Gordon Hall, a Nissequogue official who guided the village as it grew from a collection of country estates into a modern municipality in the 1960s, died March 9 at his South Setauket home. He was 93.
The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said a son, Fred Hall, of Bellport.
Hall served the village for decades in capacities including trustee, police commissioner, planning board chairman, attorney and mayor, from 1983 to 1987. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, he began summering in the area as a child at his uncle’s Deepwells Farm in St. James. He was a young real estate lawyer recently married to the former Louise Powell when the couple moved to the village full time in 1959. The village — founded in 1927 — wasn’t much older than Hall, and his skills were needed.
Nissequogue’s population in the late 1950s was roughly 300, including staff who lived on a handful of estates that held much of the area land, according to Richard Smith, the current village mayor. Its code, the now voluminous body of laws that guides aspects of village life ranging from land use to traffic control signs, was then a mere five or six pages.
Hall helped build the code and much more. “He set up the current-day style and form of governance we have in the village,” Smith said.
One of the most significant rules, still in place today, set the minimum lot size for residential development at 2 acres, preserving a forested feel that contrasted with unincorporated Smithtown where, for a time, houses were springing up on quarter-acre lots.
“All of these regulations had to come into being because, originally, there was no control at all,” said Haig Chekenian, who served as mayor from 1973 to 1977. The village’s landed gentry weren’t thrilled by the innovation. “They were threatening lawsuits when the whole concept of zoning came in, because it meant they’d have to lose money on sales to developers,” he said. “But they never did anything. They realized it would preserve the whole character of the village.”
Gordon Taylor Hall was born April 24, 1924, to Frederick Hall and the former Marjorie Taylor.
He attended the Wooster School and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he majored in aeronautical and industrial engineering. He piloted a submarine patrol plane in the South Pacific during World War II, leaving the service as a lieutenant junior grade. He received his law degree from Cornell University in 1952.
Besides Fred Hall, Gordon Hall is survived by his wife, Louise Hall of South Setauket; their other sons, Stuart Hall, of Halifax, Massachusetts, and Winthrop Hall, of Ronkonkoma; and their daughter, Lisa Reed, of Three Forks, Montana. He was predeceased by their son, Bruce.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 490 North Country Rd.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Deepwells Farm Historical Society, Box 123, St. James, NY 11780 or Wooster School, 91 Miry Brook Rd., Danbury CT 06810.