Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2007

Town Hall Makes, And Will Be, History

Some day soon the East Hampton Town Supervisor will toil in a building known 100 years ago as the Purple House. The town board will occupy space that over two and a half centuries ago was the Nathaniel Hand House, and the community will meet in historic barns that date back hundreds of years. This Friday, the board will host a public hearing on accepting the historic buildings that will make it all so.

Supervisor Bill McGintee recalled learning last year that Adelaide de Menil and her husband Edmund Carpenter were selling their digs on Further Lane, and looking to donate the historic structures that comprise their multimillion dollar compound.

At first, McGintee said, thought was given to returning each individual structure to its original locale. But over the decades the landscape had changed and the notion didn't pan out.

A new idea came to the fore — why not accept donations of the structures and string them together to form a much needed new town hall? This Friday's hearing accepting the donation is one of the first formal steps in the process.

Once the board resolves to accept the structures, the town has to move quickly to prepare the property for the big move. McGintee said the town will hire Bill Schlumpf, the expert who handled the restoration of the Montauk Playhouse so satisfactorily for the town. He'll oversee a project that would consist of two phases.

In the first phase, a group of the houses will be set and connected to each other with greenhouse-like hallways. Excavation of the site — towards the front of the current town hall property, closer to the street — will create a lower level. De Menil and Carpenter have donated $2 million for the upkeep of the houses. The entire project could come in at around $5 million according to estimates.

Many of the structures the town will receive date back to the 1700 and 1800s. They include the Purple House, which once stood on East Hampton Main Street near the current library property, the Nathaniel Hand house, one time sited on Amagansett Main Street, Peach Farm house, originally from the northwest section of East Hampton, a barn from Bridgehampton as well as the Parsons barn once located off North Main Street, and the 18th-century Baker barn, a timber frame structure once found on the north side of Pantigo Road west of town hall. Those six structures together will form an office complex.

Also to be donated are a 19th-century corncrib and a World War II Coast Guard watch station. The corncrib is slated to move to Mulford Farm in East Hampton and the WWII station will move to the town's Marine Museum on Bluff Road.

Phase two of the project will focus on making the best use of what will be an almost vacant town hall structure. With the town board and supervisor moving to the historic complex, and the town justice functions moving to their own new structure at the back of town hall land, the existing structure will only house the town clerk. The town hopes to move other departments, like planning or natural resources, over to town hall property from suites on Pantigo Place. Sale of those suites could help underwrite some of the cost of renovating the old building and the existing town hall.

The hearing will be held Friday morning at 10:30.

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