Belle Terre is known for its well-crafted English Tudor homes that pass from generation to generation, completely bypassing the open market. So when several go up for sale at the same time, it is both remarkable that it has happened and fortuitous for those who dream of living in this exclusive community.
Started in 1906 by a New York City developer, Belle Terre is situated along Port Jefferson Harbor. Its architecture and its origins are steeped in history. Belle Terre, which today has fewer than 1,000 residents, was the vision of developer Dean Alvord, who had visited the area and was seeking to create a community that would appeal to New York City's wealthy and elite.
"Port Jefferson: Story of a Village," a book published by the Greater Port Jefferson Historical Society, says Alvord paid $650,000 for 1,300 acres, which he purchased from the bankrupt Port Jefferson Co., which had bought the land from the Strong family.
VANDERBILTS AND ASTORS
The first structure Alvord built was the members-only Belle Terre Club, whose charter members included such names as Vanderbilt, Whitney and Astor. The son of a wealthy family from Syracuse, Alvord had previously developed communities in Brooklyn and Roslyn Estates.
The club was the first structure to be built in the English Tudor style by British architect Frederick Sterner.
Although private, it also was a selling tool. The wealthy were invited to come for a stay and view the area, with Alvord's hope of their buying a lot to build a house. It boasted accommodations for 100, with a fireplace in each bedroom. The club had four tennis courts, a croquet ground and bowling green. It also had a barbershop, billiard room, golf course, riding trails and dining room seating for 200.
FEWER THAN 12 TUDORS
The massive structure was followed by the construction of fewer than a dozen English Tudors, which are coveted to this day.
"Belle Terre was meant to be an exclusive community," says Nick Acampora, 54, president of the Greater Port Jefferson Historical Society. "People going to Belle Terre were actually picked up at a special gazebo at the LIRR station and taken exclusively to Belle Terre."
Acampora says Port Jefferson's deep harbor, which allowed for yacht docking, was a major draw. The expanse of beachfront was another. At one time, Alvord owned 10 percent of Long Island's shoreline through his many projects.
Alvord turned to Sterner again to make his dream community a reality, including building his ideal English Tudor home, known as Nevalde.
All the English Tudors built were given names, such as Dawlish Hall, Teignmouth Hall, Malmesbury House and Torquay House, the latter three currently for sale or under contract.
Maureen Kraics and daughter Michelle Kraics, 31, purchased Torquay House two years ago. You might say the pair is addicted to renovating.
"We started renovating as soon as we moved in," says Maureen, 61, who is involved in medical sales. "There were a lot of wonderful things about the home, but it needed some freshening."
Their work included painting some of the dark wainscoting, adding removable storm windows to the leaded-glass ones, redoing the landscaping and repairing the patio area. They also updated and upgraded the kitchen with new appliances and reconfigured it to make it open and inviting for both cook and guests.
"I grew up in an English Tudor in Cathedral Gardens and wanted to live in one again," says Maureen, explaining the move from Old Field to nearby Belle Terre. "We waited years for one to come on the market."
So after waiting so long, the obvious question is, "Why move?" Well, she says they're hoping to find another Tudor or other historic home to remodel.
"We're willing to wait for the right property," says Maureen, who also had put in an unsuccessful offer on a second nearby English Tudor, which is now under contract. "We waited 13 years for this property to become available. Now, we'd love a Tudor with a water view."
While 13 years might seem like a long time, it isn't necessarily long enough for one of Belle Terre's English Tudors, many of which never leave the families.
MODELED ON MALMESBURY ABBEY
Alexia Poulos, who works for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, is the listing agent for Malmesbury House on High Path. Built in 1910, it is named and patterned after Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, England. It has undergone extensive restoration not only to reclaim its original beauty, but also to make it energy-efficient.
Malmesbury House's woodwork, stairs and other features mimic the seventh century abbey. Poulos's listing includes the original floor-to-ceiling fireplace, a fully updated kitchen, five bedrooms, including two on the fully renovated third floor, 3 1/2 baths and a bricked-in breakfast patio.
Some of those craftsman touches include hand-carved wood trim, a brick fireplace with old-fashioned knitting seats, where the ladies of the house would sit to keep warm as they knitted, and traditional arched entryways. Even the home's front door is special, with exterior decorative hardware handmade in England.
It is the history and attention to detail that makes the English Tudor both unusual and coveted.
"The thing about the English Tudors . . . they have craftsmanship you won't see in modern homes," Poulos says. "Even if the craftsmen were available who could do the work, it would make the house so expensive most couldn't afford to build it."