces coupled with a limited amount of land will always make the East End desirable.

What brought you to the East End originally? How did you decide to make real estate your professional pursuit?  My extended family has been coming to Amagansett/East Hampton since the 1940s. I moved here permanently 18 years ago to raise a child. Best decision I have ever made. Real estate is a natural fit for me.

What are your passions in life outside the work place?  I love to be outside. Surfing and skiing especially. I am a lacrosse enthusiast and have been involved in the local youth program for about 13 years.  

You have received a number of honors for your community work. What is most important to you about being involved that deeply in community affairs?  When living in a small town it's important to connect to the community and give back. This place has given me so much--I am forever grateful.

Describe your perfect day on the East End. Early morning surf and dog walk, day on the boat or beach with family and friends, outdoor shower, bbq with good music and good people, close a deal in there somewhere, sleep.

What aspects of life on the East End continue to surprise you?  It doesn't matter how long I live here, I am constantly amazed by the natural beauty surrounding me.

What are some favorite spots and activities for you--with and without the family--for fun in the Hamptons this time of year?  Surfing is a year-round activity that includes so many ages and walks of life. Fall is scallop season. Oddly, the adventure of driving to Vermont to ski in the winter has produced some of the deepest bonding moments with my son. Spring is all lacrosse, and summer is always just the icing.

What are some of the most surprising requests that buyers and sellers have made of you over the years? The most surprising shall remain vaulted. 

What is one aspect of your job that nobody could possibly imagine you do?  The amount of surprising things that we as agents do is beyond a simple description.

If you could have any three people at your dinner party, who would you invite and why?  Hmm. For the mind blow, I'd go with Buddha, Rumi and Hermes.

What talent would you most like to have? Born to be a rockstar with absolutely no musical talent. 

If you weren't in real estate, what else would be your dream job? Making people smile.

What is the last truly great book you've read?  The Overstory by Richard Powers.

What is the best advice you have ever received--personally and/or professionally? Tell the truth at the risk of losing everything.

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Painted in History: The Thomas Moran House and Studio
November 15, 2019

Most passers-by to the old turreted house facing the pond in East Hampton don't realize how revolutionary it was, even though the eccentric, eclectic building, with its sea-monster weathervane, is eye-catching. Nor how important a part in American art--even in American history--its original owners played.

The Thomas Moran House and Studio was built in 1884 on Main Street in East Hampton, opposite Town Pond. Its owners, Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran, were important painters and engravers, and this house was the first artist's studio on the East End. Thomas Moran's paintings of the West, especially Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, are often credited with inspiring the creation of the National Park Service. He also painted and engraved local East Hampton scenes, as did his wife.

Moran, born in 1837, began his career as an apprentice engraver. In 1862, he traveled to England to see the work of J.M.W. Turner, whose use of color and choice of landscape influenced his own work greatly. (Hanging over the fireplace at the Moran house was a copy Moran made of the Turner painting "Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus -- Homer's Odyssey," which now hangs across the pond at the Hedges Inn.) Moran was appointed chief illustrator at Scribner's Monthly in the late 1860s, which helped launch his painting career.

In 1871, the director of the United States Geological Survey invited Moran along as part of an expedition to the unknown Yellowstone region, which was partially funded by Scribner's. In 40 days in the wilderness, Moran sketched more than 30 geological wonders. His sketches captivated the nation; the next year, Congress established Yellowstone as the first national park.

Moran married his Scottish-born student Mary Nimmo in 1865. Because of sexism, Mary signed her work MNMoran, rather than her full name. She too became renowned for her prints. In 1881 she became the first female fellow of London's Royal Society of Painters-Etchers.

The Morans purchased land in East Hampton and began construction of their home in 1884. Moran designed the house himself, setting aside much of the ground floor as a studio. His quirky practices included re-using material from demolished houses. At the time, Manhattan was experiencing a building boom, where older houses were being knocked down to build fashionable brownstones.

The larger window in the studio room came from a candy store. At the time, a large piece of sheet glass was very expensive. The front doors to the studio also came from that store, while the fireplace surrounds came from two houses: a Federal one, circa 1800, and a Greek Revival circa 1825. Other pieces, such as cabinet doors, other windows and newel posts for the staircase, also obviously came as architectural salvage. (One elaborately carved baluster, Thomas Moran Trust curator Richard Barons says, was found painted gold and being used as a lamp base. It's now back in the staircase.) Moran even imported a gondola from Italy, which his daughters used on Town Pond. The house originally did not boast a kitchen, as the Morans simply walked to a local boardinghouse for meals. A later one-story addition is now painted blue, as it was in 1899.

The house became a hub for intellectuals and artists in the area during the five or six months per year that the Morans were in residence. Parties and tableaux vivants were features of social life.

Unfortunately, Mary died of typhoid young, in 1899. Moran himself continued to stay at the house and studio until his death in 1926. They are both buried in South Side Cemetery. Daughter Ruth inherited the house; she sold it in 1947 to Joseph and Elizabeth Condie Lamb. (Mrs. Condie Lamb was well known for running the oldest real estate agency in East Hampton.) After Mrs. Lamb's death in 2004, Guild Hall took possession of the house, now considerably dilapidated.

The decision was made by Guild Hall to transfer ownership of the Studio to the newly created Thomas Moran Trust, which would restore the property. But money was lacking. After Superstorm Sandy in 2012 badly damaged the house, the need the do the work took on more urgency. The house rocked on its pier foundations during the storm, says Barons, and many people thought the house should be taken apart and then rebuilt.

The house was raised up off its brick plinths and a foundation laid, then the brick plinths were rebuilt. (A piece of paper was found in one, attesting that the house had been completed in September 1884.) Worries that the house would collapse proved unfounded.

Twelve years of fundraising, conservation easements and a CPF grant later, the restoration of the house is complete. And not just of the house: the beautiful garden that Mary Nimmo doted over has been restored as well.

The interior is filled with objects that the Morans owned, such as Thomas's palette, as well as those similar to what they would have owned. (The Morans' own furniture was scattered after their deaths.) Old carpets are draped over a railing and Aesthetic Movement bits of china and Japanese fans decorate odd shelves. (The Aesthetic Movement was the popular style among the intellectuals of the 1880s.)

Of course, the crown jewels of the house are the paintings and etchings by Thomas and Mary. Some are of local scenes, with the familiar windmills of East Hampton, while others are of Western landscapes. Many of the Western landscapes were painted right in the studio, with Moran working off sketches and photographs of the area. The artwork comes from various collections, including the Moran Trust, the East Hampton Historical Society and the East Hampton Library.

The artworks line the walls of the studio and other exhibition rooms. The master bedroom, with its bed topped with pineapple-carved knobs and its leopard skin rug, is the only bedroom that will be restored as a sleeping chamber. Other rooms are exhibition space. Downstairs, for example, is displayed a huge iron 1860s etching press.

Now that the Studio is open for tours, it is greatly to be hoped that more passers-by will stop to learn about this fascinating house and its important owners.

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My Hamptons: Helen Harrison
November 14, 2019
Helen Harrison, the director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in Springs, has had a long and interesting career in the art and museum world. She's also recently taken to writing fiction: her mystery novel An Accidental Corpse, published in 2018 by Dunemere Press, just recently won the 2019 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award in the Fiction: Mystery & Suspense category. She lives with her husband, painter Roy Nicholson, in Sag Harbor.

BTH: How long have you been coming to the Hamptons?

HH: Forty-two years! First time I came out was in 1977.

BTH: Did you come out for a weekend?

HH: No, I came out for my new job! I was a curator at the Parrish. I'm from New York City originally and I started out as a sculptor. I went to undergraduate school at Adelphi, and then I went to the Brooklyn Museum Art School and Hornsey College of Art in London. When my husband and I came back to America, I went to graduate school in Cleveland to study art history, and then I went into the museum field. My first museum job was at the Parrish.

I was only at the Parrish for a couple of years. Then I did a guest curatorship at the Queens Museum working on a big. comprehensive exhibition on the 1939 World's Fair. In 1982 I was hired by Guild Hall to be the curator there. I was there for eight years and then in 1990, I came to the Pollock-Krasner House.

BTH: So did you ever meet Lee Krasner?

HH: I did, yes. I worked for the New York Times as the art critic for the Long Island section. I didn't know Lee well but I did know her slightly. I would occasionally have to talk to her about an exhibition she was in or about some feature article I was writing.

BTH: And you just came out with a novel, An Accidental Corpse.

HH: My second novel, actually. The first, I had self-published. Dunemere Books brought out the second one and is publishing the first as a prequel. The first one is set in Greenwich Village in 1943, while the second one is set in East Hampton in 1956. It is about the art world out here and it is a retelling of Jackson Pollock's fatal car crash.

I am working on another book, which is set in New York City at the Art Students League in 1967. The way I write fiction is I integrate fictional characters with real people, so the people who are students there are fictional, but some of the teachers and the administrators were real people.

BTH: If you were going to have anybody in your Hamptons dinner party, alive or dead, who would you invite?

HH: I would definitely not invite Jackson Pollock.

BTH: Maybe too much the life of the party.

HH: Yes. Knowing what I know, he would not be on my guest list. I would certainly invite Alfonso Ossorio. He was an amazing person, who was so knowledgeable and so, so cosmopolitan that he would be the ideal dinner guest. He could talk on any topic and he was a world class gossip. I would love to sit down in a room with him and Lee. Over drinks. Those two would be enough. I would just be a fly on the wall.

BTH: She did have a pretty sharp tongue.

HH: Yes, but she was also very funny! I'm going to London soon for the Lee Krasner retrospective in London. [Ed: The first retrospective in Europe in over 50 years of Lee Krasner's work is at the Barbican in London this summer.] It's going to be really, really wonderful and it's traveling to three other museums in Europe.

BTH: What do you like to do in your spare time?

HH: Roy and I like to walk to take advantage of the wonderful nature trails in this area, and of course the beautiful beaches. We do that quite a bit and as well as visiting museums and art galleries. It does seem like a busman's holiday, but it is what we love to do.

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Fashion Mogul Elie Tahari Lists Sagaponack Estate
November 13, 2019

most fashionable home is on the market--East End fashion designer Elie Tahari has listed his Sagaponack estate for $39 million. This oceanfront enclave, represented by Ann Ciardullo and Keith Green of Sotheby's International Realty East Hampton Brokerage, was originally designed in 1998 by HS2 Architecture and features a secluded master suite with a panoramic view of Sagaponack Beach, a room-sized shower, a six-person tub, an office/getaway with 85-inch TV and private balcony overlooking the great room. The sun deck has its own set of stairs to the beach. Two other suites are included with the property. The first sits oceanfront, with private egress to the beach. The second suite features a four-person steam shower, with a wall of glass leading to a hidden garden.

"The sunrises in this home are unlike anything I've seen before," says Green of the views from the great room. "You're literally one with the ocean....there isn't anybody who has walked on that property who hasn't felt like it's the antidote to civilization." Adds Ciardullo, "It's a very unique property and it is just perfect for that right person."

The barn-like great room has opposing Tambour glass doors, a 30-foot ceiling, and a 60-foot pool surrounded by a forest of Russian Olive trees. The interior of the great room was crafted with mid-century overtones by designer Tom Flynn. A flagstone terrace sits in a vine-covered pergola with a dining table for 10.

Another special aspect of the property? Ciardullo and Green note that the Southampton village Zoning Board of Approvals has approved an expansion, putting the buyer several years ahead in growing the home to 10,000 square feet.

The Jerusalem-born Tahari emigrated to the United States and worked in New York City's garment district in the 1970s. In 1973, Tahari began his eponymous fashion label, opening his first boutique on Madison Avenue soon after. As he came to prominence, he held fashion shows in such venues as Studio 54. His work has been featured in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and more and in 1989 was named one of Crain's New York Business 40 under 40. Since then, Tahari has become one of the fashion world's biggest movers and shakers, with global expansion, numerous awards and a huge collection. In 2013, Mayor Mike Bloomberg declared September 4 "Elie Tahari Day" honoring his 40 years in business. In the summer of 2019, his son, Jeremey, opened an East Hampton pop-up shop of his own at the Elie Tahari boutique.

The property is located at 135 Crestview Lane, Sagaponack.

For more information on this listing, visit sothebysrealty.com.

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Grace on the Pond: Quimby Lane
November 08, 2019

The old house stands sentinel at the intersection of sky, water and land, as it has done for a hundred years. The children who played at its sandy beach on the pond are all grown and gone, though each person who has loved the house has left an indelible mark on it.

This is the story of a well-loved summer cottage on the shore of Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton. At the turn of the last century, a patriarch built a number of homes here for his offspring. Today, a ballerina owns the house. A long lawn slopes down to the pond, where the sand ebbs and flows tidally. At one side is the lovely vista of the bridge over the pond; at the other is the ocean roaring and swelling. Next door lives a world-famous musician.

Quimby Lane takes its name from Edward Everett Quimby (1831-1902), who in 1874 came to spend the summer in Bridgehampton with his wife and six children as a renter. This was just four years after the Long Island Rail Road was extended as far as Bridgehampton. Most of the year the family lived in East Orange, New Jersey. Quimby was both a successful patent lawyer and a dealer of lightning rods. In 1893, he bought 32 acres of Bridgehampton land from the Sandford family at the lower end of Ocean Road, between it and Sagg Pond; a year later he bought more adjacent property, including along Ocean Road.

At first the Quimbys lived in an existing cottage, but as the six children grew up, got married and had children of their own, Mr. Quimby began subdividing his land, building a family compound along the shore over the next 15 years. Most notable, possibly, was Annesden, a large Tudor style home built for his daughter Annie. (Annesden was sadly demolished in 1994.)

The original driveway to the compound eventually became Quimby Lane.

A 1917 house built on land purchased from the Quimbys is owned by a world famous, 98-year-old Japanese-American ballerina. Sono Osato's life is as extraordinary as the setting. She was born in 1919 in Omaha, Nebraska, to a French-Canadian Irish mother and a father from Japan. Her father, a photographer, and her mother settled in Chicago, but her mother decided to take her children to France in 1927. There, in 1928, young Sono (her name is Japanese for "garden") saw the groundbreaking Ballets Russes, led by impresario Serge Diaghilev, and announced she wanted to be a dancer.

The impact of the Ballets Russes in the years after the turn of the century on art, decorative art and especially dance was immense. Diaghilev employed the best young Russian dancers of the day, including Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky, and the staging, music and costumes made the company a sensation. Coco Chanel stated that "Diaghilev invented Russia for foreigners."

Diaghilev commissioned ballet music from such greats as Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Strauss and Prokofiev. His most famous collaborator was Igor Stravinsky. In 1910, he commissioned his first score from Stravinsky, The Firebird. Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913) followed. Picassso often designed costumes and the sets for these productions.

Sono began ballet lessons in France, but in 1929, after the crash of the stock market, her mother announced the family had to return home. Sono continued her lessons back in Chicago, and in 1934, aged 14, was invited to audition for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. This company was a successor to the original, after Diaghilev's death in 1929 left the troupe in serious debt. Diaghilev alumni Léonide Massine and George Balanchine worked as choreographers with the new company.

On April 21, 1934, Sono sailed with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, without her parents, to France. She danced in Monte Carlo, London and Barcelona. Then the troupe had an American tour lasting a year. Years of successful ballet tours continued, with the dancers traveling back and forth between Europe and America, and even to Australia and New Zealand. But eventually, with war looming and feeling overworked and underpaid, Sono walked away from the company.

She settled in New York in 1941 and took classes from George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet he founded. About this time she met Victor Elmelah, a Moroccan-American graduate architect. Dancing with the Ballet Theatre (later the American Ballet Theatre), she planned to tour Mexico, but after Pearl Harbor was told that because of her Japanese last name, she would not be allowed to leave the country.

After marrying Elmelah, Osato then worked with choreographer Agnes de Mille as principal dancer in the musical One Touch of Venus. This show includes music written by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ogden Nash, and book by S. J. Perelman. After that, in 1944, came perhaps the height of her career: playing Ivy, Miss Turnstiles, in the original Broadway cast of On the Town, with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

The next step for Sono was Hollywood, but eventually, she began to feel that life for her should be on the East Coast, where husband Victor worked. She wanted to have babies, and eventually gave birth to two sons, Niko and Tony. And while she also made some television appearances, she eventually decided she didn't have the real drive to be an actress as she had to be a dancer. Elmelah's career eventually encompassed property development; and with increasing wealth the family began spending time in the Hamptons in the summers. (One picture of the couple from the '50s shows them embracing between innings at the Artists & Writers Game. Niko says his father helped start the game.)

In the mid 1970s, the family purchased the old house on Quimby Lane. Happy summers led to family weddings on the grass, as well as grandchildren playing there. Elmelah died in 2014, after 71 years of marriage, but Sono is still alive.

Her son Niko says, "So many fantastic memories are in that house. Wonderful people who visited, including Jerry Robbins, Nora Ephron, Sidney Lumet and so many others. And it's in a magnificent location, with its elegant lawn and wonderful serenity. It's simply unique."

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My Hamptons: Roman Roth of Wölffer Estate Vineyard
November 07, 2019

You could say that wine runs in Roman Roth's veins instead of blood. Winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, Roman was born into the world of wine. He grew up in Rottweil, a Free Imperial City in southwest Germany, "at the edge of the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps," he says. His father, Remigius Roth, was a winemaker, distiller and wine merchant; his mother Rosa can be seen on his Grapes of Roth bottles. Roth left home at the age of 16 to work as an apprentice in the vineyards of Oberrotweil, Germany. Roth's career then bounced between California, Australia and back to Germany, before he got a call from Christian Wölffer, who had just purchased a 174-acre potato farm in Sagaponack. Then called Sagpond, the estate was primarily for riding horses until Roman came on board. Roman now lives in East Hampton, summering in Sag Harbor, with his wife and daughter.

BTH: How did Christian Wölffer lure you to the Hamptons?

RR: Christian Wölffer, the founder of Wölffer Estate, was looking for a winemaker in 1992 to plan the vines on his land. Fate had it that we met. He told me that he wanted to make the best wine possible and was willing to spare no expense. He also told me that the Hamptons are half an hour from Manhattan! Both sounded very attractive to me.

BTH: What is the greatest part about your job? If you could snap your fingers and instantly have another career, what would be your dream job?

RR: I have a dream job! I love that I can be very creative and that I can produce something that can be enjoyed and treasured by people. I love the seasonality of being a winemaker...there is never a dull moment. But if I could snap my fingers, I'd be a stained-glass maker!

BTH: What is your favorite wine that you produce?

RR: They are all my children--some are just smarter than the others! But if I had to pick, I would say our Grandioso Rosé, the Perle Chardonnay, the Grapes of Roth Merlot and the Christian Cuvée.

At Wölffer, we have great soil, the Bridgehampton loam, on top of sand. This soil has a great pH to grow grapes and also has good water-holding capacity, while providing good drainage. And being just a couple of miles from the Atlantic moderates the temperature, giving elegance and balance to the wine.

BTH: What is your favorite wine produced by other people?

RR: I love Krug Champagne, and one day in the far future I want to die in Piemonte drinking Barolo.

BTH: What is something most people don't know about wine?

RR: That our elegant Wölffer white wines with a lower alcohol level can age very well.

BTH: What is your favorite restaurant in the Hamptons?

RR: We are very blessed with a whole array of great restaurants out east, so I love to mix it up.

Of course, my favorite restaurant is one that supports and features the Wölffer wines as well as other Long Island wines.

This is the key to building a great wine region. And I truly love Wölffer Kitchen Sag Harbor and Amagansett!

BTH: Which is your favorite season in the Hamptons?

RR: I love them all: spring with the fresh air and wonderful flowers and smells; summer with the heat and the hustle and bustle of parties. Fall means all my energy is focused on making the new vintage, and winter brings the peace, the snow, the holidays.

BTH: Describe your perfect day on the East End.

RR: Wake up on a sunny day and go jump in the pool. Then breakfast in our beautiful garden in the wonderful company of my daughter, Indira, and my wife, Dushy. Then I'd go for a quick bike ride to run some errands in Sag Harbor, go to the farmers market. Maybe I'd practice some golf for an hour at Poxabogue. Have sandwiches on the beach, go for a swim in the ocean. Followed by a nap! In the evening, I'd go to a dinner party at a friend's house. BTH: Speaking of which, if you could have anyone at your Hamptons dinner party--dead or alive--who would you invite?

RR: My parents, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Benjamin Franklin and the Obamas.

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Hamptons Real Estate Q3 Market Reports Revealed
November 06, 2019

Darkness falls a bit earlier now on the Hamptons, but that turn of events just might be coinciding with the real estate market seeing some light. One would not be incorrect to say that the local market has faced its challenges this year, but things beyond leaves and clocks seem to be turning. The news contained in the major real estate market reports recently released for the third quarter of 2019 generally did not come as so much of a surprise, given the uncertain times from which they were spawned.

"Hamptons Real Estate in the 3rd Quarter of 2019 was like a carnival game with ping pong balls landing and leaping in every direction," observes Judi Desiderio, CEO of Town & Country Real Estate. "The good news is, the numbers prove it's not really as bad as the media made it out to be."

Those numbers do tell a story of a market that was struggling over the summer months. Douglas Elliman's Q3 report observed that the number of sales declined year over year for the seventh straight quarter, and showed the lowest third quarter number of sales in eight years--including the fewest number of sales at or above $5 million in six and a half years. As median sales price rose year over year for the first time in seven quarters, listing inventory continued to rise, reaching a 13-year high, and there have been nine straight quarters of annual increases in luxury listing inventory. Year on year, median sales price rose 5.5% to $857,000, while average sales price edged up 0.6% to $1,375,772. Amid those changes, the number of sales fell 15.2% to 402, days on market was 139 (up 13.1%), the listing discount was 12.3%, up from 10.5%, and listing inventory jumped 76.9% to 2,571.

Ups and downs do not necessarily show trends in all cases, it should be noted. "These numbers constantly fluctuate, especially in the Hamptons, where a single high-end sale can have a significant impact on the average sales price," says Jonathan Smith, Licensed Salesperson in the Southampton office of Sotheby's International Realty. "Median sales prices tend to stay more consistent but will vary each quarter from town to town, generally ranging between $1 million to $1.5 million. Looking at a longer sample of the same data actually demonstrates that the Hamptons market is extremely stable."

In the Town & Country report, observing all Hamptons markets combined, Desiderio points to the high end, where year-on-year there were 60% fewer home sales of $5 million to $9.99 million and 43% fewer home sales in the $10 million to $19.99 million range. "Yet there was one sale over $20 million in 2019--the corner of Lily Pond and Hedges on 3.3 acres, which closed for $20.6 million--and zero in 2018," she notes. "The selling season is underway. Many savvy buyers are moving their resources into real estate."

This movement speaks to the opportunity that arises especially when value buys are to be had. It's a situation fueled when an increase in inventory and increase in days on market finally inspires sellers to do what a good number of brokers had been saying all summer would help breathe some life into the market--lower their asking prices.

"Price reductions come when inventory swells or the original price was not in line with the current market conditions--our market conditions are constantly moving," Desiderio offers. "That said, the trend for many segments of the market, particularly the high end, has been moving in favor of the buyer. That could change at any given time, since those with true wealth 'buy when they're selling' and see an opportunity to purchase on value. Many recent sales on the high end are trading for less than the sum of their parts."

"Everything is cyclical," says Todd Bourgard, Senior Executive Regional Manager of Sales, Douglas Elliman. "We go through these moments. Right now, it is all about pricing at every level. The buyers are there--they always have been. They've just been waiting. They know the comps, they know what has sold--they see it all. And it's a good thing. An educated consumer is a very good thing."

The disparity between what sellers wanted and what potential buyers were willing to pay was certainly reflected in Q3. Corcoran's report stated that reported closed sales dipped 27% year over year, the largest decrease in nearly 10 years, and it was the fourth consecutive quarter with a year-over-year decline in sales. In fact, sales were down almost everywhere. In Amagansett, sales dropped 43% year on year, and in East Hampton Village, sales decreased by more than half.

In the East Hampton market, fewer "properties were sold in the 3rd quarter, and there was a lack of sales reported over $4 million. The reduced activity in East Hampton Town and East Hampton Village in the 3rd quarter reflects the trades that were recorded and does not indicate any trend," says Ernie Cervi, Regional Senior Vice President East End at Corcoran. "The lack of sales reported over $4 million caused a steep 60% decline in average price."

"West of the Canal also experienced a pull back," Town & Country's report stated. "Hampton Bays closed 40% less deals which resulted in 62% less total home sales volume. [And] 2019 saw no homes sales over $2 million, yet in 2018 there were four! Westhampton--which includes Remsenburg, Westhampton Beach, East Quogue, Quogue, and Quiogue--had a less severe pull-back, with 12% less homes sales and 21% lower total home sales volume."

When the market begins to rebound, though, these locales are well poised, Desiderio adds. "The Westhampton area, due to its proximity to the city and the expansive cultural and recreational opportunities, and Hampton Bays, due to its affordability and great beaches--these regions will return with a roar, because they each have their virtues and values to the East End."

Only Westhampton/Remsenburg and Shelter Island, the Corcoran report adds, had the same number of closings reported this quarter as this time last year, while Montauk and Quogue were down only a single reported sale compared with 2018.There were also some silver linings elsewhere in the Hamptons. Town & Country reported that the "Sag Harbor area, which includes Noyack and North Haven, saw a respectable improvement, particularly in the $2 million to $3.49 million price category, which rose 150%."

The Sotheby's International Realty report also noted an uptick in the onetime home of whaling ships and John Steinbeck. "Buyers have been taking notice of Sag Harbor. The village in particular is such a vibrant community with consistent, year-round amenities, restaurants and entertainment, making it an ideal weekend destination for any time of year," Smith notes. "Interestingly, colleagues I have spoken with in other offices of Sotheby's International Realty around the country have commented on a trend towards village lifestyle, and I believe that shift is manifesting out east as well. We also see excellent value in many Sag Harbor listings, even as other markets in the area seem to remain wedded to the more aggressive prices of a few years ago."

Price is affecting certain areas more than others, no doubt, but Cervi finds it noteworthy that the Q3 report reveals overall here in the Hamptons, "38% of sales were between $500,000 and $1 million." The higher end of the market may be facing a battle right now, but there are always buyers who want to get in the door.

"We have seen a great deal of activity in the starter-home segment of the market, giving buyers a foothold in the Hamptons," Smith says. "There also appears to be much faster turnover in that segment of the market--up to $1.5 million--creating opportunities for buyers and sellers alike.

And, in time, the rest of the market will follow. "Hamptons real estate is truly a unique asset class--there are so few areas in the world with the stability and consistent growth demonstrated in our market," Smith continues. Although 2019 has definitely been a slower year, he adds, there are bright spots and a trend of note. "Going forward, we expect that the market will continue to respond to sellers who price their homes well from the start. Savvy buyers will continue to ignore any inventory that is priced above market value."

Markets are efficient. They get frothy, the cool off, they adjust to the basics of supply and demand. Supply does not merely mean inventory, but, as becomes clearer and clearer, inventory at the right price. As more sellers adjust their expectations, said inventory will move.     

"I can never recall stating how important it is to price things properly as it is right now," Bourgard says, stressing that each town here also has a different price point. Hampton Bays is going to be different than Westhampton Beach, which is going to be different than Southampton. "The homeowners really started listening, and realized 'If we're going to sell this thing, we're going to need to bring the price down.' Our consumers, these buyers, are the smartest buyers we've ever had. And they are very willing to pay market value, but they are not willing to pay over. And when you can bridge that gap, it becomes fun again, and everybody's happy."

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