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Montauk’s oldest structure may be in line for historic status

Exterior of Second House in Montauk, April 21,

Exterior of Second House in Montauk, April 21, 2016. East Hampton Town is considering restoring the house built in 1797, which is the oldest structure in Montauk. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East Hampton Town Board members are planning to request that the Second House, Montauk’s oldest structure and a former home for keepers of sheep and cattle, be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 18th century property, located at the intersection of Montauk Highway and Second House Road, is already slated for restoration as a museum by the town. But Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said Second House is also “very much eligible for the national registry” and that an application will be made after some of the restoration work is completed.

Van Scoyoc added that the restoration is a requirement for registry consideration.

“It’s probably not going to happen until the fall of 2017 or early 2018,” he said of the registry application, adding that the planned restoration is expected to be at least 80 percent complete by then. “We expect to have restoration plans ready for bid by spring.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the structure, built in 1797, has an important place in both Montauk’s and the nation’s story as an example of what the now lively summer resort used to be in much simpler times, when the area included 8,000 acres of prime pasture.

Robert Hefner, East Hampton Village’s director of historic services, said Second House is particularly significant for its associations with the Montauk pasture from the time it was built to 1895, when the traditional use of the pasture by East Hampton’s farmers ended.

“Second House dates to the earliest settlers, reminding us of the sheep and cattle farming of Montauk’s agricultural roots,” Cantwell said.

Second House, also known as “the house at Fort Pond,” was built to house keepers of sheep and cattle that were driven to the hamlet from East Hampton and areas to the west. Other keepers lived in two other houses — First House and Third House.

First House burned down in 1909 and Third House is part of Montauk’s Theodore Roosevelt County Park.

Second House first became a museum when it was operated by the Montauk Historical Society following its purchase by the town in 1968. The interior later became too rundown to continue to allow visits by the public, prompting its closure in 2014.

Plans now are for the structure to be restored to its 1886 appearance, before additions and other alterations were made.

Hefner said eight different keepers and their families lived at Second House and that it was remodeled in 1912 as a private summer cottage before being bought by the town.

Van Scoyoc said the town will bond for much of the renovation work, which is expected to cost at least $500,000. Its placement on the National Register “ensures the future of Second House,” the councilman said.

1, 2, 3

During the 18th century, visitors to Montauk encountered the houses in the order of their names — First, Second, and then Third House.

  • The original First House was built in 1744 and was across the road from what is now Hither Hills State Park.
  • Second House was originally built in 1746 at the south end of Fort Pond. A second Second House was constructed in 1797.
  • Third House, built in 1749 at the south end of Indian Field, was the largest of the three and housed the keeper with “the most important post,” including “oversight of all stock on the land,” according to Jeannette E. Rattray in “Montauk: Three Centuries of Romance, Sport and Adventure.”

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