Goings-on in local real estate took a personal turn for me a few months ago when a property which had been in my husband, Rick Hirt’s, family for hundreds of years, until the early 1960s, went on the market. Ideally located in Bridgehampton South at the northwest corner of Halsey and Paul’s Lanes, and at over an acre and a half, it seemed destined to become the latest casualty of recent development action in the neighborhood, where many older houses have fallen to make way for larger and grander houses to satisfy the demand for high-end residences with pools, pool houses, and maybe tennis courts, in the best Hamptons locations.
Trouble was, this property still has a house on it that has stood for hundreds of years. Discussed in recent articles in the local press as the “Jeremiah Halsey Jr. House,” my family refers to it as the “Cook House.” (Apparently, at some point in the property’s history a Halsey woman married a Cook man). My mother-in-law, Ellen Cook Hirt, who is still alive at nearly 97, was born in the house’s “borning room,” as was, I am assuming, her father, Augustus Cook, a potato farmer who was born before the Civil War. When the property sold and it became apparent that the new owners did not want the house, local historic preservation enthusiasts sprang into action to try to save it from demolition. My family is so grateful, not only to those trying to save the house, but also to the new owners who have graciously granted time to do so. They are reported to have donated the house to Westhampton Beach Historical Society, which stands ready to disassemble and move the house if no one else can be found to take it for preservation.
According to Larry Jones, a local historic preservation expert based in Westhampton Beach, the house is approximately 300 years old and contains “highly picturesque” carefully hewn and unusually shaped timbers that are almost 95 percent intact, in “like new” condition. Other interior elements that make this a house worth saving are a “delicate central chimney containing three fireplaces, a bake oven and two fireplaces on the second floor, wide plank beaded wall boards surrounding the fireplaces, and wide plank flooring.” Even though the house’s exterior is completely non-original (I remember when the windows had historically correct divided lights), experts believe it would not be difficult to restore the original appearance with different windows, doors, and trim in the style of the original.
Anyone interested in taking this historic gem under their wing should contact Mr. Jones at Jack L. Jones Building Conservation Ltd., P.O. Box 888 or 220 Main Street, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978, (917) 716-9087, (631) 288-4384, or ljones220(at)yahoo(dotted)com. My husband, Rick, who is a local architect and keenly interested in seeing this important piece of family history saved, has offered to donate architectural services to the new owner for a new foundation, and possibly for more. He can be reached at rickhirtarch(at)optimum(dotted)net. Maxine Hirt, Licensed Associate Broker, Town & Country Real Estate