More than a dozen homes in East Hampton Town could become historic landmarks, under a proposed program that aims to prevent 18th and 19th century properties from being replaced by modern-day mansions of up to 20,000 square feet.
Historic consultant Robert Hefner recently recommended that 13 houses outside historic districts be included in the program, which would allow property owners to build guesthouses in exchange for maintaining the historic character of the primary house.
The properties are mostly in Amagansett, Springs and Wainscott.
Many of the recommended homes are about 1,500 to 2,500 square feet but have zoning that would permit houses of three to 12 times the size, making them targets for potential redevelopment.
Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the homes — which were built between about 1639 and 1892 — are “some of the most special and historically important homes in the community’s history.
“Unfortunately, given the trend of new-home development in our town . . . the likelihood would be [that] many of these homes would be destroyed or expanded upon and that their historic value would almost cease to exist,” Cantwell said at an Aug. 15 work session.
Guesthouses, which typically are prohibited under zoning laws, could be built to up to 35 percent of the lot’s maximum square footage, or up to 3,500 square feet. But the main houses could not be demolished, and homeowners would have to seek approval from the town’s architectural review board for most proposed changes.
Hefner said the program is based on one in East Hampton Village, where only two of 23 properties approved for landmark designations have had guesthouses built.
Many owners of the town’s recommended houses were enthusiastic about the proposal and were not worried about maintaining them to the town’s standards, noting that the homes’ long histories and uniform looks were part of their charm.
Rebekah Baker said that while she loves her beautiful 19th century house in Springs, she likely would take advantage of building a guesthouse because it can be difficult to navigate a home so old. She and her son are so tall that they have to duck because of the low ceilings in the living room.
“It’s perfect that the town is offering this program, because you can build the house that represents more of the way modern living is, with higher ceilings and open floor plans,” said Baker, a real estate agent who also has a home in Amagansett. “You can do it with a separate structure, and you can preserve this special time in our history that’s important to look back on.”
Regina Carvis, who is selling the 18th century Zadoc Bennett House in Springs, said she had been hesitant to put it on the market because she feared it could be demolished by future buyers. But she thinks the town’s program would make the 2.3-acre property even more valuable.
“Everybody in the town loves this house,” Carvis said. “I just want this house to stay forever.”
Homes with history
- Zadoc Bennet House: Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road in Springs, built around 1639
- Willow Hill: Old Stone Highway in Springs, built in 1752
- Jonathan D. Miller House: Old Stone Highway in Springs, built around 1790
- Thomas Strong House: Wainscott Hollow Road in Wainscott, 18th century
- Abraham Baker House: Cross Highway, 18th century
- Nathaniel Dominy V. House: Fireplace Road in Springs, built in 1805
- Talmage Barnes House: Abrahams Landing Road in Amagansett, built in 1812
- John Dart House: Three Mile Harbor Hog Creek Road in Springs, built by 1838
- Miller House: Old Stone Highway in Springs, built around 1840
- Abraham Parsons House: Springs Fireplace Road in Springs, built around 1840
- Samuel Hedges Miller House: Cedar Street, built around 1850
- Judge Vernon Davis House: Indian Wells Highway in Amagansett, built in 1892
- Hezekiah Edwards House: Barnes Hole Road in Springs, 19th century
Source: Historic consultant Robert Hefner