Homes always are stories. Modern homes are short stories. Historic homes are novels.
The Peace and Plenty Inn, for example, could be the tableau for a narrative about Colonial days. Built nearly 31/2 centuries ago, it once served as an oasis for settlers and travelers who could enjoy a safe bed and a round or two in the tap room. George Washington dropped by in pre-Revolutionary War days. Walt Whitman visited. So, in later years, did Theodore Roosevelt.
"That was the halfway point on the Island for people out east traveling to Manhattan," says owner James Dolan, 44, an auto mechanic. "It's where all the farmers stopped on their way into the city."
Want a good mystery? Check out the Sag Harbor home of Capt. John Hulbert, a local patriot who may have created the country's first flag. The tattered stars and stripes specimen supposedly was displayed in Philadelphia in 1775. Tests have failed to confirm or disprove authenticity.
Is history an element in the sale of such homes?
"For some people, it's important to know the background on a house. Others could care less," says Margaret Trautmann of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty.
For Marie Beninati, who owns a Peconic bed-and-breakfast with her husband, Lee, delving into the home's history was all the fun. The BandB was once featured on the HGTV cable program "If Walls Could Talk." To Marie, the walls did.
"I was fascinated by it," she says, after finding out the home was built in the 1860s by a man who made a fortune selling decorative glass-embedded, light-filtering pavement designed for subways and basements. "It's important the right people buy it and that it's preserved. Once homes like these are gone, they're gone forever."
The following novels are for sale.
WEST HILLS, $849,000
LOCATION 107 Chichester Rd.
LISTING HISTORY On the market for four months with one price change. This home was on the market previously with other agencies.
ANNUAL TAXES $11,708
WHAT'S FOR SALE A five-bedroom, four-bath historic inn on 21/3 acres within the Whitman Heritage Trail. It has a formal dining room, a family room and den, an eat-in kitchen with a butler's pantry, four fireplaces and a home office. There are leaded windows, wide-plank wood floors and hand-cut ceiling beams throughout.
HISTORY This long, red-shingled house built in 1680 served as a town meeting hall, tavern and traveler's rest stop. It has a hinged wall that opens into an adjoining room for town meetings, which made it an integral part of the town's social and political life.
LISTING AGENT Nikki Sturges, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 631-427-6600, ext. 211 or 631-375-8557
SAG HARBOR, $2.495 million
LOCATION 241 Main St.
LISTING HISTORY On the market since June with no price changes
ANNUAL TAXES $7,698
WHAT'S FOR SALE A seven-bedroom, six-bath ship captain's home on a half-acre of land near the center of Sag Harbor. It has a large covered front porch, a brick patio off the kitchen, open-beam ceilings throughout and four fireplaces. The home is currently divided into apartments.
HISTORY This was one of the homes of Capt. John Hulbert, who raised a company of Long Island militia to fight in the Revolutionary War. He carried a homemade flag from Fort Ticonderoga to the streets of Philadelphia in 1775, a design that possibly influenced American flag seamstress Betsy Ross. Experts are divided on its authenticity. "It's an ongoing mystery," says Kathryn Curran, director of the Suffolk County Historical Society. The "Hulbert Flag" is on display at the Suffolk County Historical Society.
LISTING AGENT Whitney St. John Fairchild, Saunders & Associates, 631-237-3917 or 631-680-7097
EAST HAMPTON, $29 million
LOCATION 127 Main St.
LISTING HISTORY On the market since May 2010 with no price changes.
ANNUAL TAXES $53,357
WHAT'S FOR SALE A 10-bedroom, six-bath, three half-bath Italianate manor on 51/2 acres. The three-story structure has a formal dining room that opens onto a covered patio. It has a library, a gourmet kitchen with wine storage, a mahogany paneled media room and a heated pool. The two master suites have double walk-in closets and formal marble fireplaces, each with a Juliet balcony overlooking fountains and extensive gardens with century-old plantings. Also on the property is a three-car garage with a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment upstairs for staff or guests.
HISTORY This was one of the opulent residences of Robert David Lion Gardiner, one of the last descendants of a historic Long Island family. His progenitor, Lion Gardiner, founded New York's first English settlement on Gardiners Island, between the North and South forks, after purchasing it from the Montaukett Indians in 1639, and Capt. Kidd once buried treasure there.
LISTING AGENT Tim Davis, The Corcoran Group, 631-283-7300, ext. 211
LATTINGTOWN, $5.995 million
LOCATION 11 Horse Hollow Rd.
LISTING HISTORY On the market for a year with no price changes
WHAT'S FOR SALE An eight-bedroom, 71/2-bath French Normandy manor on five acres surrounded by gardens and walled terraces. A gated entrance leads to a circular courtyard. The home has a formal dining room, a den and a family room, a home office and a full basement. It has six fireplaces and a four-car garage.
HISTORY The home, known as Beaupre, was a gift from George F. Baker Jr. to his daughter, Florence, upon her marriage to Thomas Suffern Tailer Jr., a famous amateur golfer. The bride's grandfather, George F. Baker, was one of the country's most prominent bankers; he donated funds to start Harvard Business School. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (he was the British monarch who abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson) were good friends of the Baker family and annual guests at Beaupre. The home has photos of the family being visited by the couple.
LISTING AGENT Margaret Trautmann, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, 516-759-4800 or 516-361-4646
PECONIC, $1.5 million
LOCATION 3070 Peconic Lane
LISTING HISTORY On the market four months
ANNUAL TAXES $10,800
WHAT'S FOR SALE A four-bedroom, four-bath Victorian on two acres with restored English gardens. It has a wraparound porch, seven fireplaces, hand-painted fresco ceilings, a library, a formal dining room, a family room, an eat-in kitchen, a large parlor and a brick patio. The home also has a four-car garage, a swimming pool, a fish pond and a full basement with a gym, office and wine room.
HISTORY The home was built by Jesse Case, who made his money with a patent for pavement embedded with thick glass circles and triangles that allow light to shine into underground areas, including the New York City subway system. Case was appointed Peconic postmaster by President Grover Cleveland. Some of his glass creations are still visible in the home's basement.
LISTING AGENT Lee Beninati, Beninati Associates, 631-765-5333 or 631-766-6066