|244 North Main Street, rear, circa 1970|
An old house is like a mystery, and old photos provide invaluable clues. I am like Sherlock Holmes with my magnifying glass poised over snapshots, looking for details.
I think the reason I am so drawn to discovering the origins of our house has much to do with the fact that my own upbringing was so decisively modern. Raised in southern California, I make jokes that if it’s 50 years old, we Californians knock it down (or an earthquake does) and rebuild! I watched the tract house I grew up in being built in the early ’60’s under my father’s watchful eyes. (It still gives me a distant shock to hear realtors describe my old neighborhood as “established.”) Palm Springs and Laguna Beach both have historic preservation committees to honor their structures that date back to the 1920’s and 30’s. By contrast, here in Southampton there are houses like the Halsey House on South Main Street that date from the mid to late 1600’s!
So once upon a time, before there was an amazing garden, there was this piece of property with a great big house on it that had orginally been part of a greater piece of land where the Jagger family farmed.
If you’ve ever visited us at A Butler’s Manor, you’ll especially appreciate the vast difference between the yard then and the garden today. On the right side of the top picture you can see the old (!!) barn, demolished sometime during this renovation. I’m not sure how the property lines were drawn back then, but today the foundation upon which that barn sat is located just on the other side of our northern fence. The grande dame centerpiece of our garden, the Sycamore Maple tree under which we serve breakfast in summer morns, looks so young!
What fascinates me is the back porch…or is it the entrance to another apartment within the house? The porch is located almost exactly where I am writing today in our sunroom/office; the doorway is where the kitchen meets the office, and the blank wall just above it is now contains a window so that Eton Court’s occupants can look out at the garden and pool.
In the second picture, taken partway through the remodel, the porch is gone, and some new windows have been added. The barn has been removed, and some grooming of the grounds is evident. In fact, if you’ll look closely beneath the tree, you’ll see the original planting of the pink Queen Elizabeth rose garden that now surround our fountain on the patio. Forty years ago…guess that would qualify them as “old growth” roses?
While we’ve certainly made additions and enhancements to the property since we bought it in January of 2002 — especially to the garden — we didn’t start with the blank slate the yard appears here. Each of the many occupants of the house that William Jagger built back in 1860 has left their own stamp. Like animals, we mark our territory, figuratively carving our names into the doorframes of that which we call home.
To be continued!
Quote of the Day: “The past actually happened. History is what someone took the time to write down.” — A. Whitney Brown