Renovation of the historic Tupper Boathouse, a site known for its heritage as a boatbuilding yard as well as its former identity as a swanky Hamptons hot spot, is underway.
The work includes stabilizing, lifting and performing a partial reconstruction of the boathouse, built by Frank and Edwin Tupper in 1929 and 1930 as a workshop for the Tupper Motorcraft Boat Co. The boathouse is near Conscience Point, where the first English settlers landed in Southampton in 1640 and made it one of the three largest East Coast ports in the early 18th century, noted Ann Reisman, president of the North Sea Maritime Center.
“North Sea Harbor was their port to the rest of the world,” she said of the settlers. Her community group is dedicated to raising funds to build a center commemorating the site’s wooden boat building and nautical history.
Years later the site became a nightclub and was where Manhattan publicist Lizzie Grubman plowed her SUV into a group of bystanders in 2001. It was purchased by Southampton Town for $3.15 million in 2003 and then sustained significant damage during superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The building was lifted earlier this month and will be elevated above the flood plain, according to a town news release.
The Town Board in October approved a $1.29 million contract with Carter-Melence Inc. of Sound Beach to perform the work. The town received a $450,000 federal grant to offset project costs.
“Saving this building has always been a priority for me,” Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier, a liaison for the restoration, said in a news release. “The structure was sitting there for years in disrepair. This initial phase of the restoration is a critical first step to protect this historic site from future storm damage.”
The building was home to a series of restaurants and nightclubs after the Tuppers sold the property in 1959, the first of which was L’Oursin, according to a 2013 report from the Southampton Landmarks and Historic Districts Board.
“With a highly fickle market of tastes of a society culture changing into something of a celebrity culture, the dining and entertainment ownership went through numerous reincarnations under different owners and managers,” the report reads.
L’Oursin hosted artist and songwriter Bobb Goldsteinn’s Light Show, which incorporated film, light and sound and billed itself as the world’s first multimedia exhibit.
“What we want to do is put people into a social setting where they forget their inhibitions,” Golsteinn told Newsday in 1966.
Later incarnations, like the Captain’s Hideaway restaurant in the 1980s, were less flashy before the boathouse became the Conscience Point Inn — the site of Grubman’s 2001 incident — in the early 1980s.
The future center, however, will focus less on its past as a beacon for beautiful people and more on those who made their livings on the water.
“The purpose of this house will encapsulate that history,” Reisman said.
Tupper Boathouse timeline
- Built in 1929 and 1930 as a boatbuilding yard for the Tupper Motorcraft Boat Co.
- Sold in 1959 and becomes a series of nightclubs and restaurants, the first of which is L’Oursin
- Bought by Southampton Town for $3.15 million in 2003
- Renovation begins in spring 2020