The East Hampton Town Board is looking to restore Montauk’s oldest structure, the Second House, and reopen the 18th century building as a museum.
The property at the intersection of Montauk Highway and Second House Road is also known as “the house at Fort Pond.” It was built in 1797 to house keepers of sheep and cattle that were driven to the hamlet from East Hampton and points west.
After the town purchased the house for $75,000 in 1968 from the David E. Kennedy family, it opened as a museum operated by the Montauk Historical Society the following year. It was closed to the public in 2014 when the interior became too dilapidated to accommodate visitors.
A recommendation has been made to town officials to restore the structure to its 1886 appearance.
“This would be the beginning of an effort to put together a plan to restore this really important historic site in Montauk,” town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said after a restoration proposal was presented to the board during an April work session. “There would be the working museum that we all would like to see there.”
Robert Hefner, East Hampton Village’s director of historic services, presented the proposal. Hefner explained to board members how eight different keepers and their families lived at Second House and how it was remodeled in 1912 as a private summer cottage before being purchased by the town.
“The interior is inhospitable to visitors,” Hefner said, adding that the house is historically significant for its associations with the Montauk pasture from the time it was built to 1895, when the traditional use of the 8,000-acre pasture by East Hampton’s farmers came to an end.
Keepers actually lived in three houses, Hefner noted — First House, Second House and Third House — with the keepers in each house having different responsibilities.
First House burned down in 1909, Hefner said, and Third House is now part of the Theodore Roosevelt County Park in Montauk.
Included on the Second House property is a barn built in 1809 that would also be restored. Hefner also recommended removing hedges that block the view of Fort Pond.
Hefner showed board members historic photographs of the property and noted that even with Kennedy’s additions, which included a porch, the original farmhouse building was left intact, which would facilitate the restoration.
Kathryn Nadeau, president of the Montauk Historical Society, attended the board presentation and offered the group’s support for a restoration.
“We unanimously agree with the recommendations for moving into the future by moving back to the past.”
Hefner said there is no estimate yet on the cost of the project.