History Written: John Steinbeck’s Sag Harbor Property Preserved

John Steinbeck, Sag Harbor, Joyous Gard
Joyous Gard on John Steinbeck’s Sag Harbor property is where he wrote his last two novels.
Gavin Zeigler for Sotheby’s International Realty

It’s official: John Steinbeck’s home in Sag Harbor has been preserved.

The Sag Harbor Partnership (SHP), which worked with the Town of Southampton to ensure the property not be developed after it went on the market two years ago, announced that the purchase was complete on Thursday, March 30.

The house at 2 Bluff Point Road where Steinbeck lived with his wife, Elaine Steinbeck, and his octagonal glass writer’s studio overlooking Sag Harbor Cove will be used for the newly established Writer’s Residency Program, which will be run by the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin. The public will also be able to view the property where Steinbeck penned The Winter of Our Discontent and Travels with Charley, among other notable works.

“The Steinbecks loved their Sag Harbor place and were involved in Sag Harbor’s village life,” said Susan Mead, co-president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, in a statement. “Their preserved home and writer’s studio and the new Writer’s Residency Program will further solidify Sag Harbor’s reputation as a dynamic cultural center, and will enhance the village’s national profile and historic significance.”

Sag Harbor, John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck’s modest home at 2 Bluff Point Road will now serve as a home base for a Writer’s Residency ProgramGavin Zeigler for Sotheby’s International Realty

Southampton Town voted in February to use $11.2 million from its Community Preservation Fund toward the deal for the 1.8-acre property. The Sag Harbor Partnership, a nonprofit organization, agreed to purchase the property for $13.5 million.

In February 2021, it went on the market for $17.9 million with Doreen Atkins of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The Partnership expressed special thanks to Assemblyman Fred Thiele for his guidance and support that they said resulted in a $750,000 grant from New York State, “which served to galvanize our efforts,” the statement said.

SHP also thanked Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, a Sag Harbor native, for his “invaluable assistance in championing this preservation vision to many key constituencies,” and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

John and Elaine Steinbeck bought the property in 1953.Gavin Zeigler for Sotheby’s International Realty

“I’m pleased that the town was able to play a significant role in preserving John Steinbeck’s home for future generations,” Schneiderman said on Friday. “We were fortunate to have had this Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author living and writing within our community.”

During the unanimous vote to use the CPF money toward the purchase, Schneiderman called it historic.

Steinbeck and his wife bought the property with the house on it in 1953. He was known to walk around in a fisherman’s cap and rubber boots with his dog, Charley, in tow, even when he went to local dives like the Black Buoy. Though he died in 1968, she lived in it until her death in 2003 and it has remained in her family ever since.

Many private donors also generously contributed to the fundraising effort.

John Steinbeck, Sag Harbor, CPF
Inside John Steinbeck’s homeCourtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty

The management of the property will be the responsibility of a new not-for-profit organization, comprised of local citizens and institutions, according to SHP’s statement. The Michener Center for Writers and the University of Texas Foundation will be responsible for the residency program and the upkeep of the property.

The Steinbeck house will be available to the public on holiday weekends, select Saturdays in the summer season and the off-season, all by reservation. Further details will be posted on a soon-to-be-launched website.

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An aerial view shows the propertyGavin Zeigler for Sotheby’s International Realty