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Blaze that destroyed Sagaponack mansion considered suspicious, say authorities

Volunteers from five East End fire departments battled

Volunteers from five East End fire departments battled a fire at a home in Sagaponack on Monday, Sept 15, 2014. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

An early morning fire destroyed a historic, multimillion-dollar home in Sagaponack Monday and has been deemed suspicious, authorities said.

Detectives have identified a "person of interest" in the blaze that started about 5:35 a.m. at the home on Sagaponack Main Street, Southampton Town police said. Officers who arrived minutes later reported the building was already engulfed in flames, police said.

The sprawling summer home was part of the Sagaponack Historic District, which was listed in 2000 on the National Register of Historic Places.

Police did not elaborate on the cause of the fire, but said evidence gathered at the scene gave investigators a lead on the arsonist. Detectives from the Suffolk County police arson squad also are helping in the investigation.

The owner was identified as Peter Smith, 72, of Easton, Connecticut. He is a retired general partner with the Lazard Freres investment banking firm. Authorities said he was not there at the time, and the house was not occupied when the fire started.

Smith could not be reached Monday afternoon.

Firefighters from Southampton, North Sea, Sag Harbor and East Hampton also responded, along with a Sag Harbor Ambulance crew, officialsauthorities said.

The mansion has been used as an inn and summer home over the decades. The 4,500-square-foot home has six bedrooms and five bathrooms, according to Zillow, an online real estate site.

It once was known as the Hearthstone Inn, or the Pierson-Smith House, and was an inn until 1962, town records show. One section is believed to date to 1650, about the time the English began settling in Southampton Town, but the primary section of the house goes back to 1842, according to the documents.

Located across from a cemetery, the timber-frame building was a two-story, gable-roofed house with dormer windows, a long porch, Doric columns, a pool and a pool house.

The Sagaponack Historic District covers about 300 acres, mostly along Sagaponack Main Street and some side streets. The district features architecture from the area's early settlement in the 17th century.

Online realty sites estimated the value of the home at more than $7 million.

With John Valenti

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